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John Cockrum – Memories from Pearl Harbor

Excerpts from a news spot on KTUL TV produced by Tyler Butler and aired on September 2, 2020 and a FB post made by Steve Robinson on the Claremore MoH FB page.

It was a calm, clear Sunday morning in Pearl Harbor, and an ordinary Sunday afternoon in North Eastern Oklahoma.  John Cockrum was at a movie in Claremore. Little did he know then, his life would forever change with one radio broadcast.

Before December 7, 1941, many Oklahomans didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was. News came in about the attack that killed more than 2,300 U.S. servicemembers.  The next day, President Roosevelt would deliver a speech that would become closely intertwined with the history of the nation. “Yesterday, December 7, 1941,” the president’s voice crackled over millions of radios, “a date which will live in infamy…”

As the week unfolded, Americans found out on the radio, in the newspaper, and the news reel in movie theaters that our country was at war. America was taking the fight to them and young men across the country were answering the call when their country needed them. 

John Cockrum was one of those young men and he enlisted in the Navy three days after graduating from Claremore High School where he was a 3 sport athlete.   He served aboard the USS Piranha in the Pacific, surviving depth charge attacks every patrol for a year, and fighting in historic battles like Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

John remembers seeing the sinking ships at Pearl Harbor, and the men the US lost which was so graphic.  War is not good but unfortunately, we had to fight. The nation banded together as it plunged into a conflict that would ultimately claim the lives of 405,000 Americans. 

When the war finally ended, Americans rejoiced, united as ever. The celebration began in Pearl Harbor, where the lights remained dark ever since the attack. “All the lights came on in the harbor, sirens started blowing, all kinds of noises, and everyone was in a joyous mood,” Cockrum recalls. “Guys were jumping over the side into the harbor – it was a crazy time.”

As December 7 arrives yet again, we grow more fortunate to look back on this day alongside the ones who lived it, and the ones who did something about it.

Cockrum is a patriot, and has always been so proud to be an American citizen.  He served his country, and he’s one of the most patriotic people you will ever meet. John served in Sapulpa Public Schools much of his career, has had four battles with cancer and open-heart surgery during his lifetime.  He’s also a Cherokee Warrior.  The MoH celebrates the life of John Cockrum and thanks him for his service on this anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor

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