Lawrence Lyons, Jr. awakened very early at Hickam Field in Hawaii on December 7, 1941 as though it was just another day. He took his breakfast. He reported in for duty with his company, part of the 11th Bombardment Group. It was 7:30 a.m. Hawaii Time and he was well into his duties.
It is likely he listened to the radio early on that morning that changed the world or quite possibly he might have read the Honolulu Star before falling in with 17 other company members for duty. As part of support for a flying wing assigned to Hickam Field, his day was spent around the aircraft sitting on the tarmac. There were about 300 aircraft on the field.
He was at the field, actually walking on it, at 7:48 a.m., when the first bombs fell out of the sky from some of the 353 Japanese aircraft that participated in the deadly and devastating surprise attack, which has come to be known as “a date which will live in infamy.”
The first wave of aircraft sank some of our greatest battleships sitting in a row in Honolulu Harbor.
Other Japanese attack planes strafed and bombed Hickam Field.
During the first wave of the Japanese attack, Hickam Field was untouched.
Lyons survived the first attack of the airfield.
The 3,000 or so men and women stationed ay Hickam tried to remain calm despite the chaos raining all around them. Planes were on fire. They could see huge billowing clouds of black smoke rising up high in the sky and visible throughout the islands from the harbor – only a mile or two away. They shuddered each time an explosion rocked a ship in the harbor. They ran for their own lives when the attack bombers came back to Hickam.
Lyons was running across the main runway at Hickam Field when a second wave of bombers came in to drop their loads and to strafe everything in sight.
During that second wave, Lyons was running hard when a piece of shrapnel cut into his back bringing him down.
He died instantly.
He was 20 years old.
He grew up on Lash Street, the son of Lawrence and Leontina Lyons, longtime Chelsea residents. He was born and educated here. Attending the Burke, Prattville, Carter and Chelsea High School. He graduated in 1939. He joined the armed forces in the spring of 1941 when war clouds were sweeping across Europe and the world.
News of his death reaching Chelsea sent his family into state of despair and anger.
Lyon’s father, Lawrence, a Navy veteran of the World War I enlisted two weeks later. His brother Robert, 18 at the time of the attack, dropped out of school and joined the Naval Airforce.
There is in Prattville today, where Washington Avenue makes a turn heading toward Revere, a solitary rectangular sign posted above a pole that reads: “In memory of Lawrence Lyons, Jr. Died at Pearl Harbor. December 7, 1941.”
It doesn’t get more real than this. Seventy years have passed. At least his sacrifice on that day and year that changed world history is still recognized.
God bless his soul.