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Hometown Hero: Roger Reid

The "day which will live in infamy' still haunts Roger Reid's mind.


Andrew Davis Tucker
The Thomson man was in line for breakfast in the Schofield Barracks just miles down the road from Pearl Harbor when he heard the drone of airplanes on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

Even 62 years have not distanced him from the emotion of that day.

"I heard airplanes coming, and I looked up and I saw these planes coming though the pass,' the 81-year-old Mr. Reid said. "We thought it was kind of unusual that planes would be coming that early...

"The planes got closer and started strafing; they opened the machine guns and started strafing. And we looked up and saw the rising sun on their wings, so we knew the Japanese were attacking us.'

Mr. Reid missed breakfast that day. He and the rest of the group from his barracks went back to their quarters to get their weapons so they could fight back. All of the guns were chained up, and no one knew who had the keys. So they pried off the chains.

From there it didn't get any easier. All of the ammunition was locked up about half a mile away. When they finally got it all together, they were able to down a Japanese plane with a machine gun from the roof of the barracks.

"It was chaos,' Mr. Reid said.

Wheeler Field was an adjoining air base to Schofield Barracks, and according to Mr. Reid, it was a major target of the Japanese. And the picture he paints of the damage there isn't pretty.

"They bombed and tore that place all to pieces. They got all the planes,' he said. "After things got settled down, we went to different places, assisted where we could - dragging the dead out, putting body parts in garbage cans. It was real gruesome. In fact I never thought I'd even talk about it.'

It took nearly 20 years before he would admit to anyone that he was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. Even though he went through even worse circumstances during the time he spent fighting in World War II in the Pacific, he still considered Pearl Harbor too much to verbalize.

As far as Mr. Reid knows, he wasn't even supposed to be in Hawaii at the time of the attack. Mr. Reid was part of the advance unit for his regiment. He was one of 12 soldiers sent ahead to get things ready for their move to the Philippines. They made a stop in Hawaii on their way.

"For some reason, I'll never know and I never knew why but we stopped in Hawaii.' Mr. Reid said.

The rest of the regiment was supposed to ship out on Dec. 8. Needless to say, that didn't happen on schedule. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his group left San Francisco on Dec. 16, meeting up with the advance team on Dec. 22 in Hawaii.

Despite his heroism in war, Mr. Reid's beginnings were humble. He grew up on a farm in Lincoln County. In 1940 at the age of 19, he decided to join the Army.

"I got tired of plowing a mule,' he said. "And I said 'There's a better way somewhere."


Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker
The army paid $21 a month salary at the time. For a young farmer, that was a lot of money.

"I had never seen that much money in my life in one wad,' he said.

After spending the rest of World War II in the Pacific, Mr. Reid fought in Korea and was part of an advisory group in Vietnam during 1958 and 1959. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1962 after 22 years of service at the rank of first sergeant.

During his time in the army, Mr. Reid received 18 awards and decorations including the Silver Star and the Second Award of the Combat Infantry Badge. Even though he has many awards from his time spent in service, there's one medal Mr. Reid never received - a Purple Heart, given to soldiers wounded in battle.

"I don't have a Purple Heart. I don't know why,' Mr. Reid said. "The Good Lord was good to me. I've had guys blown up all around me, all over me, but I reckon He saved me for something.'

Even though he has been decorated and remembered as a veteran and as the county's only living Pearl Harbor survivor, Mr. Reid doesn't brag. He doesn't even like to talk about it.

"I've got a saying,' he said. "Those who talk much, did least.'

Web posted on Thursday, December 4, 2003

Temperature:53° F
Wind:from the W at 5 MPH
Visibility:10 miles
Dew Point:53° F
Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01

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