Pearl Harbor attack stirs up sense of duty

By Almeda Girod & Al Girod

A Resident Writer and a 20-year Navy Veteran

Don Mills was listening to music on December 7, 1941, on a Crosley radio when a news flash announced that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Bill Peacock had graduated from high school in Rome, GA in 1939 and had been working in grocery stores to earn money to take classes at Georgia Tech co-op program. Both of these young men knew this event would impact their lives.

Don, then age 17, signed up for the A-12 Army Specialized Reserve Program a month after his high school graduation in Honesdale, PA. He wanted to avoid the Navy since he had heard of “many ships being torpedoed.” After two semesters at the University of Florida, he went on active duty, first at Camp Crowder in Missouri, and then overseas with the 3125th Signal Company to Sète, France. Don became a courier carrying classified information (similar to the pony express but using a jeep). He alternated as driver and guard and recalls driving near a “nest of Nazis” in Bordeaux, and after hearing gun shots “put the pedal to the metal”.

Bill joined the Navy in 1942 after noting a recruiting poster reading “Join the Navy. Three hot meals a day.” After boot camp and quartermaster school in Newport, RI, he was assigned to an LST (a Landing Ship Tank, often dubbed “Large Slow Target”) and was in the first wave of invasions in Sicily, Salerno, and Normandy at Omaha Beach.  Bill comments, “I was a lucky son of a gun,” since he was not wounded. A memorable occasion happened when King George VI paid a visit to his ship and Bill was asked to show him around the quartermaster area.

Don was transferred to Bremerhaven, Germany, at the close of the war, just prior to his discharge. There he got married, and when the couple returned to the U.S., they moved to DC. Don used the training that he had received in the military when employed by Kelvinator Corp and later in a government job. After he became a widower, he remarried and this union with Barbara resulted in Don’s “acquiring” three children, and later four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Bill was also discharged after the end of the war and earned an engineering degree from Mississippi State. He was recalled to the Air Force in 1957 for three additional years.  

He was a Captain in his mid-30s when stationed in England and went to a department store to buy a white shirt and black bow tie. He was enamored with the sales clerk and suggested she measure his collar size. As she had the measuring tape around his neck, Bill “insisted” that she give him her telephone number. He and Ronnie reared their two sons in Laurel, MD, where Bill had a 30-year career with NASA.

Don and Bill are part of what is now known as the “Greatest Generation.” We salute them for their contributions!

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