52 Ancestors, Week 11: Lucky Uncle Rush

My great-uncle survived Pearl Harbor.

He wasn’t always so lucky. Romeo Tomassoni, known as Rush, was only three years old when his father, a coal miner, was killed in a mine collapse. At 22, he joined the army, which sent him to Hickam Field, at Pearl Harbor, Oahu. This was in 1941, before the United States entered World War II.

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Sergeant Romeo Tomassoni wrote in his diary, “At 7:55 am, Jap. planes attacked the island of Oahu. Most damage was done to Pearl Harbor, & Hickam Field…. Casualties numbered about 3000.” He went on to describe seeing a Japanese plane shot down: “What an awful sight. It will live in my memory forever.”

Uncle Rush was lucky enough to survive the attack. He wrote a little more in his diary each day that week, describing setting up a machine gun nest and taking shifts all night long, watching for more enemy planes. He said two Japanese soldiers came ashore; one was shot, and the other captured. On Tuesday, he reported that he finally was able to wash and shave for the first time since the initial attack.

I don’t remember Uncle Rush ever talking about the war. When anyone asked him about surviving Pearl Harbor, he always claimed he hid under the bed. Clearly, his diary disproves that.

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