Remarkable People: My Cousin Jimmy Gates and the Flower Bed, Seventy-Two Years Ago Today.

Contributed by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

Hickham Field Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941
Hickam Field
Pearl Harbor
7 December 1941

I remember where I was and what I was doing shortly after one o’clock in the afternoon on December 7, 1941. My dad called me in to where he and a couple of his friends were sitting by the huge Stromberg Carlson 350R console radio, its front doors swung open. They were leaning forward, hanging onto every word coming out of the polished walnut cabinet. The breathless announcer was talking so fast he sometimes stumbled over his words. The usual calm and soothing baritone of a professional radio news reporter was replaced by an almost panicked staccato, an octave higher than his voice would have sounded normally. One phrase has stayed stuck in my mind’s ear all these years, “They stabbed our boys in the back!”

At first I thought they were talking about Japanese soldiers bayoneting our soldiers and sailors in the back, as I had seen them do in the newsreels of the massacre of Nanking. Even as a kid, I knew war was on the horizon. Six weeks earlier, a Nazi U-boat had sunk the destroyer USS Reuben James as it escorted a convoy of cargo ships carrying food and supplies to England.

Everyone thought that when war did come, it would come from Europe. No one but a few farsighted tacticians like General Billy Mitchell were looking west, and even predicting that an attack would come by air. Mitchell was Court Martialed for his outspoken military and political heresy. When Americans were killed in what was to be the first military engagement of WW-2 with the sinking of the Reuben James, President Roosevelt held back committing troops and sailors to combat despite the provocation. Hitler was counting on that kind of restraint, or he would not have been so bold as to sink an American warship. He knew the US was not prepared to fight a war, since American troop levels had been drawn down to very low numbers, and much of the equipment was either obsolete or obsolescent. The country was recovering from the Great Depression, and needed time to re-arm.

Admiral Yamamoto took Roosevelt’s options away from him that Sunday morning. Hitler was said to be furious with his Japanese allies.

Which brings us to the story my cousin Jimmy.

Jimmy Gates was from Cleveland, Mississippi. He grew up hunting squirrels and other game to help put food on the family table during the Depression. He was a crack shot. After he got out of high school, the economy was still reeling from the Great Depression, and opportunities were few in the Mississippi delta cotton fields. Seeing the peacetime military as a way to escape the hot farm fields, He joined the Army Air Corps as a Private.  He liked airplanes, and figured it would be a lot better branch of the service for him than being an infantryman. For Jimmy, flying beat walking any day. The Air Corps liked Jimmy too. He was a superb marksman, and had unusually good eyesight, traits which seem to run in our family (when I was his age, my eyesight was 20/13). They made Jimmy a bombardier and nose gunner in a B-17 bomber. It was a good choice, because his ability to put bombs on target was uncanny, at a time when the average bomb fell a quarter mile off the intended target.

Burning Depot and Barracks Hickam Field 7 December 1941
Burning Depot and Barracks
Hickam Field
7 December 1941

Jimmy was playing pool in the Day Room that Sunday morning. He heard airplanes flying at combat power settings and bullets hitting things outside. He ran to the window and saw planes with the “red meatball” markings wheeling overhead and diving on Hickham Field. He dove out the open window, because he knew buildings would be a target. After all, he was trained as a bombardier, and knew exactly what bomb aimers would be targeting. He tumbled out the window into the flower bed and took off running. He had only gotten a few steps when a bomb came through the roof , exploding in the room he had just vacated. The blast knocked him down, but he wanted to get as far from the buildings and flight line as he could. Those would be the targets, and he was in no mood to be a target that day. He was a 24 year old Sergeant at the time, and wanted to have a 25th birthday. He knew his next birthday might be his last, if he did manage to live that long.

He got a chance to fight back soon enough. As the runways and ruined hangars were repaired, new B-17 bombers were arriving from the mainland US. After a few more weeks of training, Jimmy Gates went to war. He had lost good friends that December morning. It was payback time.

When his eye was not glued to the eyepiece of his top-secret Norden bombsight, he was handling the machine guns in the nose, looking for enemy aircraft.

