80 years later: Remembering 3 Wilmington sailors killed in attack on Pearl Harbor

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 6:35 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - December 7, 1941 is a day that will live in infamy. At just 7 years old, Wilmington author and historian Captain Wilbur Jones still recalls sitting in the sunroom of his Forest Hills home in front of the radio, listening to a NFL football game the moment the broadcast paused and the country learned of the attack at Pearl Harbor.

“You could hear the public address announcer in the stadium there in Washington, at Griffith Stadium, and they were directing all military senior officers and government officials to report to their offices. something was up,” said Jones. “We did not know until several days later that three Wilmington men, New Hanover High School graduates, had died on ships in the attack on Pearl Harbor.”

The three Navy sailors are memorialized on a plaque at the Hannah Block USO with the 248 total New Hanover County citizens killed in World War II.

Herbert Melton, who was from the Masonboro Sound area, died on his 25th birthday on the USS Oklahoma. His wife and young son lived in Long Beach, California.

Radioman Clyde Moore was killed instantly by an explosion on his ship, the USS Shaw. His family had six sons who served in the Navy. Moore, along with the other 128 men killed on the USS Shaw, were buried together in the St. Louis National Cemetery in 1949. None of the bodies in that group were identified and they were laid to rest together.

Signalman Harvey Horrell, who was 31, was on board the USS Arizona. Horrell was initially reported missing, but official later confirmed he was killed in action. He was awarded the Purple Heart after his death, and his name is listed on the USS Arizona Memorial Wall.

On the 80th anniversary of the attack, his relatives made the trip to Hawaii to remember his sacrifice.

Many of Horrell’s relatives have passed away, but several of the family stories are still alive in his great nephew, Thomas Graham.

“When you step off the boat and you just look down and you can see the remains of the Arizona sitting there and knowing that... especially somebody that’s a relative...that’s where ultimately they’re laid a rest, it’s really...I can’t even describe the feeling that I had the first time I went over there,” said Thomas Graham.

Graham says seeing Horrell’s name on the wall at the USS Arizona makes him feel connected to his family’s past and how their sacrifice changed the country’s future.

“Pearl Harbor was a devastation, it really it was,” said Graham. “What America itself was able to accomplish afterwards. It just it speaks volumes to the type of people we are and what humans are capable of whenever they put their differences aside and start working toward the same goal.”

The war was one of the most defining moments of the 20th century. The newspaper clippings from the era now live in storage boxes stacked in library closets, but 80 years later the world hasn’t forgotten. The memories of the war and the men who never came home, are forever filed away in the hearts and minds of the families the victims of the attack left behind.

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