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A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

History of The Delta

On December 7, 1941, while many across the country were still sleeping, or maybe just getting out of bed, thick black smoke billowed out Pearl Harbor like a large funeral pyre. The scene was an assault on the senses in the most nefarious of ways. The sound of trapped sailors pounding on the steel hulls of upturned ships, the smell of diesel fuel burning without abatement, the sight of so many individuals floating lifeless in the once calm waters. This was the aftermath of the wanton attack by the Empire of Japan upon the United States of America, awaking a sleeping giant and bringing it fully into the fold of a world already engulfed in the flames of conflict.

That same morning, prior to the attacks, Ensign Jack Emery (California) was likely just getting ready for the day. He had been commissioned in August of 1939 and had been on the flagship battleship USS Arizona since November of 1939. He was assigned to the ship’s signal station, effectively the ship’s communications. The Arizona was anchored in “battleship row,” among the other ships that served as the prized guns of the Pacific Fleet. They also served as the prime targets of the Imperial Japanese attack. The element of surprise was so expertly executed that as the call to General Quarters was ringing throughout the ships, they were echoed by the sounds of explosions. The Arizona was the centerpiece of the chaos in “battleship row.” In the battle report, Commander Walter Karig described the Arizona’s fate.

“One bomb struck the forecastle. Another exploded on a faceplate of No. 4 turret aft. Still another ripped through the bridge and detonated on the boat deck. And then it was that one of the attacking Japanese pilots realized the dive-bomber’s dream. His bomb dropped exactly into the Arizona’s stack, exploding the boilers and setting off the vast amount of powder stored in the forward magazine.

The ship’s bow seemed to leap out of the water, and her weather decks cracked open as fire and debris shot skyward. Plumes of oil and water showed topside, and fires enveloped the forward part of the ship. The fate of the Arizona, a 32,600-ton battleship within less than nine months of being declared over-age, was sealed in the first five minutes of the attack. The magazine blast broke the ship’s back and she rapidly settled in the water. All told, the Arizona lost 47 officers and 1,057 men. Some hundred of the bodies were never removed from the sunken hulk of the ship.”

Oakland, California native Ensign Jack Emery was one of those brave souls who went down with the Arizona.

The Arizona begins to list and sink as fires pour out of it.

The March 1942 issue of The Delta included this report from the Beta Psi Chapter (California).

“On the morning of December 7, 1941, planes appeared over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. These weren't the peaceful patrol planes of Uncle Sam's navy, but the bomb-laden aircraft of Japan. On board the Battleship U. S. S. Arizona, Ensign Jack M. Emery, Beta Psi, rushed to his post as did the rest of the gallant defenders of the mighty warship, but to no avail. A lucky bomb dropped down the funnel, blowing the insides out of the ship. Before he could even fire a shot in defense, Ensign Emery had given his life; all that was left of the once proud battleship was a blackened, fire-belching hulk which slowly settled beneath the waters of Pearl Harbor. Ensign Emery was a member of the class of 1939 at the University of California. While in attendance there he was enrolled in the Naval R. O. T. C. He was an active and popular man on the campus, being a member of the Quarterdeck, Naval R. O. T. C. honor society, and Winged Helmet, junior men's honor society. He was an active and loyal fraternity man, winding up his college career as lieutenant commander of Beta Psi chapter. On graduation, he went into active duty with the navy. His younger brother, Henry (Bud), is now a pledge in the chapter. Thus, died a Sigma Nu, guarding ‘with jealous care the ancient rights of human freedom,’ as our creed states. Let us, when we remember Pearl Harbor, remember also Ensign Jack Emery, one of the first Sigma Nus to give his life in the defense of his country.”

And so, 76 years later we hold true to Beta Psi Chapter’s (California) request and honor the sacrifice of Brother Ensign Jack Emery.

The USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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