Quest for Honor: Daughter of Pearl Harbor vet to travel to Washington
CABOT, Ark. (KTHV) - The USS Arizona was broken in half and sinking during the Attack on Pearl Harbor when Joe George spotted six men clinging to the ship. The men were badly injured and were pleading for help as the fire engulfed the deck beneath them.
An officer on the USS Vestal, which was tied to the Arizona, yelled at George to cut the ship loose. But George refused. Instead, he threw a weight heaving line toward the Arizona, according to AZCentral.com.
Even though the Arizona tower was higher than Vestal, the six men had to first work their way down the line only to climb back to reach the deck of the Vestal. It was a journey that stretched 75 feet over flames on both the sinking ship and the water. As the six made their way across, George had to fight fires as the Vestal made its way to safety.
But for the longest time, that heroic throw that saved six men from certain death was always attributed to an unknown soldier.
Until nearly four decades later when George told his life story to an interviewer at the University of North Texas in 1978.
"I'm that unknown sailor," George said. "I'm the guy."
Now, nearly 76 years later, his daughter will head to Washington D.C. in hopes of getting a commendation for him. She will be joined by two men that her father saved at Pearl Harbor. Though Don Stratton and Lauren Bruner are in their 90's, Joe Ann Taylor said it has been their lifelong dream to see George honored.
"I know Don Stratton and the family they would like him to get the Medal of Honor and I would be thrilled with that," Taylor said, "but for my father to be recognized, you know, in any kind of way for what he did. For the story to get out there and told about my father."
On the morning of July 21, the group will begin their quest for honor by meeting Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis at the Pentagon. From there, they will get a chance to meet President Donald Trump with only one mission on their mind.
At both appointments, she already knows what she will say. She will simply tell them the story of her father.
"[Just] trying to get a commitment out of somebody that will say, 'Yes, we are going to award your father. Yes, we're going to recognize him for his heroism,'" she said.
But as the years went on, the people battling for George's recognition have been told by the Navy that they need an eyewitness account from the Vestal. In 2014, Stratton's son Randy told The Arizona Republic that the Navy also "can't get past that he disobeyed an order."
George's daughter will leave Wednesday for Washington D.C. where she hopes to change the minds of some of the most powerful men in Washington. If she can get the commendation for her father, Joe George, the trip will have been worth it.
"He saved six people's lives. Joe saved six lives and he didn't crap," Stratton said. "As far as he was concerned, he was saving lives. He refused to cut the line no matter what."