JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii –
Like many other mornings, George S.B. Walters reported for work at Dry Dock No. 1 at 7:45 a.m., Dec. 7, 1941. Just minutes later, perched in his crane high above USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), Walters realized that war had just begun.
“I yelled, ‘Enemy planes attacking!’ to the men sleeping on the deck of the Pennsylvania,” Walters later recalled. “Those awake just laughed. I threw a wrench at them and they knew I meant business.”
Alerting the crew of the battleship wasn’t enough for Walters. Using the only weapon he had, Walters maneuvered the massive crane down the dry dock parallel to Pennsylvania, shielding the vulnerable flagship of the Pacific Fleet from attacking enemy aircraft. Swinging the crane’s boom at the attackers he showed gunners aboard Pennsylvania the direction of incoming planes.
Though Walters never struck an enemy aircraft, his heroics resulted in Pennsylvania sustaining only light damage, returning to the fleet after minor repairs. That day and in the many months to come, alongside thousands of others, a Navy Yard Pearl Harbor civilian crane operator and engine man become the stuff of shipyard legend.
Since 2006, the Navy League of the United States Honolulu Council has presented the George S.B. Walters Shipyard Service Award to the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard (PHNSY) and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (IMF) civilian employee who best exemplifies the enthusiasm, initiative and team spirit demonstrated by Walters on that historic day 77 years ago.
This year, on Nov. 15, Electrician Supervisor Dale Hoxie received the award during the Navy League’s annual Sea Service Awards luncheon at the Ala Moana Hotel. He continues the tradition of all shipyard workers keeping the fleet “Fit to Fight.”
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