Gazing at the Destruction of Pearl Harbor

It was more than half a century ago that I stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and gazed in awe at the recent destruction of Pearl Harbor. My sailor friends and I were very young then, but a few months later, the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway would make men of us quickly.

Since those decisive days, many fine accounts have been written about those key battles but generally in a secular context for the historian’s interest. They have enhanced our knowledge of the war in the Pacific and particularly of those great battles, and we are indebted to them, but there was another side to the story that never has been told.

During that early period of World War Il, I was in the U.S. Navy serving as an enlisted musician on the aircraft carrier Yorktown, which was a major player in the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. From my experience in the ship, I observed the supernatural intervention of God that played a vital role among both officers and enlisted men. I wish to bring some of that story into focus for the families and friends of the Christian religious community whose loved ones served so heroically in those critical events of the war.

I am writing for all the military personnel who served in those actions and particularly for the survivors of the Yorktown and their families and friends. The Yorktown (CV-5) Club, which I currently serve as chaplain, meets annually to relive the events and to keep alive the spirit for which we served. I am grateful to the club members for the camaraderie and spirit of fellowship that have endured through the years and are ignited each year anew as we meet together.

I am writing for those many Christians who may not pursue secular history as such but would appreciate reading history that takes into account God’s intervening force in the lives and events of the people involved. Many prayed for their men and women during those dark hours of World War Il and believed that God heard and answered their prayers, and those of us who benefited from their intercessory prayer continue as witnesses to God’s grace.

Divine providence is as relevant today as it was in Bible times. Events do not “just happen.” The Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway are cases in point, for we did not win those battles by our wits alone. The odds were stacked against us at Midway, but in answer to the prayers going on back home in our great nation, the enemy forces made crucial mistakes at Midway. Those errors cost them the loss of ships and men, which resulted in their defeat and the turning of the tide in the war.

I am writing to give testimony to God’s presence in the most difficult of times and to witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. My hope is that this testimony might be an encouragement to others who find themselves in uneven circumstances. Also, I wish to encourage others to be faithful to God and to one another in any and all eventualities, good or bad.

I am writing for my children who have not known what their father went through during the war. One of my daughters wept as she read the account of the sinking of the Yorktown and remarked that her brothers and sisters did not know these things.

Finally, I write to remind myself of God’s divine favor and providence lest I forget the time when I felt so alone and helpless. Lest I forget. Lest I forget.

This is an excerpt from the preface of my dad’s book, Dead in the Water. It is available on Amazon and on this website. Captain Stanford E. Linzey was a sailor on the USS Yorktown during WWII. After the war, he served as a pastor for a decade, and then returned to the Navy as a chaplain. The image below was provided by Pixabay.com.

Pearl Harbor

I’ll never forget what he said, or the look on his face as he relived the hell of battle. Dad’s words were bathed in emotion. Hardened by the intense heat of battle, he still choked up at times as he remembered Guadalcanal, Gilbert Islands, Coral Sea, and Midway. He repeated “Coral Sea,” hesitated, breathed deeply and said, “Midway.”

Did I detect anger? Or was it sorrow?

Dad won the Texas State High School Championship as a clarinetist in the school band, then joined the navy in 1938 as a musician. In peace time he played the clarinet in the USS Yorktown Band, and the saxophone in the jazz band. But in battle he was an intra-ship radioman, assigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown CV-5.

Dad was a Texan, as was Admiral Chester Nimitz, and often told me of battles in Texas history. Sentences we read without emotion in history books became commands bathed in blood and tears when Dad said them. If you’re not a Texan, Remember the Alamo! and Remember Goliad! could mean almost nothing to you. But it sometimes brings tears to my eyes and raises goose bumps on my arms because my Dad was a Texan! No, he didn’t fight at the Alamo in 1836 or at Goliad in 1835, but he made sure that I, his oldest son, knew about them.

Dad didn’t join the navy to kill people. He didn’t even want to go to war. As a nine-year-old boy, when he had the privilege of seeing John Philip Souza on Souza’s last tour with the United States Marine Band, he was inspired and dedicated himself to music. Becoming an award-winning musician, he wanted to join the United States Navy Band. Fighting a war was not on his radar screen. However, personal plans and goals don’t always develop to our liking. In this case, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The above is an excerpt from the introduction to the book Dead in the Water. The book was written by Captain Stanford E. Linzey, Jr., CHC, USN, Retired. The introduction was added by my brother, Stanford E. Linzey III. I plan to post several excerpts leading up to December 7, also known as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Veterans Day Books

If anyone is interested in a good read for Veterans Day, or perhaps getting a gift for a friend in the military, here are several books worth considering.

This book focuses on the role of the chaplain, but also takes a good look at religion in the Armed Forces. It answers a lot of questions about the rights and restrictions applicable to people of faith, and presents an accurate picture of what it’s like to be a Christian in today’s military. Containing a lot of anecdotes and real life examples, it also shows that there is an open door for genuine sharing of faith when done correctly and respectfully. Click on the book to see it on Amazon.

Being in Iraq in 2007 was scary and dangerous. Yet, the Lord was doing some fantastic things in the lives of the men and women I served, loved, and ministered to. Written as a combination memoir and testimony, it tells stories of answered prayer, overcoming fear and temptation, and experiencing the presence of God.

My dad wrote this book about what it was like to be on the USS Yorktown in World War II. He survived the Battles of Midway and Coral Sea, experienced the amazing presence of the Lord during the toughest days of his life, and shares what it was really like. Originally published with the title God Was at Midway and then as USS Yorktown at Midway, last year my brother wrote a new introduction and I added an epilogue.

These books may be purchased on Amazon by clicking on the images of the books. You may also click on the Books tab in the menu above. And if you’d like to listen to my podcast conversations with Richard Blackaby (Blackaby Ministries International) or with Randy Zachary (Family Radio) scroll down to the bottom right and you can play them.

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