He sank several Japanese warships, one of them by putting a bomb down the smokestack. Apparently one of his crew-mates had bet him he couldn’t do it. It was most unusual for a bombardier shoot down a fighter plane. I know he was given full credit for shooting down at least one Zero fighter. He told of one mission where the crew voted on whether to bail out or stay with the crippled plane. He elected to stay. When he jumped down from the plane, shredded ribbons of his parachute started falling out a hole in the chute pack. There was a piece of antiaircraft shell the size of his hand in the middle of what was left of his parachute.

The August 7, 1942 New York Times reported that Air Corps Sergeant James F. Gates of Cleveland, Mississippi was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in the Solomon Islands area. It would not be his last medal, or his last Silver Star. Jimmy wore very little flash on his uniform. He was as different from soldiers like General David Petraeus as night is to day. After it was created in 1958, he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Jimmy survived WW-2, but stayed in the Air Force. Because of his outstanding skill, bravery and intelligence, he was sent to officers candidate school, and was now an officer. When B-29s arrived on the scene in the Pacific, he was assigned to a B-29 squadron. He flew right up until the end of the war, including some of the last raids on Japan. In the early 1950s he came to visit at our house. I had about a million questions, but some he would not, or could not, answer. I asked him if he had been one of the crews selected to train for the atomic bomb. He changed the subject. I remember him suddenly wanting to talk about the outstanding performance of the P-38 in dives and climbs, compared to the Zero. I found out later he had been assigned to the 509th Composite Group, and my suspicions had been true.

Jimmy went on to fly during the Korean war.  He was one of those aviators for whom flying was a way of life, so he stayed in the service. At various times he was assigned to B-47 and then B-52 bombers when his squadron got them. He was a three war veteran, staying on through the Vietnam war.

Photo by Mike Kinsley Find A Grave contributor
Photo by Mike Kinsley
Find A Grave contributor

Jimmy retired from the Air Force with the rank of Major. He eventually became the victim of Alzheimer’s Disease, living his last years in a nursing facility in Springfield, MO. He is buried in the Missouri Veterans Cemetery at Springfield.

I prefer to remember the young man who took his brother Billy and me to the Saturday afternoon matinee, and who loved to go squirrel hunting. He made a joke of diving out that open window into the flower bed that sunny Sunday morning, but I know now something I didn’t realize then. There was a hell of a lot of pain in those memories. Seventy-two years ago this morning.

100 thoughts on “Remarkable People: My Cousin Jimmy Gates and the Flower Bed, Seventy-Two Years Ago Today.”

  1. I could well be delusional, but I still believe this is a nation of mostly decent people that will stand up without having to be asked & do that’s task called for when needed.

  2. I don’t know if this young gal realizes she’s standing up among some of the most decent this country has produced, but I believe she is.

  3. ** The Hersh article is based in part on a four-page secret cable given to a top official at the Defense Intelligence Agency on June 20, one of a group of intelligence community documents allegedly stating that jihadi rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra has the ability to make sarin gas. Sarin is the chemical believed to have been used in the Aug 21 chemical attack in Ghouta that crossed Obama’s “red line” and prompted the administration to push for a strike on Assad’s regime.

    “When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad,” Hersh writes.

    And this:

    Hersh’s conclusion: Obama sought to mislead the nation into war.

    “The distortion, [a source] said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam,” Hersh writes.

    He also raises a more immediate question: “While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone.”

    Do you believe your government or some wacky conspiracy theorist??!?!

    Do you believe your government or some wacky conspiracy theorist??!?!

    Read more at http://www.maxkeiser.com/page/2/#XDepR6swCWU9RUCV.99 **

    http://www.maxkeiser.com/page/2/

  4. Attitude:

    There are a many unsung heroes among us even today. Not seeking any special recognition, metals nor plaques for their wall.

    They just do their job as if their own families lives depended on their good works. Just like most of us around here are still trained.

    One of my wifes uncles in WW2, he was an instrument man. He made a career out of after the war. Retired out of AA with 40 in.

