On this date in 1941, young men were inspired by a sense of patriotism to join the Armed Forces when the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Twenty one ships and nearly two hundred aircraft were damaged or destroyed. 2,335 servicemen were killed and another 1,143 were wounded. Sixty eight civilians lost their lives.
Among those inspired to defend his country and family was Raymond Stephenson of Ironton, Ohio. He was working in the circulation department of the Ironton Tribune on December 7, 1941, when he heard the paper’s editor call out, “God help us.” Most of the newspaper staff gathered around the newswire as these words were delivered, “At 7:55 a.m. this morning at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the Empire of Japan delivered a surprise attack on the United States Pacific Fleet.”
Two months later, Raymond became a member of the United States Army Air Corps. He distinguished himself in the service of his country, just as he distinguished himself at home as a model student, worker, son, brother and husband. By the time World War II concluded, more than 400,000 United States Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines would be added to the list of those who perished at Pearl Harbor. Among the casualties was that young man from Ironton, a highly decorated B-17 pilot, who died in a fiery crash on September 6, 1944. That date was his young bride Helen’s 19th birthday and their first wedding anniversary. Just six weeks before his death, Helen had given birth to a baby girl, Ann Marie, who would never see her father.
Raymond, the others who perished, and the families they left behind, sacrificed more than any generation of Americans. They must never be forgotten.