The tale of the USS Arizona is a tragic one, but thanks to the heroics of one man, it didn’t claim quite as many lives as it could have. Joseph George, a Chief Boatswain on the USS Vestal, was finally recognized for his heroic actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 76 years after the event. George passed away in 1996, but on December 4, 2017, the United States Navy announced it would honor him with a Bronze Star for rescuing six Arizona crew members.
For over three-quarters of a century, George’s heroism went unrewarded, perhaps due to the fact that, in order to save the men, he disobeyed direct orders.
1,177 crewmen were killed when the USS Arizona exploded and sank.
Tied to the Arizona, the Vestal was at risk of being dragged down by the mighty battleship, so the order was given to sever the lines connecting the two ships. As George went to carry out this task, six crewmen of the Arizona, stuck on a tower and clearly injured, caught his attention. Their cries for help reached across the water and George threw a line to the men, who made their way to safety on the Vestal.
For the last 76 years, those he rescued weren’t willing to abandon their dream of getting him the formal praise he earned.
Lauren Bruner and Donald Stratton were two of the USS Arizona survivors who fought for Joe George to finally receive an award for his bravery. Though they had a meeting in the summer of 2017 with President Donald Trump, and enlisted the support of US Senators, George received praise, but no award.
Finally, on December 4, 2017, the Bronze Star honoring Joe George’s heroic actions was presented to his family on the occasion of the 76th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.
About the Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau: The Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau was established to promote Pearl Harbor Tours as a premier Hawaii tourism activity. This mission is achieved by strategic marketing and building partnerships with various Pearl Harbor entities, tour companies, and other local businesses.
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