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Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Coffee with Fred" A Cowboy's reflection of Pearl Harbor

Fred Arnold
It was a mid-December morning in 1986 when I had my first cup of coffee with Fred.  Over the course of the next decade, sharing a cup of coffee became a routine where I grew to admire the man as I listen to his life stories.

Fred operated a grade "A" dairy named Rainbow Falls which sat west of Chehalis, Washington. His beautiful lush pastures nested along some of the oldest growth trees of the Pacific northwest. 

As I sat at the kitchen table, the heat radiated from the rich brew.  I stirred in some cream and sugar, when Fred question me, "So you don't drink your coffee like a sailor."  Sailors and cowboys both seem to appreciate strong black coffee and Fred had been both, Cowboy and Sailor.   He had served as a Boatswain Mate Petty Officer who survived Pearl Harbor. I too, a Boatswain, was currently serving in the Navy in transit moving from Austin, Texas where I had been on a recruiting assignment. Stopping at Fred Arnold's home before reaching Federal Way, Washington would forever be in my thoughts.
The drive had been long and non stop. Oddly, crossing west Texas, I was hit with snow that I did not expect in the early part of the drive. Although the roads cleared by the time I reached Arizona.  Still having too travel through Mt Shasta, California and over Grants Pass, Oregon before reaching Washington,  I expected more snow. However, the roads remained clear with the exception of early morning fog.

Tired from the long drive with the numerous hours seeing merely white lines as they marked the highway, the fresh coffee was revamping my mind.  Fred was interested in my Navy adventures wanting to know more about all the places I had traveled too when I had been assigned aboard ship. He shared his stories that I enjoyed hearing as we related our Navy experiences. He always said, I seemed to have had better duty assignments. Perhaps so.

Each morning at Fred's started with coffee that had to be specially perked.  No instant or drip coffee was acceptable for Fred. He like his old percolator and I must confess, it did brew a great cup of coffee too.  Each time as I added my cream and sugar, I just knew he thought I was destroying the perfect blend.  Fred didn't take his coffee all sissified and other than his one time comment to me about Navy coffee, he merely watched as I stirred the cream and sugar in circling the spoon. Despite the way I took my coffee, we seemed to enjoy our endless conversations at the kitchen table. Every time, I seem to learned something new, either about Fred's life, the working cowboy managing his dairy operations or just shared "sea stories" as old sailors would call them. Fred was a Pearl Harbor survivor who had fought in 23 battles between World War II and being recalled during the Korean War.  Unlike the cold war of the time, Fred saw a great deal of action and able to come home when the wars came to an end.

Some might have thought of Fred as a hard man.  I found him polite and friendly. Although like most cowboys, he tested a man before placing his full trust in anyone. He had accomplished a great deal through the years and had much to be proud of.  Although, Fred never boasted on his accomplishments, but did share a special pride about each of his children and his lovely wife, Alice.  Perhaps Fred spared me from most of the test of trust as we both share that one common denominator, We both served in the Navy. Although so many years apart, he seem to relive the moments each time we sat together over those many cups of coffee. Each time, I learned something new and over the years, it seemed he knew which stories he had shared and which he had yet to tell, never repeating any of them.

Over the next several years, special holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas, I was always invited to come visit. Living the big city life of the Seattle area, it was always a great feeling and blessing to get back to the country. There was no congested traffic like that of the commuters driving the S-turns nor an hour backup between Tacoma and Seattle along interstate 5.  Rainbow Falls Dairy always provided a place of serenity.   It's large pastures along the Chehalis River bordered the southern portion of the property.  The Willapa Hills Trail bordered along the north end of the pastures with Leudinghaus Road cutting through the center.  Fred's home sat on the north side of the road and the barn across the other.  Just down the road, the State of Washington built Rainbow Falls Park amongst the towering evergreens and my visits to Fred's was always a joyful gathering with him and his family. Each filled with more stories shared while having our morning coffee.

