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Pearl Harbor hero recognized 76 years after saving 6 of the sinking of the USS Arizona

Joe George is credited with saving at least six soldiers aboard the USS Arizona when it was sinking after being hit several times by Japanese planes.

(Us Navy)

WASHINGTON – An American hero is finally recognition 76 years after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Next Thursday’s anniversary, the secretary of the U.S. Navy, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with courage Chief Petty Officer Joe George, who died in 1996. The news comes five months after Fox News interviewed one of the five living USS Arizona survivors, Donald Stratton, who urged the Navy to recognize George’s heroic actions that day.

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USS Arizona survivor search for recognition for the caregiver

George is credited with saving at least six soldiers aboard the USS Arizona when it was sinking after being hit several times by Japanese aircraft during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Rear Adm. Matthew J. Carter, the deputy commander of the U. S. Pacific Fleet, the medal, the George’s daughter, Joe Ann Taylor, during a 4:30 a.m. EST ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Observing the ceremony will be four of the five remaining USS Arizona survivors.

In addition to Chief George’s Bronze Star, the navy secretary also awarded the Silver Star Medal to Lt. Aloysious H. Schmitt for his actions on Pearl Harbor, while those on the battleship USS Oklahoma, the Navy said in a statement.

“The presentation of the medals is not only suitable, but just the right thing to do,” said the Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer. “One of my highest priorities is to honor the service and sacrifice of our sailors, marines, civilians and members of the family and it is clear that Lt. Schmitt and Chief George are the heroes whose service and sacrifice will stand as an example for the current and future members.”

Donald Stratton, a visit to the USS Arizona memorial on Thursday.

(Thanks to Nikki Stratton)

Donald Stratton and Lauren Burner, another Arizona survivor, hard lobbied for George to be recognized. Both traveled to Washington, D. C., with Pearl Harbor survivors in the summer to meet the President, Donald Trump in the White House and the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in the Pentagon.

In August, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., introduced a resolution in honor of Pearl Harbor hero George for the rescue of six wounded sailors from the sinking of the USS Arizona.

The resolution was cosponsored by the AMERICAN Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

“Joe George is an American hero and deserves this long-awaited honor,” Gardner said. “Veterans such as Joe, George, and Donald Stratton are the best this country has to offer and I thank God every day for the Americans that they want.”

In July, Arizona survivor Donald Stratton recalled the horror he experienced by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.

“We got hit with the big bomb and explodes like a million pounds of ammunition. The fireball was about 60, 70 feet in the air,” said Stratton, in an interview with Fox News prior to his visit to Washington.

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Survivors of the USS Arizona remember Pearl Harbor attack

“The explosion could have taken us away, but it didn’t and thank God we have it,” he added.

Stratton told the story of the man who passed him the vital lifeline to help him and five other USS Arizona sailors make it to safety.

Trapped on board the sinking Arizona, Stratton and the others managed to escape the slaughter, which killed 1,177 of his shipmates, with the help of a fellow sailor who threw them a lifeline of his own ship, moored next to Arizona.

With burns over 60 percent of his body, Stratton had to escape from the burning warship.

The USS Arizona burns after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.

(REUTERS)

“We went to go hand over hand across the line of about 70 feet,” said Stratton. Today is the day, that he has no fingerprints, and bears scars on his body, a daily reminder of the horrors that he endured on Pearl Harbor.

The hardest part was reaching the middle of the slack from the line stretched between the two ships, and climb to the other ship.

“He kept saying, “Come on, sailor! You can make it,” recalled Stratton about his savior, that remained a mystery for 60 years.

The man who saved Stratton and his fellow sailors that day: Joe George.

In his book, “Brave Men,” Stratton described George as “perhaps the strongest man in the port, an All-Marine Boxer.”

Stratton, says George disobey captain’s order and threw Stratton to the line that would save his life.

“It was kind of surreal. You grow with your father, think of him as a father; you’re not used to thinking of him as a hero,” said George’s daughter, Joe Ann Taylor, in a statement. “But it is a beautiful story and I am very proud of him. Plus I have to get to know the people he has saved and have a real relationship with the Stratton and Burner families.”

In an oral history documenting the Pearl Harbor attack is carried out by the University of North Texas in 1978, George said on Dec. 7 he was settling down to read the Sunday newspaper as well as the General Quarters alarm was sounded. That is when he realized there was an attack underway. After seeing a Japanese plane going down, his training kicked in and he began to act.

The USS Arizona Memorial on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii.

(REUTERS)

With Japanese torpedoes striking Arizona, George remembered that the first thing he did, with the help of a number of his shipmates, is the removal of the awning cover of the guns so that the Vestal could fight back. Then he ran across the deck from the fire to the fire to get them out.

There were “the people on the top of the Arizona, who tried to come off, and there was a fire around,” said George. “I threw a line over.”

Stratton’s granddaughter, Nikki, says she owes her life, in addition to her grandfather, that young sailor’s heroic actions.

We have four generations here because of that man. We have 14 people in our family who would not necessarily be here without Joe, George,” said Nikki Stratton.

“We were only questions, questions and questions and someone who was able to dig through some of the archives and a number of the calls from the sailors about what happened that day, and we find the name of Joe, George,” she said.

His family asked the Navy to examine its rescue and dig up interviews from the sailors who were at Pearl Harbor.

In 2001, Donald Stratton was attending his 60th reunion of Pearl Harbor survivors when he heard the identity of the man who rescued him. Unfortunately, Stratton never had the chance to thank his hero for saving his life. Joe George died in 1996.

“He saved six people’s lives and he got nothing,” said Stratton in July. “Someone in Washington must have the guts and honor to take care of that.”

“It is a wonderful thing, my father did. I am always impressed by the story,” George’s daughter. “Find out what he did and how he did it, he did his duty, and it is a shame that he has never recognized.”

The Stratton family has set up a web site, the USS Arizona Final Salute to help cover the cost of the trip to Washington and to raise money for other USS Arizona survivors to a future reunion in Hawaii in December.

Luke Tomlinson is the Pentagon and the State Department producer Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

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