The Mission of a Pearl Harbor Survivor’s Son! To Tell the Story…
Through My Father: A Pearl Harbor Survivor
William Gordon Ely was my father and I am proud to be his son and share his story. He was born in Gallipolis, Ohio where he worked on the family farm when he was just eight years old…even driving tractor! One day he was on a bicycle riding on a country road when a couple of men waived him down in their Model T! The men introduced themselves as Mr. Ford and Mr. Firestone! They were lost and asked for directions to Columbus! William (Bill) didn’t know who the men were until later. He was born with a photographic memory and recalled that they were dressed pretty nice!
Dad’s brush with history didn’t stop there. He later fared the DEPRESSION with his family, though he lost his big brother John to a drowning accident, he joined the service at 17…lying about his age! His path intertwined with many historical persons.
He was finally stationed at Pearl Harbor after touring the South Pacific and wrote to his Mom that he found paradise. He even bragged about catching a forty-pound octopus and having a barbecue with the guys out on the beach! Just before 8 AM on December 7, 1941 my Dad, Bill, was on the porch of the barracks because of an upset stomach from cucumber salad the night before, which saved his life! The airfields were the first attacked and over 200 men were lost there. Bill was a Paramedic so he was racing off in his ambulance truck just trying to get away from the Zeros which were strafing to the left and right of him. The attack lasted a total of 90 minutes and left 2,400 dead and 1,100 wounded.
Bill tended to as many wounded as he could, while he was wounded as well. He pulled many out of the burning water, not giving much thought of his own safety. He kept that rescue up for three days driving them to the Hickam Air Field Hospital. My Dad was told to take care of one critically wounded man with burns covering his body. He administered blood and glucose constantly, and covered the soldiers badly burned body in petroleum jelly.
He would change his bandages round the clock and even sleep next to his fellow soldier to keep him warm so as he wouldn’t go into shock. That man’s mom later wrote a letter to my Dad thanking him for saving her son’s life after he made it home to further his recovery. The letter was shown to the Red Cross and they started a Blood Drive using that letter to gain public support.
My Dad went on to be a founder of the “Pearl Harbor Survivors” Columbus Chapter, and co-founder of eight other chapters. He left in his will a major donation to the MOTT’S Military Museum of Columbus, Ohio to help with the expansion of the new wing where his Pearl Harbor Coat and Memorabilia are on display. Finally, in his last years, he was constantly petitioning the state of Ohio to rename a portion of Highway 75 to the “Pearl Harbor Memorial Highway” and he made it official in 2004! There wasn’t a day go by that he would let folks forget about that day that changed the world forever! My Dad, William Gordon Ely, lived his life serving and honoring his country and his fellow man.
You know, he is still serving, through me, John Oliver Ely!
“Lest We Forget”! Dad… you are part of HISTORY!