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Samuel C. Hurd, a longtime Downey resident who survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, died last week. He was 91.
We profiled Hurd in our end-of-the-year magazine last December. We are republishing the story on the occasion of his death.
DOWNEY – Samuel C. Hurd is one of a thinning number of Pearl Harbor survivors whose service to country, as well as those of other veterans of other wars, was honored on Veterans Day. The latest number of Pearl Harbor living survivors has been estimated at 2,000. Some 2,400 people, most of them in the military, were killed in the attack.
Hurd, a resident of Downey since 1960 and who turned 91 this year, was a cook attached to Anti-Aircraft Battery F of the 251st Coast Artillery during WWII as part of the California Army National Guard. The unit was deployed initially in Hawaii and later in the larger Pacific Theater.
Their permanent station in Hawaii was at Camp Malakole, a couple of miles north of Barber’s Point in Oahu.
Hurd says he enlisted in the Army when he was 18 because he didn’t want to get drafted, opting for an anti-aircraft unit rather than get a random assignment. It is believed Grandma Hurd, a pacifist, was not happy when he joined the Army.
Born in Huntington Park, Hurd qualified as a cook because he distinguished himself in his cooking class back at South Gate High School, when he was able to make a “solid” custard.
The other members of his unit came from all over, one or two from South Gate itself, others from Bellflower, Long Beach, Hemet, etc. A guy he came to know came from as far away as Buffalo, New York.
Working in the mess hall at Oahu’s Ford Island, he says he usually cooked for 60-80 soldiers at a time but an additional 50 recruits from Rochester, New York arrived and he had to feed that many more mouths.
“We served three meals a day: breakfast at 6:30 a.m., lunch at noon and supper at 5:15 p.m.,” he says. “A typical meal was hamburger steak, mashed potatoes and carrots.”
December 7, the day of the Japanese attack, started as a lazy Sunday morning, says Hurd, when “about 90 percent of the base personnel were on leave.” He somehow decided to work that morning. As it turned out, it was a fortunate decision because three of his buddies chose to rent an airplane to go sightseeing but never returned: no sooner were they airborne when seven Japanese zeroes appeared from nowhere and took their airplane down.
“We watched the Japanese planes flying overhead towards the harbor,” he says, “and we ran towards the harbor, but there was nothing we could do.”
Hurd could only recollect the bare outlines of key events and or places during the remainder of his tour of duty. Thus, in his retelling of the war, famous places and battle scenes flashed by: in mid-May, 1942, “we left for the Fiji Islands; in 1943-45, we went to the Solomon Islands. We were at Guadalcanal for 30 days. The Japanese were still on the island, and the Marines took over. Then we were in Bougainville.”
“In 1945, we left the Pacific and disembarked at Louisiana. I had by then made Staff sergeant and First Cook,” Hurd says. “I liked to listen to Louis Armstrong.”
Returning to the familiar surroundings of South Gate and Huntington Park after he got out of the service, he hired on as a cabinet maker. It was at about this time that he met and married nurse Carola Schiller, with whom he eventually had three children, John, Trude and Steve. He can thank his bowling friend, Lou Wilson, for introducing him to Carola, who has since passed away.
The family moved to Downey in 1960 and bought a 3-bedroom house on Guatemala Avenue. He still resides there.
Hurd then worked at McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach. As a wood mock-up person, he installed cabinets and other fixtures inside the plane.
After getting laid off from Douglas, Hurd went to work for Modern Fixtures, which made cabinets and other fixtures–work with which by then he was very familiar.
Sam’s older brother, John, also served in WWII with the Army Air Force in the European Theater. He was a B-17 Ball Turret Gunner. John flew 10 successful missions from England to Germany, was shot down over Germany in his 11th mission, and was a POW for over 365 days in the infamous Stalag 17B in Austria.
He died a few years ago.
Published: April 4, 2013 – Volume 11 – Issue 51