By Major Van Harl USAF Ret
Wisconsin –-(Ammoland.com)- Honolulu was nothing like back home in Elma, Iowa.
Honolulu was a big city made even bigger and busier by the thousands of Sailors and Marines who had come to town when the US Navy moved its fleet from the west coast to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Dean Garrett and John Mulick graduated from their hometown high school in Elma in 1938. Both men joined the US Navy and became corpsmen. In December of 1941 Dean was Petty Officer Second Class Garrett, assigned to the main Navy Hospital at Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Petty Officer First Class John M. Mulick arrived that fall of 1941 when the USS Oklahoma was reassigned to Pearl Harbor.
On occasion the two friends could get liberty together and see the sights of Honolulu. After a day of walking the streets of Honolulu the two corpsmen headed out to the USS Oklahoma to take advantage of a movie that was going to be shown outside on the deck of that battle ship. It was 6 Dec 1941 and a beautiful calm evening to be sitting topside watching Hollywood’s magic.
Dean Garrett headed back to his barracks after the movie and was sitting in the chow hall at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning eating breakfast when the first Japanese bombs hit.
Garrett was an operating room technician and spent the next 72 hours straight, working along side a Navy surgeon performing one after another life saving surgery. His hospital was established to hold 250 patients but by sundown that day there were over 1000 injured Sailors, Marines and civilians being tended to by the corpsmen and nursing staff.
Whenever Garrett spotted an injured Sailor from the USS Oklahoma being brought in on a stretcher he would inquire if they had seen his friend John Mulick.
One of the injured Sailors had been in the same compartment down below decks with John Mulick when the USS Oklahoma was hit. The USS Oklahoma took multiple torpedoes in her side, rolled over and sank in eleven minutes.
429 Sailors and Marines were trapped inside the Okie as she filled with water. The injured Sailor that Dean Garrett spoke with was able to squeeze through a port hole and survive.
For three days Dean Garrett, in between surgeries looked for his hometown friend. As the days went on it was discovered that many of the injured Sailors were not being carried on hospital records under their correct name or ship name. This confusion gave hope that John Mulick was in some other military medical ward and had survived. Many of the Sailors who survived were quickly reassigned to rescue duties.
Mulick being a corpsman had skills that were needed. But he was never found. When the USS Oklahoma was turned back over and all the water was pumped out HA1c John Mark Mulick’s body was not recovered. He is still listed as missing in action.
Dean Garrett continued to treat the injured and dying. There were so many dead that it was described, as if the corpsmen were stacking cordwood outside the hospital, as they laid out the bodies of the dead waiting to be removed for internment.
And still Garrett looked for his friend. John Mulick’s war was over but not Dean Garrett’s. He continued to serve at Pearl Harbor until 1943 when he was assigned to the USS Minneapolis.
As a corpsman on a ship with over 700 men he spent the rest of the war treating the sick and wounded in such famous Naval battles as Iwo Jima, Palau, Truk, Saipan, the Battle of the Philippines, the landings at Bataan & Corregidor and the final assault on Okinawa.
Years of personal combat history, but it was those four days from 6 December to 9 December that are engrained in his memory. Pharmacist’s Mate Chief, Dean Garrett left the Navy at the end of his war. He used his GI bill to get his college degree and went on the have a career teaching school and becoming an administrator.
I met Dean Garrett at a Pearl Harbor Survivor luncheon in April 2009. As I listen to these WW II naval veteran’s I was impressed by this oral history of their service to our Nation. I was also honored to have been invited to attend this meeting of not just Pearl Harbor survivors, but of men who after the 7 December carried the fight to our enemies.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was the start of a long war for these men. Truthfully they were boys on 6 December and old men on 7 December.
Former US Navy Chief Petty Officer Dean Garrett died on 3 February 2013. Chief Garrett your war is over. Thank you from a grateful Nation.
Major Van Harl USAF Ret
About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:
Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret. , is a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Now retired, these days he enjoys camping, traveling, volunteering with the Girl Scouts and writing. [email protected]