For the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, WFSU is looking back on some of the Floridians who served.
As a young Marine, Ted Archambault didn’t know where Hawai'i was, let alone Pearl Harbor. His battalion arrived at the base on the island of Oahu December 1st, just days before the attack. Archaumbault and his fellow marines were four miles away from the navy yard when they heard the bombing begin the morning of December 7th. He recalls speeding towards the chaos as Japanese planes flew directly overhead, firing away.
“We were strafed. And the reason we didn’t get hit is because we were on a boulevard and there were a lot of trees. So they just couldn’t…you could see them come across you and they were looking right at you,” Archambault said.
A Chattahoochee, Florida native, Monica Conter Benning was a nurse at the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., hoping to win a placement in the sunny Pacific. When the Army Nurse Corp stationed Benning in Hawai'i, her friends said all she’d need was her uniform and a bathing suit. And that was true, she said, until she saw Japanese planes bearing down on the island of Oahu. Benning was dispensing aspirin when the hospital began to shake. And then the patients started coming.
“They were bringing these people in on doors, on chairs, on tabletops, on ambulances, dairy trucks. Anything they could to bring a patient to our little hospital.”
Benning was one of two nurses on duty at Hickam Air Field during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Her romance with her husband, Lieutenant Barney Benning, inspired the love story depicted in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor.
The stories of Sergeant Ted Archaumbault, Second Lieutenant Monica Conter Benning, and other Floridians are held in the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project.