A date which will live in infamy: Monday marks 79th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Attack

Drew Butler
dbutler@gannett.com
Seaman Billy Turner was serving on the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor the day of the attack. The 19-year-old was classified as missing in action, and he is the first World War II casualty from Carter County.
Delbert D. Black was serving aboard the USS Maryland when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He survived and went on to serve in the US Navy for 30 years, retiring as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy in 1971.

There are only a handful of specific dates in living memory that stand out in the minds of all Americans. A few examples are the Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22,1963, the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The sheer brutality of all three was not only shocking at the time, they all permanently altered the course of history.

Monday will mark the 79th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor that ultimately drew the United States into World War II. According to Adm. Wes Hull, two young men from the area were serving aboard ships on the day of the attack. Nineteen-year-old Seaman First Class Billy Turner was killed during the attack, and Delbert Black survived and went on to serve in the US Navy for 30 years before retiring as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy in 1971.

Hull said Billy Turner was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1922 but moved with his family to Ardmore in 1926. He joined the US Navy on January 4, 1940, and was serving aboard the USS Oklahoma the day of the attack.

“On December 7, 1941 the USS Oklahoma was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor,” Hull said. “Torpedoes from bomber airplanes hit the ship’s hull and she flipped upside down. The survivors jumped off the ship 50-feet into the burning oil and diesel or crawled across ropes that moored the USS Oklahoma and the USS Maryland together.”

Turner was among the 429 crew members who died aboard the USS Oklahoma, and he became the first World War II casualty from Carter County. Turner Street in Ardmore is named in his honor. He is also the reason why the USS Oklahoma is depicted in the mural on The Ardmoreite building.

Delbert Black was born and raised in Orr, a small community in Love County, and enlisted in the US Navy on March 14, 1941. He was serving aboard the USS Maryland, the ship connected to the USS Oklahoma, on the morning of the attack.

Hull said Black went on to serve aboard nine other ships after the USS Maryland and continued his career for 30 years. On January 3, 1967 the Secretary of the Navy announced Black had been selected as the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, a position he held until his retirement. The position made him the highest ranking enlisted member of the US Navy and served as the enlisted representative to the chief of naval operations.

Black passed away on March 5, 2001 and was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in September 2004. On September 8, 2017 the Navy launched the USS Delbert D Black, a guided missile destroyer christened in his honor.