December 1941 Pearl Harbor

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret
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1941 USS Oklahoma Crew Members
1941 USS Oklahoma Crew Members
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Wisconsin –-(  There was a saying in Monaville, West Virginia in the 1930’s, “coal mine, moonshine or move it on down the line.”

If you could not work in the coal mines and die at a young age, then you brewed illegal liquor up in the mountains. Other wise you got out of the county to find work.

For the brothers John and Joseph Triolo it was the US Navy in 1937. The depression was still on and a military job was something to be coveted. When the Triolo brothers came home on leave after Navy basic training there was a buzz in the air about them. The brothers were headed to Long Beach, California to go to sea on their first ship, the USS Oklahoma.

While on leave at home they made such an impression on their best friend from high school, Donald McCloud that he joined the Navy. In fact Joe Triolo while working temporally at the local Navy recruiter’s office was the one who graded Donald’s Navy entrance test and sort of helped Donald out on his test score.

After basic training Seaman McCloud was also headed to the west coast and was able to request an assignment on the USS Oklahoma. The three new sailors and life long friends were headed to the Pacific on patrol, aboard the WW I era battleship.

Because of his good testing scores when Seaman McCloud reported to the USS Oklahoma he was put into the fire control division, working down below decks. Normally in those days a new sailor worked as deck crew, top side. Only after you proved yourself did you get to move into a specific career field such as fire control, these where the men who worked the large guns.

Joseph Triolo was the first to leave the USS Oklahoma. In 1938 he moved to another ship in the Pacific fleet. His brother John Triolo stayed on the USS Oklahoma until November of 1941, when he got orders to return to the mainland to attend aviation maintenance school in Norfolk, Virginia. By 1941 Donald McCloud was Petty Officer Second Class McCloud. He had done well in firing those big 14 inch guns on the USS Oklahoma and progressed in rate/rank. He was offered the chance to leave the Okie but declined.

In December of 1941 Joe Triolo was stationed on board the USS Tangier, a seaplane tender (repair ship) that was sailing in and out of Pearl Harbor that fall. When the USS Oklahoma pulled into Pearl, Joe made arrangements to meet his old high school friend Don McCloud. The USS Oklahoma had a baseball team and the team was playing a game, the afternoon of 6 December 1941 on Ford Island, which is in the middle of Pearl Harbor. Joe Triolo met his home town friend at the game.

They spent most of the afternoon talking about home. When the game was over Donald suggested they get a couple of beers but Joe was broke. Donald McCloud lent his friend $2 and they headed to the Enlisted Men’s club on Ford Island. At the end of the evening the two friends returned to their ships, never to see each other again. The next morning the Japanese Navy sent in their carrier base aircraft and tragic history was made.

Joe Triolo had spent the last three years in the Pacific and knew what a Jap plane looked like, so when the enemy’s aircraft flew over his ship there was no question in his mind who was attacking them. Joe Triolo manned his 50 caliber machinegun on the starboard side of the bridge and the USS Tangier was credited with three aircraft kills that day. He personally fired on the aircraft that crashed into and sadly caused the sinking of the USS Utah.

The USS Oklahoma had all its water tight doors open for an upcoming inspection, causing it to roll over and sink after multiple torpedo hits. 429 Sailors and Marines died on the USS Oklahoma to include FC2c Donald R. McCloud. When the Okie was raised and the bodies of her dead crewmembers were removed, only a few were identifiable and could be sent home for a military funeral, Donald McCloud was never sent home. The remains of the unidentified were buried in unmarked mass graves at the Punch Bowl National Cemetery in Hawaii.

Finally on 7 December 2002 a marker was placed over the mass graves ( We buried another veteran today unlike in that poem, not all combat killed Americans are buried where family can go to visit and remember. No one can visit Donald McCloud, but he is not forgotten. If money spends in Heaven, someday Joseph Triolo will repay his friend the $2.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
[email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., 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. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]