Fred, born November 30th, 1923 was three years younger than my dad. His parents, George and Madge Arnold lived in Meeker, Colorado and survived tough times as our nation was in an economic depression. Jobs were hard to come by and young men assisted their families, as much, so did Fred. In 1940, at the age of 17, Fred enlisted into the United States Navy. Unknowing the years to come, he was assigned to the heavy cruiser USS Minneapolis (CA-37) as a seaman.
Fred standing far left

The following year, December 7th, 1941, the USS Minneapolis, assigned for gunnery practice was at sea 20 miles outside Pearl Harbor.  Sunday mornings were normally quiet at sea allowing the sailors holiday routine. At 0600, the boatswain mate of the watch piped down the whistle call, "Attention, All-hands" then announced over the 1MC speakers, "Reveille, Reveille. All hands heave out and trice up. The smoking lamp is lite."  Unaware that the Minesweeper USS Condor believed to have spotted a submarine at 0342 that would be later be sunk by the USS Ward at 0653.  Communications would be slow directing military forces on the attack which would commenced at 0755.

On duty at the command center of Ford Island, Commander Logan C. Ramsey sighted a Japanese aircraft. At first, he believe it was just a reckless pilot until he saw something drop. Upon it's explosion, he realized it was an attack and quickly ran to the radio room ordering the telegraph operators to send out an uncoded message, (AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR  X  THIS IS NOT A DRILL.)

The Japanese forces had hope to catch the US Naval aircraft carriers in port. Like USS Minneapolis, many of the naval forces were deployed at sea for forth coming exercises.  Vice Admiral William Halsey, Jr.'s aircraft carrier task force was at sea dashing to reinforce Wake Island's Marine detachment with additional fighters.  He could not afford to have the slower battle ships escort his fast carriers so all the battle ships remained in port at Pearl Harbor.  The crew aboard Minneapolis had finished eating breakfast before word came of the attack. As general quarters was called, she immediately took up patrol turning towards Pearl Harbor.

A radar operator spotted a large group of unidentified aircraft flying toward the naval port. Part of the United States plan was to build up forces in the Pacific. 12 B-17 Flying Fortresses were in route to the Philippines with a stop in Oahu. Due to their flight schedule, a communications officer assumed what in fact were Japanese fighter aircraft as the B-17 aircraft a failed to sound any alarms. The B-17 aircraft, unaware of the morning attack prepare to land. To save fuel, the planes were unarmed finding their self dodging Japanese fighters and U.S. antiaircraft gunfire as they approached.  Most manage to land intact with one aircraft landing on a golf course.

At 0800, an armor-piercing bomb, dropped by a bomber, penetrates the forward deck of the USS Arizona, setting off more than a million pounds of gunpowder, creating a huge fireball, and killing 1,177 men. Witnesses say the ship came completely out of the water before breaking in two and sinking with in nine minutes.

Several ships would manage to light up their boilers in the engine room which provides as a power plant. Once reaching enough steam, they quickly cast off all mooring lines as they rushed to fight in the open seas.  USS Helm (DD-388) en route to deperming buoys, when Japanese carrier planes attacked the naval base was the only ship under way at the time of the attack.  The destroyer manned her guns and brought down at least one of the attackers while she was strafed and slightly damaged by two bombs close aboard. 
Navigating through the flames and smoke,  Helm spots a Japanese two man mini-sub that had snagged upon the shoreline reefs. The captain of the Helm orders "Right Hard Rudder" turning the ship towards the sub and fires her guns. The sub manages to break away submerging as it tries to escape. Helm fires again, this time sinking the sub as one crew member drowns while the other,  Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki washed ashore. The following day, he was found and taken capture becoming the first Japanese prisoner of war.

The USS Monaghan (DD-354) a Farragut Class Destroyer had opened fire on the enemy aircraft and by  0827 was underway to join Ward when notified of the presence of a Ko-hyoteki class midget submarine in the harbor.  Monaghan headed for the sub ramming it,  then sank it with two depth charges. She headed on out of the harbor to patrol offshore for the next week, joining the Minneapolis and aircraft carrier Lexington  in the attempt to relieve the doomed Wake Island.

The USS Nevada (BB-36) had her full crew aboard with the band playing 'Morning Colors' as the enemy aircraft approached Pearl Harbor. Unlike the other battleships, Nevada was able to release her mooring lines and maneuver the ship channel.  Japanese planes of the second wave bomb her, hoping that by sinking her in the narrow channel she will block the remaining fleet from passing through the channel. Taking several hits and listing over, the Nevada quickly floods another compartment to stabilize. Rather than risk being sunk in the channel, she deliberately grounds herself off Hospital Point.