    Good chance many of a flier were looking at his work & never knew his name. It was Calvin.

    We’ve some of his hand built clocks hear he made as a hobby.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attitude_indicator

  5. Attitude:

    **Radar, too, was insufficient. There were not enough trained surveillance pilots. Many of the reconnaissance craft were old and suffered from a lack of spare parts. The commanders’ repeated requests to Washington for additional patrol planes were turned down. Rear Admiral Edward T. Layton, who served at Pearl Harbor, summed it up in his book And I Was There: “There was never any hint in any intelligence received by the local command of any Japanese threat to Hawaii. Our air defenses were stripped on orders from the army chief himself. Of the twelve B-17s on the island, only six could be kept in the air by cannibalizing the others for spare parts.”**

  6. It’d be helpful if the records surrounding the run up to WW2/Pearl Harbor were unsealed/unredacted.

    But there are some records available to the public.

    And yes the Nazi Holocaust is well documented & I remember one uncle of mine telling me as a soilder, they were order to the scene of one the death camps & viewed the local towns people being forced to bury victims of that massacre.

    I don’t know much on Japanese massacres & much of the Japs Bio/chem weapons programs still remains sealed by the US govt.

    One thing we know for sure from history is that govt’s are by far the largest murders of humans.

    And that’s why the founders here said Never surround you Rights under the 2nd.

    And of course that’s why this govt is currently attempting to distroy the 2nd amd.

  7. “Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson both managed to entice “enemy” attacks on U.S. forces to rally American public opinion Congressional support. They aren’t alone. While damage to the U.S. fleet and personnel at Pearl Harbor far exceeded the couple of bullet holes inflicted on the USS Turner Joy and Maddox in the Tonkin Gulf in 1964, the pre-event manipulation was not all that different. That people in government might conspire to keep their machinations hidden from the press and public, sadly, isn’t novel either anymore. Radiation experiments, commandos known to be captured, but written off as killed and all the rest have taught us almost too much about human nature

    1. While LBJ did stage the excuse for war in that he did NOT tell the whole truth on any of the so called attacks, FDR did NOT entice anything other than escorting convoys part of the way to Britain. The Rueben James was SUNK by a German U boat just a few days before Pearl Harbor. FDR did not use that as an excuse to declare war on Germany because he knew he could not get political backing for a declaration of war against Hitler on that alone. LBJ knew that the US destroyers were covering a South Vietnamese attack on North Vietnamese islands, and he also knew that there had been NO attack at all the second time.

      FDR had cut off all steel and oil exports to Japan several months before to pressure the Japanese to end their war against China. That was perfectly within US rights and is a normal part of diplomatic means as we are doing with Iran. Since Japan got 80% of their oil from the US. it is obvious that Japan HAD to do something soon to get that oil. THAT is why most folks thought that Japan would attack only south which is where the oil was available. It did NOT mean that Japan HAD to attack the US. FDR did move the Pacific fleet from its base in San Diego, to Hawaii which is not exactly a major provocation in anybody’s book. We lucked out that the Japanese did not launch a third wave since that would have nailed the POL stocks, which would have forced the US to abandon Hawaii. That would have been an even greater disaster and prolonged the war by years. FDR sure as HELL would not have wanted anything like that at all.

      Yamamoto knew that to forestall any US interference with the push to the south, he had to neutralize the US Pacific fleet, which is why he hit Pearl Harbor. He had nothing but contempt for the US naval commanders since he knew that most he knew were not first rate. He was not in favor of war with the US because he knew the immense industrial power of it since he knew the US quite well. His concerns were overruled because as we found out after the war, the Japanese thought the US would sue for peace rather than keep on fighting because of the isolationist sentiment which had nearly defeated even the draft and they knew the US was totally unprepared for war. Given those facts, I cannot put FDR in the same category as LBJ’s deception, though FDR was devious to a degree, but nothing compared to LBJs blatant lies.

      1. Bill McWilliam’s has a very good motive in supporting the notion that FDR led us into war. Bill is a holocaust denier and presumably a NAZI admirer, or do I have that wrong Billy?

