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‘Day of Infamy’ remembered


Frank P. Galbraith displays a Dec. 8, 1941, newspaper declaring, in huge type, war had begun between the United States and the Japanese Empire as a result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.- Alan Sloan/farragutpress
About 10 years ago, then Farragut Middle School history teacher Frank P. Galbraith received a history lesson about Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

Galbraith discovered his cousin, Navy Ensign Joseph G. Smartt — one of the first U.S. soldiers to identify the Japanese bombardment — was a highly honored hero among 2,403 who perished on that “date which will live in infamy,” Dec. 7, 1941.

“I’d been teaching about Pearl Harbor all these years to my students, but I didn’t know anything about my cousin until about 10 years ago,” said Galbraith prior to hosting his annual historical slide presentation/address in Farragut Town Hall board room Monday night, Nov. 28.

“A Day of Infamy,” illustrating how key moments in history from the end of World War I led to Pearl Harbor, was attended by three World War II veterans among an audience of roughly 50.


Joseph, a pilot, “was 24 and engaged to be married when the attack happened. He was writing a letter to his fiancée when the attack started, and when he came back in for a moment he wrote down, ‘We are now at war, I will love you forever,’” Galbraith said.

Squadron duty officer of the day at Kaneohe Naval Base, northeast of Pearl Harbor, that fateful morning, Joseph “all of a sudden looks up and sees these Japanese planes, he recognizes them and tells everybody and tells the commander, ‘We’re being attacked by the Japanese,’” Galbraith told the audience. “We had all these scout planes over there. … They got there at 7:52, which is about three minutes before [hitting] Pearl Harbor. … [The Japanese] wanted to take out these scout planes if they could.

“His commander said he ‘showed great courage under fire,’” Galbraith added. “They got the guns out.”

Of the 18 men who were killed at Kaneohe, “Joe was one of the first ones to die; a bomb came through the hanger, went off, killed him and two guys standing beside him,” Galbraith said.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Joseph’s courage has led to various posthumous honors, including “an airfield in Missouri named in his honor … because he trained there, it’s up north of St. Louis,” Galbraith said. Also named in his honor are “an American Legion Post and a destroyer escort.”

“They’ve given him all kinds of awards.”

Galbraith, who along with other family members represented Joseph at the annual Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony Dec. 7, 2006, has been invited to do the same next Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the 70th anniversary remembrance in Hawaii.

“I’ve been asked to come out and stand in for him again,” said Galbraith, 70, who was only 9 months old when his cousin died.

 

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