The first wave of aircraft consisting of 49 high-altitude bombers, 51 dive-bombers, 40 torpedo planes, and 43 fighters completed their mission. The second wave consisting of  35 fighter planes, 78 dive-bombers, and 54 high-altitude bombers meets heavy antiaircraft fire. As bombers attack the navy dry dock yard, the battleship USS Pennsylvania is hit. Another bomber hits the oil tanks between the destoryers USS Cassin and USS Downes. As ammunition store aboard ship explodes, the Cassin rolls off the ship yard blocks falling into Downes. Naval cruiser USS Ralieh, is hit by a different bomber after being hit by a torpedo during the first wave. In order to keep her from capsizing, crew members jettison any gear not bolted down. Another bomber hits the destoryer USS Shaw blowing the complete bow off the ship. Pieces of scrap metal from her bow rain down half a mile away.

In just under two hours, the Japanese had sunk four U.S. battleships (Arizona, California, Oklahoma, and West Virginia). Also damaged were three light cruisers, four destroyers, one minelayer, one target ship, and four auxiliaries. Of the U.S. aircraft, the Japanese managed to destroy 188 and damage an additional 159.
The death toll among Americans was quite high. A total of 2,335 servicemen were killed and 1,143 were wounded. Sixty-eight civilians were also killed and 35 were wounded. Nearly half of the servicemen that were killed were on board the Arizona when it exploded.

Intensive salvage operations continued for another year, a total of some 20,000 man-hours under water. Every ship that was damage or sunk return to service except the Oklahoma, Utah and Arizona. While the Oklahoma was successfully raised, she capsized while in tow to the mainland in 1947. Arizona and the target ship Utah were too heavily damaged for salvage, though much of their armament and equipment was removed and put to use aboard other vessels. Today, the two hulls remain where they were sunk, with Arizona now at rest as a war memorial.

Citizens of the United States, would not know the details for the weeks to come nor all the casualties. Fred's parents and sisters back home state side, would read the newspapers for any reports and listen to the radio.  The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, addressed congress opening his speech: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."

Fred's wife, Alice kindly poured me another cup of Joe as I listen to his stories and personal experience about that day he survive the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The coffee always took off the chill on those fog covered or light drizzle mornings which today I so miss.  I would learn a great deal about his Navy days, the many friends he made through those years and hear about the port of calls.

While Fred had many stories to tell, he also wanted to hear about my adventures. He always looked straight into my eyes giving me his full attention as if not to miss any details. Our stories became our morning routine as we sip our coffee.

The dairy farm was work every day of the week, weekends or holidays included.  It was non-stop as the cows had to be milked twice each day.  Alice with the help of their daughters always had the morning milking completed long before sunrise followed by the cleaning of all the equipment and barn.  By 6:00 AM the morning chores were completed about the same time Fred and I began to have our coffee. After our morning coffee, I always looked forward to the opportunity of a trail ride. Fred and Alica often stayed home taking care of any other chores from bottle feeding calves, moving hay or other things that had to be done as the girls and I would saddle up.

Fred had three daughters living with him at this time. Amber being the oldest who still lived at home was just becoming a teen, Denise was a year or two younger and Theresa, who her dad always called tweeter was around six years old.  Being so small at that time, she normally stayed home while Denise and Amber would go trail riding with me.   Recalling the first time I went out on a trail ride with the girls, Fred sent Amber to halter a horse in the field for me to ride. I don't believe the horse could have been much more than green broke.  Cinching the latigo tie straps saddling the mare, I knew if she had been broke, that she had not been recently ridden. I mounted the horse and circled the mare several times to the left, then to the right as I was getting comfortable about how she will handle my commands. Fred soon saw that I could handle the horse or at least appeared to know what I was doing and stood back holding a big grin on his face.  The horse was frisky and full of spirit. As we left the barn heading out, the horse tended to take the bit but a lite tug every so often kept her in line. While that ride was a great deal of work, it also was sincerely one of the best trail rides every.

We rode over to Rainbow Falls State Park then over some large hills into logging country.  The trails were shadowed by the towering evergreens as we rode up on one hill, then down another. If was peaceful with only the sounds of nature, the movement of the horses hooves and the occasional horse snort.  Crossing the river splashing through the water, we each lifted our boots from the stir-ups to ensure to not get them wet since it was early winter. Returning, we finally opened our reins as we approached the outer pasture. It felt great for the three of us to be at a run across the open fields. Then entering the pasture, we brought the horses to a walked allowing them to cool down.

