PALESTINE — The Hawaiian sky was clear, the air and sea were warm, and the only thing preying on 18-year-old Victor Lively's mind was his usual routine of morning duties aboard Battleship USS Nevada.
Colorful images from the night before still danced in his memory, when he had gone ashore from his port at Pearl Harbor into Honolulu to buy Christmas gifts for his family. He took a taxi into what he described as a “quaint town — nothing like it is today,” to browse the local shops and eateries. Several of Lively's shipmates, including members of the the US Navy Unit Band 22 aboard neighboring battleship USS Arizona, also went ashore that night to fill the air with music.
Today, a fresh day filled with good humor and expectation, was the peaceful Sunday morning of Dec. 7, 1941. Lively was looking forward to the church service on deck, due to start in about an hour.
“I'd been up probably an hour and a half,” the Slocum High School graduate said. “When you're young like that, you have to mess cook for a while. My job was to go down to the galley, bring the food up, set the tables up and feed those guys.”
But the sermon would never be spoken, the gifts would never arrive and a certain harmony of percussion and wind would never be heard again. It was the day Japanese aerial bombers rained down fire on a largely defenseless U.S. Navy fleet, catapulting the United States into World War II.
Lively, Gunner's Mate First Class, casually scurried across the deck of the USS Nevada, his arms heavy with buckets of dish water from that morning's mess hall. He kneeled over the edge of the modernized ship, oak boards strong and sturdy beneath his feet, and tilted the bucket into the sea — right as his eyes rose to meet a questionable sight.