(Via Ho’okele News)
The ashes of Pearl Harbor survivor Navy Motor Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Wesley E. Ford were scattered over the waters of the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, during a military funeral honors ceremony on July 9.
Among those in attendance were Ford’s wife of more than 50 years, Ruth, his daughter Jennifer and grandsons.
Capt. Lawrence Scruggs, deputy commander of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, provided remarks as the guest speaker. Cmdr. George Mendes, a chaplain with Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel, offered the benediction.
“I would like to specially thank the family, wife Ruth, daughter Jennifer and grandsons, Kevin and Alex. We are honored by your presence today,” said Scruggs. “Today we return a shipmate back to his brothers in arms at this most hallowed spot.”
Ford was born Nov. 8, 1919, in Danville, Ill. and joined the Navy in December 1939. He was serving aboard the destroyer minelayer USS Breese (DD 122), moored across the loch from USS Utah, on the day of the 1941 Japanese attack.
Jim Taylor, Pearl Harbor survivor liaison, described Ford’s actions on that fateful day in history.
“On that day of infamy, Wes[ley] was a fireman second class. Although his normal duties had him below decks, his battle station was on a three-inch, 23-caliber gun as a loader,” said Taylor.
“Thanks to outstanding training, the ship had the gun firing within 10 minutes of the start of the attack. He [Ford] was slightly injured due to the gun’s recoil but continued on loading.”
From his ship’s location, Ford witnessed the explosions and the smoke from USS Arizona, saw USS Curtiss being hit by a fighter plane, and watched USS Utah sink. He also saw the periscope of a Japanese mini-sub rammed by the USS Monaghan and was on a gun crew that destroyed a Japanese Aichi D3A val dive bomber.
“He would have a front seat to the Japanese attack that morning. I am sure he felt that this may be his last day as he ran to perform his duties as trained,” said Scruggs.
“He would witness his world forever change that day, and yet he would go on, go on to serve his country honorably, with passion and courage, and a deep commitment to his shipmates. Serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during the war would surely have tried even the best man’s mettle. Petty Officer Ford was an exceptional Sailor,” Scruggs said.
Ford often visited Hawaii after the war, sharing his experience and memories with others. He passed away in early July 2013.
“He was quite a character,” said Ruth. “Very feisty and not like many others, but he loved to travel and was a good man.”
Jennifer recalled growing up and playing games with her father.
“He liked to play games and taught me many of them. I remember laughing with him and he always told us that he loved us,” said Jennifer.
“He loved to talk about his days at Pearl Harbor – that was his pride and glory, and it was his finest moments, I believe.”
Military honors included a gun salute and the folding of the burial flag by the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Honors and Ceremonial Guard followed by Scruggs personally presenting the flag to the family.
“I did not know there would be a gun salute and that the ceremony would be so elaborate,” said Jennifer. “I just pictured there would be a boat, and we would just spread his ashes and a few words would be said. Instead, I was very amazed. I think dad would have loved it.”
“It was beautiful,” added Ruth. “It was his glory!”