  8. “”Day of Deceit” provides compelling evidence that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt deliberately provoked Japan to attack the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor so that America could enter the war on the allied side. Stinnett, a distinguished World War II navy veteran who researched his subject for over sixteen years, provides the following evidence:
    1. A naval intelligence officer named Arthur McCollum developed an eight-point plan to provoke Japanese hostilities. This plan reached Roosevelt who implemented all eight points.
    2. Contrary to popular belief, the Japanese navy broke radio silence on multiple occasions prior to December 7, 1941.
    3. More than 94% of all secret Japanese naval messages (including some with direct reference to the impending attack on Pearl Harbor) were successfully decoded by American intelligence units prior to December 7, 1941
    4. Roosevelt implemented a change of naval command that placed proponents of the eight-point-provocation plan in key positions of power. However, the newly promoted commander of Pearl Harbor, Admiral Husband Kimmel was consistently denied access to vital decoded translations of Japanese naval communications.
    5. Naval Intelligence and the FBI successfully monitored the communication of Japanese intelligence agents in Hawaii for months. These communications, which included a bombing grid map of Pearl Harbor, revealed Japan’s intent.
    6. Much of the information successfully collected and analyzed by American Intelligence organizations prior to December 7, 1941 was reinforced by information from British and Dutch intelligence.
    7. A sophisticated radio tracking system spanning from Alaska to Indonesia enabled America to track Japanese commercial and military shipping patterns.

    1. I see that bill m knows nothing about security measures in the military or military operations. I have no knowledge of the eight point plan and I have read a LOT on FDR. An intel officer does NOT report to the President by the way and bill m shows NOTHING at all that could possibly be a “provocation”! Unless he thinks that moving the fleet to Hawaii is one and that we should not have the right to move on our own territory so as not to offend Japan.

      It is absurd to say that the attack fleet transmitted while enroute to Hawaii. ALL naval vessels in such a group take the radio key and lock it in the captains safe. This is like the people who believe that radio operators heard all kinds of radio traffic from the force. It is beyond belief. The reason is that even assuming the codes are secure, such transmissions give away your position. The US Navy had been using that for a long time to track Japanese naval movements which is why the US lost track of the fleet because of that silence. Such silence SHOULD have been of MAJOR concern to Kimmel.

      The only code that had been broken on Dec 7 was the diplomatic code purple which was decoded and was the notice that did not reach Pearl Harbor, but that made NO mention of an attack on Pearl Harbor, just that the codes of all Japanese facilities in US areas should be burned. All that did was confirm that an attack against US territory was coming somewhere. Of course, Kimmel could have looked out his window and seen what the Japanese were doing at the Jap consulate before the attack. In FACT only 10% of the Naval code was being read, and even then the message that went to the fleet was “climb Mt Nitaka” Sure lets everybody know that Pearl Harbor was the target, right?

      All naval attaches and diplomatic facilities are SUPPOSED to get intel on harbors, ships, etc.. That is their JOB! The US did that for Japan too. Think that meant the US was going to attack Japan?

      The US was in a code sharing agreement with other nations, but the US group at Hypo, Hawaii was the best of the bunch and only was able to break the J-25 code just before the battle of Midway. Even then the OP-20, in DC made erroneous claims and fed BAD intel to Nimitz. Rochefort and his group made the correct call which severely embarrassed Cmdr Redman who was not very good at his job, but was a charter member of the Academy Protective Ass. Any claim that Redman makes is not backed up by his performance. He was backed up by his brother who was a Rear Adm which counted for more than his performance.

      The US did get its hands on the commercial shipping codes and broke them which helped in positioning US subs when war broke out. bill m still cannot answer the MAIN question, why would the US want to get in a war with Japan when Germany was the main target? Germany was under NO obligation to go to war against the US since Japan attacked the US. The treaty ONLY made it mandatory if Japan was attacked by the US. Indeed if Hitler had not solved FDRs problem by declaring war against the US, we would have only been at war with Japan.