Arriving back to the barn we brushed the horses down and I felt pretty good about the mare.  She certainly could use some ground work but truly was a good horse.  Fred came out from the house an asked, "So how was the ride?" I smiled and replied "It was great."  By then, Fred felt much more comfortable about this Texan being more than just a pair of boots and a cowboy hat.

Months would pass before I was able to visit again. Each time we enjoyed our morning coffees and I would listen to Fred's stories and he always asked about my own.  As a dairy farmer, Fred accepted a buy out offer from Dairy Gold, (Darigold) a co-op which each dairyman owned part of the business. Darigold had long been established in 1918 producing quality milk, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese and other dairy products for institutions, the food industry and family dinner tables around the world.  Darigold milk tasted  like milk should because it was flash-pasteurized.  I would learn that this aided in maintaining all the flavor and lasting longer in the refrigerator. It was also free of rBST growth hormones.   The buy out was a way to control over production and provide retirements to the dairy farmers. To do so, Fred had to sell off his herd where they could no longer produce milk in the United States. His choice was either to sell too Canadian Dairymen or be sold for beef in the USA. Fred and Alice opt too sell to Canada.

Staying overnight, the cows were being picked up in the morning. I woke at 6:00 AM and the last truck loading the 450 head had just left. I could not believe I never herd a sound.  Fred and Alice were both  ready for coffee and our stories once more were shared.  They gave more meaning to great Hollywood films about the Pacific War such as the 1970 film "TORA, TORA, TORA" or the 1976 classic "MIDWAY" starring John Wayne, Robert Ryan and Richard Burton.  After Fred's Naval Service ended, he moved to Montana where his uncle and Mother lived.  Like myself feeling land under my sailor feet, Fred truly was recouping from the many battles he served in the Pacific during WWII.

He soon began working as a cowboy learning every facet of the industry.  When not working cattle, he assisted with wheat farming.  He also met his first wife in 1952 and they eventually moved to Bellingham, Washington where his first daughter, Chris was born.  After some time, he took a job in Longview working at the pulp mill for Weyerhaeuser.  He continued to farm and ranch on the side and purchased a small farm.  Over the course of the next 16 years, Fred sold his first farm purchasing another and then decided it was time to sell again for something larger. Land and animals were always Fred's true passion.  In 1967, Fred moved outside of Chehalis where he began building Rainbow Falls Dairy Farm.

Fred did not share all his life stories. Somethings in life is truly personal and no one's business but your own. I would never ask about some things but knew he had divorced after the lost of his two year old son named Ricky. It seemed that Fred had an emptiness that perhaps never healed but his life brighten when he met Alice who would become his second wife in 1975.

Alice truly assisted Fred in every aspect of operating the dairy and building the business.  Many of the local boys would be hired on during the summer as they maintain the dairy.  Alice and Fred also aided a few foster children and had their three daughters when I first met Fred.

Over the course of several more years, I had been transferred to Central America working with a Navy Special Boat Unit. One Christmas Holiday, I took leave to return to Washington state and visited Fred. He sure did not understand how I could be working in the jungles of central and south America and not on a Navy ship like his assignments during the second world war in the pacific, nor was I at liberty to discus everything either. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the coffee and never a moment I did not enjoy trail riding horseback in the Pacific Northwest.

That afternoon, I joined Amber and Denise where we rode along the timberline of a Weyerhaeuser logging lease.  The girls had truly become superb equestrians thinking one day I just might read about them either reining in the nationals or professional barrel racing.  As we rode again through the same hills we often enjoyed before, we heard a rifle shot in a distant direction. My first thought is possible deer hunting since they were in season. I also thought perhaps someone might be poaching since this was private timber lands. Telling the girls it might be best to ride down into the lower areas an off from the the high country, we heard several more shots.  This sounded much more like target practice rather than hunting. As we came down along the trail we soon rode across three illegals who had come into the United States from Mexico looking for work.  They had a 30-30 Winchester and a small camp nested in the woods living out of a car.  "Hola mi amigo. ¿qué estás haciendo?" I asked.  One of the three men replied, "We are working loading timber trucks."  I asked where they were from "¿De dónde eres?" and the same man replied, "Somos de México meridional."  Growing up in Texas I knew how to speak a little Tex-Mex but now serving in central America, I had a better grasp speaking Spanish.  The three men had been target shooting some beer cans. They purchased a rifle because living in the woods was dangerous. They were afraid a bear or wolf might enter their camp.  I asked if I could shot the rifle and the man graciously handed it over to me. It was brand new likely sold to them by who ever they had been employed by.  I aim the rifle at one of several beer cans set out as targets and squeeze off knocking the can immediately over. Quickly working the lever action fired at the next can again hitting targeting and another. The three Mexican men eyes widen and one said, "Muy buen tiro, muy buen tiro"  meaning nice shooting. He then asked where I learn to shoot so well and I replied, "The U.S. Navy."  "Ah, si...Ah si" one said.  As the girls and I began to ride off, we said good bye and be careful not to shot in our direction.

