Aaron, Hubert Charles Titus is the first name listed on the memorial at Pearl Harbor. Zwarun, Jr, Michael. is the last. Two very different men, as no doubt all 1,177 who perished aboard the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941 were. Yet they shared something in common then, both were young, twenty-somethings, both had chosen to join the navy, both were seamen, both perished. And they share something today, their resting place in the dark waters of the harbor.
Hubert was born on October 22, 1919 to Alfred Alonzo and Jennie Davis Aaron, farmers who tilled the land on the Arkansas side of the small town of Texarkana. Hubert loved baseball, and, according to a nephew, could throw a ball higher than anyone he knew. A cousin remembers Hubert singing hymns on Sundays in the front row of the Shiloh Baptist Church.
Michael was born in 1919 as well but across the country in New Jersey. His parents had emigrated to the United States a little more ten years earlier and still spoke their native Ukrainian in the home. Michael was working as a painter in 1940, shortly before joining the Navy. He was assigned to the destroyer USS Kennison and later the USS Ellet. Shore leave in Pearl Harbor might have been Michael’s undoing.
On that early Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, Hubert was either in his bunk or the engine room of the Arizona, doing what he loved to do, attending to the ship’s motors. Michael was also on the Arizona and also deep in the ship’s hold. No choir boy, Michael had been ordered to stand trial by general court-martial, charged with the offenses of drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and swearing at the shore patrol. As his ship, the Ellet, had no brig, he was confined on board the Arizona while awaiting trial.
The Japanese torpedoes and artillery did not discriminate. Choir boy or sailor with a hangover, seamen in the hold or admiral on the bridge, the men aboard the Arizona perished side by side. They comprised nearly half of the day’s 2,335 American military casualties. All deserve to be remembered today, almost eighty years later.
Sources: ancestry.com, findagrave.com, and honorstates.org