We recently had an out-of-state guest come to the Local History department of CDPL with a very interesting story about her uncle, Leroy White, 26 years old, at the time, who had been stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The family story related that he was aboard on the USS California, at Pearl Harbor and had been smoking up on deck when the ship was torpedoed on December 7, 1941. He supposedly jumped off the flaming ship into the harbor and swam through the burning waters to the shore and was not found for several days.As told in another post in this blog, citizens here learned of the bombing by radio and by reports given out to the crowds at the Crawfordsville Journal Review on Green Street. The December 12 article in the Journal reported that “ the Arizona and five other warships were lost,” but no mention was made of the USS California.
Imagine the horror felt by Mr. and Mrs. David White of near New Market when the headline on December 16 read:
"LEROY WHITE SLAIN AT PEARL HARBOR.”
Those were terrible days at the White household until a letter, mailed on December 19, arrived at their home.
Christmas must have been a very merry occasion with the White family that year!
Leroy survived the war and married Alice Lidester in October, 1953. He died in August, 1994 and is buried in Boone County.
What happened to the USS California? In early 1942 it was refloated and dry docked. Later, in June, it was sent to Puget Sound for refitting and major repairs. This fine ship later returned to the seas to play a significant role in the battles around the Philippines and Japan. A Japanese kamikaze pilot slammed into it on January 6, 1945, so immediate repairs were made to it, and its men continued on to battle near Okinawa, Japan. The “USS California” was finally scrapped in 1959.