Later that day after arriving back at the dairy, Alice needed some items from the store.  That always meant driving to town and visiting one of the local stores called YARD BIRDS.  It seem to have grown from my previous visit and now had a full shopping mall.  I could window shop for hours looking at everything from western wear to hardware.  The store seem to have everything using a large black crow out front in the parking lot as a store mascot. It became a road side landmark.  Like Fred surviving through the war, the explosive actions of Mount St. Helen which covered his farm in over a foot or two in volcanic ash, Yard Birds was a survivor too.  The store had been completely flooded in 1990 but cleaned up and reopen.

Although while Fred now being retired from Dairy farming, he continue to run beef steers and it would again be a few years before my next visit. This time, we took a family trip to see Fred's sister's, Ellen Stubbs and Nancy Gregory who lived in Medford, Oregon.  We spent the day driving south as we enjoyed the Washington and Oregon scenery on IH-5.  It had been years since Fred ha d seen his sister's and the trip truly a pleasure. His daughters now getting older with boy friends and Amber soon to be getting married. Fred's family was becoming all grown up.

In 2004, Fred decided to sell the farm and move east over the mountain to Moxee, Washington to enjoy the comforts of more sunshine and less rain. Sunny days was another passion that Fred enjoyed and he always told folks he needed to move there because "It never rains in Yakima."

One day sipping coffee as I sat at my computer desk, I decided to look my dear coffee drinking friend up using the internet.  I was quickly sadden to read his obituary seeing he had pass on September 17, 2011 at age 87 years of age.  I quickly reflected our memories how he always loved animals and there always seem that Fred had his special dog.  He was a member of the Washington dairy Association and the Fraternal Order of Eagles for over 25 years. He was also a member of the American Legion for 51 years. Fred had been survived by his wife Alice, four daughters, Chris Hill, Amber Lusk, Denise and Theresa Arnold, six grandchildren, Cyndi, Randy, Ryley, Josey, Jessi and Rainey, four great-grandsons, Levi, Jordon, Garret and Wyatt,

I was pleased to see his daughter's Amber and Denise competing in barrel racing with a few winnings and now raising families of their own. Tweeter had grown to become a white collar professional selling Real estate in Yakima. On cold light drizzle days, I am often reminded of that Washington winter weather where  I enjoyed so many cups of warm coffee with Fred.  Although, never does December 7th pass that I do not think about the unsung hero who survived the Attack of Pearl Harbor.  A date which will live in infamy.  Fred Arnold was a true Cowboy, a dairyman and  Navy hero.  I will forever miss but always cherish, having coffee with Fred.

Denise and Amber


  1. Roger I just want to Thank You for this, I miss the farm and dad. As I read this tears and memories fill my heart and mind.
    Hope you will come visit and we can sit and have coffee and tell stories new and old.

    1. I do so hope some day that we again can take a trail ride with two of the greatest cowgirls I know, you and denise and of course return to enjoy the warm brew of good coffee. It truly would be wonderful seeing your mom, tweeter and meet all the new additions to the family. I'd be honored.

  2. thanks for writing about this wonder man, who quietly did the right thing, the necessary thing.
    Anton, a reader

  3. Wow!!! Denise and Amber you both are looking as cow girl. Nice outfits dear!!!

    Kopi Luwak

  4. Try a new read on an old west story by Diane M. Cece, "Trails Southwest"; The Cattle Drive from Southwest" and "The Rodeo Southwest" coming out soon. Check out her website Her books are on