Anita O’day, USS Oklahoma and Pearl Harbor

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It has been recounted several times by survivors that around 0755 on Sunday morning December, 7 1941 aboard the USS Oklahoma berthed quietly off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor that the song Let Me Off Uptown began to play over the ships loud speaker. It was a new hit record by Anita O’Day with Roy Eldridge on trumpet and accompanying vocal and all backed up by the very popular Gene Krupa band. It was another day breaking in paradise. The trade winds were light, the sun had risen and there was nothing in particular planned to make the day any more notable than another.

Before the song could end, the USS Oklahoma lay on her side, mortally wounded by Japanese bombs and torpedos. I have listened to the song many times and tried to put the timeline together in my head of the increasing consternation and conflagration that occurred as the song progresses.

It is a chilling if not haunting exercise. If you have had the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor on a family holiday to Hawaii, the experience should be all the more intense. Try to imagine the confusion and terror that grew so unexpectedly as the song goes down. The light and happy flow of the song make it all the more perfect for the exercise.

If you are not familiar with the song, it can be downloaded from itunes or any other music site. Just search Anita O’Day and Let Me Off Uptown. Gene Krupa may work as well.

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