WILLIAMSON, W.Va. – Most people who served in the military during Pearl Harbor are deceased, but the stories of the events that took place that fateful December day have been handed down.
First told by the ones who fought to family members, the stories are now being shared with third and fourth generation descendants.
George “Junior” W. Fleming, Jr. was born in Hardy, Ky, and, like many young men at the time, he enlisted in the military to escape poverty.
On December 7, 1941 Fleming was serving on the USS Lexington, one of three carriers in the Pacific at the time of the attack.
Junior Fleming’s family are not sure of his specific duties on the ship, but the ensign on his uniform indicates he was possibly a carrier operator or associated to that capacity in some way.
According to Bobby Phillips, the great nephew of Junior Fleming, the story that had been told through his family was the Lexington had left Pearl Harbor to deliver airplanes and equipment to Midway Island.
After the attack, the Lexington turned around, but did not arrive back in Pearl Harbor until six days after the attack.
Junior Fleming had told his family when they arrived back at Pearl Harbor they were still pulling “live bodies” from the harbor and you could hear cries for help.
Five months later, on May 8, 1942, during the Battle of the Coral Sea the USS Lexington was bombed and badly damaged.
The carrier was able to scuttle away from the enemy to keep from being taken over, but the crew had to abandon ship and be transferred to the carrier, the Hornet.
Subsequently, the Hornet was lost in the Battle of Santa Cruz and Flemings was then assigned to a destroyer ship in Tokyo Bay.
Phillips said his grandfather, Pete Fleming, told his the family was unsure if Junior Fleming had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor until months later.
George W. Fleming, Jr. passed away around the age of 40.
Kendra Mahon is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be reached at [email protected] or 304-235-4242 ext 2278.