George Elliott Jr., radar operator, dead at 85
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. George E. Elliott Jr., whose warning early on Dec. 7, 1941, of planes approaching Pearl Harbor went unheeded, has died of complications from a stroke. He was 85.
On his radar screen, George Elliott Jr. saw incoming Japanese aircraft on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
His warning went unheeded and the day became one "that will live in infamy."
Elliott and another private, Joseph L. Lockard, had been on duty since 4 a.m. at Kahuku Point on the northern tip of O'ahu, familiarizing themselves with a new marvel that could "see" more than 130 miles out to sea radar.
Just after 7 a.m., Elliott saw "something completely out of the ordinary" on the screen, a huge blip, due north, 137 miles out. The information was called in to headquarters, and the operators were told it was a flight of B-17 Flying Fortresses due in from California.
They kept tracking for practice, and the blip grew so large that Lockard figured the set was broken. They turned it off at 7:45, after the blip disappeared behind O'ahu's mountains.
About 10 minutes later, the first bombs were falling on battleship row.
Later that morning, when Elliott and Lockard arrived back at their base, they learned the significance of what they had observed.
"He had a feeling of frustration that if the warning had been heeded they could have at least got planes in the air and lives could have been saved," Elliott's son, Tom, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune yesterday. "He felt that way right up to the day he died."
Elliott served in the Army until 1945, then worked for New Jersey Bell Telephone for 33 years before retiring.
In later years, his warning at Pearl Harbor brought him fame. The actions of the radar operators were depicted in the 1970 movie "Tora, Tora, Tora," on TV specials and in history books.
"It's been quite an event in our family for a number of years," Tom Elliott said. "Every year around Dec. 7, he was called from newspaper reporters and television stations around the country, all wanting to know more about that fateful day."
Survivors also include a brother, Clarence Elliott of Port Charlotte, and longtime companion Eloise Falknor.