One of the radar operators who vainly tried to warn about the approach of Japanese aircraft during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, died recently at the age of 85.
George Elliot of Port Charlotte, Fla., died there Dec. 20. Elliot, along with Williamsport native Joseph Lockard, operated a mobile radar unit at Opana on the northern tip of Oahu on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Elliot served in the Army until 1945. After the war he took a job with New Jersey Bell where he worked 33 years before retiring.
In an interview with this writer in 2000 Lockard recalled what he and Elliot experienced that fateful day.
“Shortly after 7 a.m. we started getting a one large blip. When I saw the large blip I thought maybe something was wrong with our equipment. We had no idea what the blip was showing. It was moving too fast to be any ships so it had to be something in the air. We tried to plot its course. We were able to determine at the moment we saw the blip, that turned out to be the attacking planes, that it was probably about 137 miles out.”
Lockard then called Fort Shafter and he and Elliot were told that the blip was an inbound flight of B-17s that were due in that morning.
“There was no one at the plotting center except a switchboard operator. He said everyone there was out to breakfast. We finally got a hold of a Lt. Kermit Tyler about 7:20 a.m. Tyler assured us that the blip we saw was that inbound flight of B-17s. The planes were coming in from the north though. If they were that far off course they would have made the islands.”
When Lockard and Elliot closed up their radar station at 8 a.m. completing their duty shift they noticed black billows of smoke all over and realized that something very bad had happened.
The world found out what Lockard and Elliot had done in February 1942 when a congressman on the Roberts Commission investigating the Pearl Harbor debacle released the information out about the two radar operators. News accounts of the time proclaimed Lockard and Elliot as “modern-day Paul Reveres.”
Lockard and his family met Vice President Henry A. Wallace, Assistant Secretary of War Robert Patterson and numerous congressmen. Lockard also received the Distinguished Service Medal and later went to Officer Candidate School and commissioned a second lieutenant. He then served at a radar station in the Aleutian Islands. He left the army in December 1945. He lives now in the Harrisburg area, with his wife, the former Pauline Seidel.
But for one moment in time Lockard and George Elliot were in the center of the maelstrom of history.
By Lou Hunsinger Jr., Williamsport Sun-Gazette