Medal cites switchboard worker's Dec. 7 efforts
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By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
George McDonald of Middletown, Conn., is glad his late father's warnings that planes were approaching O'ahu on Dec. 7, 1941 — warnings that went unheeded — have at last been acknowledged.
Last week, the Army Commendation Medal was awarded posthumously to Pvt. Joseph McDonald, validating the Fort Shafter Information Center switchboard operator's efforts to get an officer to act on warnings of a "large number of planes coming in from north 3 points east."
Pvt. McDonald relayed information sent by two operators at the Army's Northern Radar Station at 'Opana near Kahuku at 7:02 a.m.
The commendation noted that McDonald "implored his lieutenant to consider the warnings received ... continued to discuss the warnings with the radar station and again, he repeated his request to the lieutenant that further investigation of the numerous approaching planes was justified."
George McDonald, 55, said: "From my father's perspective, if the warning had been heeded and one life was saved of the 2,400 that died, he would have been satisfied. There's a lot of misinformation but the reality is this commendation shows my father was diligent, not only in communicating the information but also in trying to guide Lt. Kermit Tyler to respond to the warnings."
Pvt. McDonald was assigned to the 580th Signal Aircraft Warning Company at Fort Shafter. He came to Hawai'i in December 1940 and was 22 when the attack occurred, his son said. McDonald was discharged in 1946 and retired as a machinist at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft. He died in 1994.
George McDonald, the older of two children, recalled meeting Tyler in Hawai'i on the 60th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. "I tried to talk to him about the account but he was 88 years old then and didn't remember much. He made a decision at the time as best as he knew. I saw him as a very nice man," McDonald said.
McDonald planned to visit his father's grave today.
Reach Rod Ohira at email@example.com.