Where were you when you heard about the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001?
Many people today can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard or saw that news 18 years ago. The same is true for those who heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor 78 years ago.
“A group of us were riding around in a car and we heard on the radio,” says 93-year-old Henry Meabrod Sr., who was a sophomore in high school then. “At the time, we had never heard of Pearl Harbor and didn’t know where it was anyway.”
Henry Meabrod Sr. shows a photo of himself (middle) and two friends during his service in the Navy in WWII.
Less than three years later – in August 1944 – Meabrod enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 and went to sonar school.
“[The recruiter] said, ‘Can you play any musical instruments?’ I said, ‘I took piano lessons for a couple months.’ He wrote down, ‘Plays piano’ and that got me into sonar school,” Meabrod says with a chuckle, explaining that a good knowledge of tones was needed to attend sonar school.
A photo of the USS Rogers and invitation to its commissioning.Meabrod served aboard the USS Rogers, and became a Sonar Man 2nd Class. The USS Rogers, which was commissioned on March 26, 1945, was initially intended as a destroyer; however, it was converted to a picket ship after the Battle of Okinawa. With the purpose of warning against kamikaze attacks and fighter direction, picket ships were heavily targeted during the Battle of Okinawa and many were lost.
According to “Kamikazes, Corsairs, and Picket Ships” written by Robin Rielly, nearly one out of every three ships that served on radar picket duty were sunk or damaged by Japanese air attacks, making this the most hazardous naval surface duty in World War II.
That was the duty now facing the USS Rogers.
“After doing various things in the Atlantic, we went through the Panama Canal to the Pacific,” says Meabrod. “We were in Pearl Harbor. We were scheduled to leave Pearl Harbor and join the fleet for the invasion of Japan and that’s when they dropped the bomb.”
Instead of sailing to Japan for an invasion, they sailed to accept surrender.
The newspaper that was distributed aboard the USS Rogers after the Japanese surrendered.“We were in Tokyo Bay for the signing of the surrender,” he says. “We were all young and foolish. You don’t really realize what’s going on.”
Meabrod stayed in the Navy as part of the Japanese occupation until he was discharged in June 1946.
“When the war was over, they couldn’t just discharge everyone because it would have been a rush for jobs and everything. So they came up with a point system,” he says. “You got a point for every month you were in service and you got a point for every month you were overseas. Actually, you got a point for every month you were on the ship whether you were overseas or not because it was too hard to keep track.”
Meabrod came back home and, in fact, says there was a group of eight friends – himself and seven others – who had all enlisted in the military during WWII; and, all of them came home, except for one who passed away from rheumatic fever during training and never left the state.
When he came home, he found a job at a paper company in Detroit, was married in January 1948, and had five children. After working for the paper company for 50 years, he moved to Mt. Pleasant to be closer to his daughters.
Henry Meabrod Sr. looks at memorabilia from his time in the Navy during WWII.
Meabrod also has 10 grandchildren, including a grandson who went into the Navy.
“I’m the one that convinced him to go into the Navy, not the Army,” he says with a smile.
Of his own time in the Navy, he says, “It’s just something that you had to do at the time and you just made the best of it.”