By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 7, 1941, the world changed. American service members based in Hawaii saw that seminal moment in history, and those that were there vividly remember that Sunday morning 63 years ago.
George Phraner was a petty officer first class aboard the battleship USS Arizona. His battle station was a forward five- inch gun. He had just gone topside to get some air after finishing breakfast when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor started.
"Just as we left the mess area we heard this noise," he said in an oral history on the Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association Web site. "We could hear and see there were airplanes. I looked across the bow of the ship and could see large plumes of smoke coming up from Ford Island."
He said he didn't comprehend at first that what he was seeing was an attack. "It didn't mean anything to us until a large group of planes came near the ship and we could see for the first time the Rising Sun emblem on the plane wings," he said.
"The bombing was becoming heavier all around us and we knew this was really it." He headed for his gun when general quarters sounded.
"It was standard practice to keep only a limited amount of ammunition at the guns," Phraner said. "There we were, the Japanese dropping bombs over us and we had no ammo. All the training and practicing ... and when the real thing came we had no ammunition where we needed it."