The Arizona’s Missourian

We’ve looked for a list of Missourians who were serving on the USS Arizona seven decades ago.  Although we have found lists we have not located one showing home towns.  But we know of one Missourian who was on the ship that day.

This Pearl Harbor Day is a good time to recall the story of Samuel Glenn Fuqua, the Laddonia, MO., native who was the last commander of the USS Arizona.   He won the Medal of Honor for his actions 70 years ago today.

Fuqua went to the Naval Academy after serving in the Army during WWI.  The Arizona was his first duty station after his graduation from Annapolis.  He served on several other ships and pulled some shore duty before getting his first command, a minesweeper.  He served at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station before returning to the Arizona as the damage control officer.

Early in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Fuqua was knocked out by a bomb that hit the Arizona’s stern.  He quickly recovered and directed the rescue and firefighting efforts until the forward magazine blew up and vaporized the ship’s command.   Lt. Commander Fuqua was the senior surviving officer and saw it was hopeless to try to save the Arizona.  He ordered the crew to abandon ship and later used a rescue boat from the Arizona to save the lives of several crew members who were in the oily waters — even as Japanese planes continued to bomb and strafe the area.

His Medal of Honor citation reads:

For distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism, and utter disregard of his own safety, above and beyond the call of duty during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Upon the commencement of the attack, Lieutenant Commander Fuqua rushed to the quarterdeck of the U.S.S. Arizona to which he was attached where he was stunned and knocked down by the explosion of a large bomb which hit the quarterdeck, penetrated several decks, and started a severe fire. Upon regaining consciousness, he began to direct the fighting of the fire and the rescue of wounded and injured personnel. Almost immediately there was a tremendous explosion forward, which made the ship appear to rise out of the water, shudder and settle down by the bow rapidly. The whole forward part of the ship was enveloped in flames which were spreading rapidly, and wounded and burned men were pouring out of the ship to the quarterdeck. Despite these conditions, his harrowing experience, and severe enemy bombing and strafing, at the time, Lieutenant Commander Fuqua continued to direct the fighting of fires in order to check them while the wounded and burned could be taken from the ship, and supervised the rescue of these men in such an amazingly calm and cool manner and with such excellent judgement, that it inspired everyone who saw him and undoubtedly resulted in the saving of many lives. After realizing that the ship could not be saved and that he was the senior surviving officer aboard, he directed that it be abandoned, but continued to remain on the quarterdeck and directed abandoning ship and rescue of personnel until satisfied that all personnel that could be had been saved, after which he left the ship with the (last) boatload. The conduct of Lieutenant Commander Fuqua was not only in keeping with the highest traditions of the Naval Service but characterizes him as an outstanding leader of men.

Fuqua commanded a cruiser in 1942 and later was the Ops Officer for the Seventh Fleet, helping plan several amphibious operations.  He was a Rear Admiral y the time he retired in 1953. He died in 1987 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Missourinet’s Mike Lear has an interesting story today about the recovery and restoration of records from the Arizona.  It’s on our regular page.

The National Archives “Prologue” magazine also has an interesting article about the records it has from the ships at Pearl Harbor that Day.  The day logs of the ships provide a lot of eyewitness detail amazingly written during the attack.

The remains of the Arizona are now a monument.   Not far from the Arizona monument is the USS Missouri, the battleship where the war in the Pacific that began seventy years ago today came to an end three and a half years later.

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