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Jon's WW2 Blog

May 24, 2015

Blog Topic: A visit with Jesse Thompson, Pearl Harbor Survivor

Jesse Thompsion points out where he was staying on Ford Island at th time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor survivor, Jesse Thompson, points out where he was staying when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The residence was located on Ford Island, approximately thirty yards from Battleship Row. Photo by ©ww2hq staff.

We had the privilege of meeing1 Jesse Thompson on a recent visit to San Diego. He is delightful person and a wonderful host. A Pearl Harbor survivor, he is member of the Pearl Harbor Club, and hosts the club's weekly meetings. He has also hosted other groups for visits to his home, including the Blue Angels and the 2014 Sailor of the Year finalists.

We also heard about his harrowing three days on Ford Island, during and after the Japanese attack.


Thirteen year old Jesse Thompson was staying over at a friend's house on Ford Island, in Pearl Harbor, on the night of December 6, 1941. The house was only thirty yards from battleship row on the east edge of Ford Island. The next morning, December 7, at just before 8:00am, he and the family, heard the sound of aircraft and explosions nearby.

As Jesse went outside he was amazed at the site of squadrons of Japanese aircraft attacking, the sound of guns firing, and bombs and torpedoes exploding. A sailor grabbed him and instructed him to run south to safety.

The south end of For Island was the furthest distance away from the U.S. battleships and aircraft and hangers located on the island. This location would put Jesse as far away from the Japanese targets as possible. In the process of arriving there, Jesse had to take cover repeatedly, as Japanese airplanes strafed Ford Island indiscriminately. He and the family he had been staying with, worked their way to the south of the island, and slept in a galley at night.

For a total of three days, the confusion was so pervasive that there was no chance for Jesse to return home, (Honolulu), or contact family members. Sailors put Jesse to work loading ammunition belts, so the American machine guns would be well supplied in the event of further Japanese attacks.

Jesse's father was on the sea plane tender, U.S.S. Curtiss, which was anchored off the west side of Ford Island. The Curtiss had been struck by a damaged Japanese Aircraft during the attack, and under current conditions, Jesse's father was not able to go home or go look for Jesse. But after three days, his father was able to send a navy chaplain to find Jesse, and this chaplain, arranged transportation to take him home.

Jesse was taken to Honolulu by boat, and when he arrived at his house, his mother broke down and cried. Jesse was amazed and said, "Gee Mom, I thought you'd be glad to see me".

~ Jon

1Our meeting with Jesse Thompson was kindly arranged by Linda Stull. Linda is Treasurer of the San Diego Lindbergh Chapter of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society; ​Library Archivist Volunteer at the San Diego Air and Space Museum; and Veterans Liaison, Air Group 1, Air Show San Diego 2015​.


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