Lydia Smith Grant was born in Bath, Maine. Her grandfather was a banker as was her father. Her stepfather was in the United States Navy and attended the U.S. Naval Academy. He was an engineering duty only officer and remained in port as opposed to going to sea. Her stepfather was stationed in Pearl Harbor starting in 1939. Grant knew Captain Van Valkenburgh [Annotator's Note: Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh], the commanding officer of the USS Arizona (BB-39). Van Valkenburgh had invited Grant and ten of her friends to tour the Arizona the week before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Just before the visit, however, Grant received a note from Van Valkenburgh postponing the tour since the Arizona would be going out on maneuvers. The new date for the tour would be the afternoon of Sunday, 7 December 1941. Grant was scheduled to visit the Arizona later in the afternoon on the day of the attack. She recalls the Japanese bombing and strafing of nearby facilities including Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor. Soon after the attack, air raid shelters were dug and gas masks issued. On Christmas Day in 1941, military dependant civilians and wounded military personnel were evacuated from Hawaii. Military ships and aircraft escorted the civilian ships at least part of the way back to the United States. As a young girl, she experienced a shipboard romance during the voyage. When they reached the United States, the Hawaiian money they carried was not accepted, because it was felt the Japanese would capture the islands. The family initially stayed in Bath, Maine, but moved to Washington, DC and then to Puget Sound Navy Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington after the return of Grant's stepfather from Pearl Harbor. Grant married very young and subsequently left the family.
Life in Hawaii was wonderful for Lydia Grant before the war. The island was at its pristine best at that time. Grant describes the life and environment of Pearl Harbor as it appeared to a 14 year old girl. Grant returned for a reunion of Pearl Harbor survivors as well as other times. She attended school near Pearl Harbor before the attack. Swimming was a good pastime for her. She also learned to ride horses. She would play piano for the servicemen on Sundays on the base at Pearl Harbor. Grant met servicemen from the United States and England and still maintains friends from that time in her life. At the time, Grant could not see the potential of a Japanese attack on the American facilities on the islands.
Lydia Grant witnessed the attack on the American facilities at Pearl Harbor firsthand. The Japanese strafed the quarters where she and her family lived as well as the road that ran in front of her quarters as sailors were using it in an attempt to get back to their ships. She could see the smoke coming up from the damaged ships but never went down to the harbor to see the damage. Benefits and dances were held after the attack to help the wounded. There was a false alarm of a subsequent Japanese attack during her attendance at one of the benefits. Grant met Shirley Temple before the war started. Temple was in Hawaii to christen the Northampton [Annotator's Note: the heavy cruiser USS Northampton (CA-26)]. Grant's stepfather invited Temple to Grant's birthday party and she attended. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Grant evacuated to the United States. She dealt with rationing and other restrictions by substituting other things for the hard to get items. It was a strain to see that the stateside populace was not as affected by the attack on Pearl Harbor as the survivors were. She met General George Marshall on one occasion in Washington, DC. Grant's family was in Bremerton, Washington when the war ended. There was a great celebration when that occurred.
[Annotator's Note: This segment is the beginning of a second interview recorded with Mrs. Grant in the studio at The National WWII Museum.] Lydia Grant describes her view of the attack on the facilities of Pearl Harbor. She had been invited to a movie aboard the USS Arizona (BB-39) by its commanding officer for the afternoon of 7 December 1941. That was never to occur. She recounts the aftermath of the attack, including watching the Arizona burn until the next afternoon. A convoy of three cruise ships with escorting naval vessels brought refugees from Pearl Harbor back to the United States. The voyage took eight days to get back to the United States. As a child, Grant did not feel the importance of the oncoming war. Before the war, Hawaii was a paradise. She no longer feels it to be so. She feels sorrow to see the names on the memorial of those lost in the attack. She was especially touched by Captain Van Valkenburgh who was very much a gentleman. She met and knew Van Valkenburgh because he had been a roommate of her stepfather at the Naval Academy and was sometimes invited over to visit her home. Her stepfather stayed at Pearl Harbor to repair many of the vessels that were damaged in the attack. He later served at the Pentagon and then at the Puget Sound Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. Grant's stepfather was made an admiral and was in charge of the repair of major ships damaged in the Pacific.
Lydia Grant describes recreation and life as a young girl in the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor. As a young girl, she enjoyed socializing with military personnel. As an officer's daughter, she was not allowed to date enlisted men. There was discipline enforced in the family household as it related to the mandate to date officers only. From the family quarters, the view of the destruction in the harbor was very visible. When the family reached San Francisco after leaving Pearl Harbor, their Hawaiian money was not accepted. Her mother protested in a hotel when they were denied a room. As a result, the management recognized the dilemma of the Pearl Harbor refugees and gave them a suite. The night of the Japanese attack, a flight of USS Enterprise (CV-6) aircraft were fired upon by gunners at Pearl Harbor. Grant saw the tracers fired at the American aircraft. Grant's stepfather stayed at Pearl Harbor but the rest of the family departed for the west coast on Christmas Day. Before leaving Pearl Harbor, Grant attended a benefit concert for the wounded. A false alarm was sounded, and Grant attempted to reenter the Navy Yard but was denied access until after the alarm was over. Grant saw an indication of the looming enemy attack. One of Grant's best friends was Japanese. That family left their home without announcement just prior to the attack. Grant assumes that the Japanese family had been forewarned to evacuate.
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