The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Remembering Pearl Harbor 80 years later: the story of Paducah man, James Vessels

Berry Craig
Berry Craig

One of our contributors, Berry Craig, also writes for numerous other publications, including the Courier-Journal. In honor of Pearl Harbor Day, he wrote a remembrance of a local person who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. Here is the beginning of that post; click through to the C-J website to read the whole thing.


James Allard Vessels of Paducah was enjoying a friendly Sunday morning card game with a shipmate on the battleship Arizona in the middle of Pearl Harbor.

More than 4,200 miles away in Fancy Farm, it was Sunday afternoon. His fiancée and childhood sweetheart, Frances Anita Hodge, couldn’t wait to model the new engagement ring her betrothed had sent from Hawaii.

The date was Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor plunged America into World War II. Vessels, 21, lived. His ship died. So did 1,177 of his fellow crewmen, including Vessels’ card partner, a sailor named Lightfoot.

Vessels was the first of about a dozen Pearl Harbor survivors I interviewed during my tenure at the Paducah Sun-Democrat and Paducah Sun. Their stories formed the nucleus of my book, "Kentuckians and Pearl Harbor: Stories from the Day of Infamy," which the University Press of Kentucky published last year.

Read the rest at the Courier-Journal.

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)