Saturday, March 22, 2014
SOLD. Trunk from Ralph Melchiorre PhM2, Pearl Harbor
ALL of the following is quoted directly from NJ.com
All credit for the article goes to NJ.com, no information has been added, excluded, or rearranged in any way. This is the article as it appeared Dec 7, 2012 on their site. Please follow the link below to go directly to NJ.com to read the article there, and to see the photos they posted. All of us here at Scranberry Coop just loved Marlene Mechiorre Dey's articulation. We are grateful she posted it through NJ.com in order to share the story of her father with the rest of us.
Pearl Harbor memory: A heroic and haunting mission
by Marlene Melchiorre Dey
When I was a little girl, I never understood why my dad hated barbecues.
He would go into a frenzy when flames from the grill would shoot in the air. He said it was the smell of kerosene and burning meat.
On Nov. 21, 1941, my dad, Ralph Melchiorre (Pharmacist Mate, Second Class), was recruited for a “brief but special” mission. He would leave San Francisco aboard the USS Republic and arrive on Nov. 28, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, territory of Hawaii. He would report to the hospital ship USS Solace only four days after his 21st birthday.
* * *
This is his story of Dec. 7, 1941.
“When I arrived on Nov. 28th, I thought to myself, what the hell am I doing here and why are all of these battleships lined up? We were like sitting ducks. On the morning of Dec. 7, I was lying in my bunk. I had a Motorola radio hanging out of the porthole. ... to get better reception.
“It was about 10 minutes to 8 when I saw a foreign fighter plane fly above me. When I saw the face of the pilot, I knew something was wrong. Minutes later, I heard the explosions. I pulled my radio in and saw smoke coming out of one of the ships. We were told we were under attack. My post was that of stretcher-bearer.
“We grabbed the stretchers and boarded small boats. I was the first one in the boat. As I boarded the boat, I fell to my knees from the percussion of shells breaking over our heads and the firing of the fighter planes. We headed toward the burning Arizona. There were about 19 of us. When we got to the Arizona, it was sinking just enough to get up on the boat and get guys off and onto the stretchers. We were being yelled at to get back into the boat and head back to the Solace.
“There was one more guy who needed help but no more stretchers. We found a 2x4 board on the burning Arizona and put this guy on it. He was burned badly. His was the worst case, the one that will stay with me forever.
“When we got back to the hospital ship and lifted him off the board, all of the skin from his back stuck to the board as we lifted him onto the bed. I wanted to go back and rescue more. We were ordered to stop.
“After the rescue, my job was to take the bodies to the morgue. I worked through the night. It was rough. Eventually it became quiet. I went to one of the other islands for a few days, then returned to the States.”
* * *
On Nov. 19, 1942, this citation was received by USS Solace from the commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet:
“For meritorious achievement and distinguished service during and subsequent to the Japanese air attack on the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. At the time of the attack and afterwards, this unit displayed conspicuous devotion in the line of duty. Its ability to cope with this disaster was responsible for the successful care of all casualties and the saving of many lives.
The professional skill displayed, and distinguished service rendered by this Hospital Ship were in keeping with the highest tradition of the naval service.”
— C.W. Nimitz, Admiral, U.S. Navy; Benjamin Perlman, Captain, U.S. Navy, Commanding USS Solace
* * *
"My dad retired in 1958 after 20 years of service in the Navy as a medical corpsman, chief petty officer. He didn’t talk much about the details of Pearl Harbor until he had grandchildren. As he was dying in 2009, he relived some of the horrors from the post-traumatic stress of his unresolved Navy memories from Pearl Harbor and the Korean War.
To my dad and all those who served at Pearl Harbor, I thank you. Your service and bravery will not be forgotten. And to my dad, I write this in your memory with humility, honor and pride."
This story comes from recordings by Ralph Melchiorre’s grand-niece, Stephanie Boles, and from the author’s memory of the stories of the attack on Pearl Harbor as told to her by her father. The citation is a direct quote from the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, St. Louis, Mo., Case Reference Number: 2001-201-1630.
Marlene Melchiorre Dey lives in Lake Hiawatha.