  9. ralphlaw

    “Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson both managed to entice “enemy” attacks on U.S. forces to rally American public opinion Congressional support. They aren’t alone. While damage to the U.S. fleet and personnel at Pearl Harbor far exceeded the couple of bullet holes inflicted on the USS Turner Joy and Maddox in the Tonkin Gulf in 1964, the pre-event manipulation was not all that different. That people in government might conspire to keep their machinations hidden from the press and public, sadly, isn’t novel either anymore. Radiation experiments, commandos known to be captured, but written off as killed and all the rest have taught us almost too much about human nature.”

    “Day of Deceit” provides compelling evidence that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt deliberately provoked Japan to attack the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor so that America could enter the war on the allied side. Stinnett, a distinguished World War II navy veteran who researched his subject for over sixteen years, provides the following evidence:
    1. A naval intelligence officer named Arthur McCollum developed an eight-point plan to provoke Japanese hostilities. This plan reached Roosevelt who implemented all eight points.
    2. Contrary to popular belief, the Japanese navy broke radio silence on multiple occasions prior to December 7, 1941.
    3. More than 94% of all secret Japanese naval messages (including some with direct reference to the impending attack on Pearl Harbor) were successfully decoded by American intelligence units prior to December 7, 1941
    4. Roosevelt implemented a change of naval command that placed proponents of the eight-point-provocation plan in key positions of power. However, the newly promoted commander of Pearl Harbor, Admiral Husband Kimmel was consistently denied access to vital decoded translations of Japanese naval communications.
    5. Naval Intelligence and the FBI successfully monitored the communication of Japanese intelligence agents in Hawaii for months. These communications, which included a bombing grid map of Pearl Harbor, revealed Japan’s intent.
    6. Much of the information successfully collected and analyzed by American Intelligence organizations prior to December 7, 1941 was reinforced by information from British and Dutch intelligence.
    7. A sophisticated radio tracking system spanning from Alaska to Indonesia enabled America to track Japanese commercial and military shipping patterns.

  10. All history stories over 50 years old have one thing in common.

    It happened a long time ago and the fog of war and peace have settled in.

    Today, there is ample proof that history is not as relevant as today is:

    Last month he appeared at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, Australia, where he spoke at length on these themes.

    It took a month, but on Sunday The Guardian published a highly edited version on its site—under the title, “There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show”—which drew wide attention. As far as I can see, no one posted the video of his entire talk, however, along with questions from a host and the audience. So here’s one excerpt from the edited piece and then the full video…

    (How America Itself Has Become ‘a Horror Show’, The Nation). So, I say again, some of the remarkable people of those times would not like what is happening now.

    The good news is that our current mistakes do not take away from who they were.

    Likewise, future generations will not take away from our doing the proper thing now either.

  11. **rafflaw 1, December 8, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    bill,
    Show me the evidence.
    **

    Raf, I posted some for you just above here, there’s much more out the net.

    ** Oky1 1, December 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm **

  12. Rafflaw:

    There’s plenty of available evidence that FDR knew in advance. You’re
    just stuck in the “belief” phase of PH. JFK, WTC etc. Hopefully, one day you will make yourself aware of what really happened, and move into the actual knowledge phase of your understanding. Unless you’re just here shilling for
    The Man.

  13. Bill,

    For decades those of us that clearly see the massive conspiracies going on right in front of our eyes were ridiculed.

    Yet just look at the case of the Nazi family of the Bushs & Prescott Bush.

    CBS & other media in the USA kept it a tightly held secret that Prescott Bush was a Nazi that hated American & even as GHW Bush, GW ran for prez the media made no mention of what is a matter of Public Court Records.

  14. Wsn’t GW’HB’s father one of the coup plotters? I’m nearly positive he was.
    Seems to run in that family. GWH is connected to Dallas in ’63. the attempt on Reagan in ’81. Gw in 2000 & 2004.

  15. Many of you here have no doubt heard of Major General Smedley Butler.

    If there was ever one short history report you could read you really owe it to yourself/families/friends to read his comments: “WAR is a racket.”

    Hell, now someone was kind enough to give you it in a video.

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