Attack on Pearl Harbor Survivor
James Cowart Hardwick was born in Dallas, Texas on December 5, 1923, at Baylor Hospital, the second child of Gertrude Frances Harrison and Walter Price Hardwick. An older brother, Walter Price Hardwick, Jr., was born August 5, 1921 and a younger sister, Thelma Margaret Hardwick was born December 30, 1925.
The family residence at the time of Hardwick’s birth was 3408 Noble Street, Dallas, Texas. He attended Colonial Hill Elementary School on Pennsylvania Avenue in Dallas from 1929-1936, Forest Avenue High (now Madison) from 1937-1938 and Dallas Technical High (Crozier) from 1938-1940.
In 1940 while still in high school Hardwick joined Troop A, 112th Cavalry, Texas National Guard. This guard unit had its reservation on a dirt street named Harry Hines, the present site of Southwestern Medical School. This site had been a smallpox quarantine station during World War I and contained graves of many victims.
In November 1940, the 112th Cavalry was mobilized to active duty and Hardwick was honorably discharged when his age of only 16 years was discovered. One month later, in December, he became 17 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy on a minority enlistment.
Hardwick attended boot camp in San Diego, California, Company 40-110. Upon completion of basic training, he was assigned to Machinists School, Ford River Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan. In June 1941, after completing machinist school, he was assigned to the light cruiser, USS Honolulu, CL48, and then stationed at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.
In July of 1941, Hardwick joined the crew of the USS Honolulu. “For the next few months, we participated in naval exercises in the Hawaiian area making one trip to Long Beach, California, in September, 1941 and returning to Peal Harbor.”
“On the morning of December 7, 1941, we were tied up to a pier in Pearl Harbor with our stern to “battleship row” and with the cruiser USS St. Louis tied up outboard. During the Japanese attack the Honolulu suffered a near bomb hit between the dock and hull that ruptured the hull and flooded a 5-inch magazine. No casualties occurred, however.”
After repairs at Pearl Harbor, the Honolulu steamed to San Diego, California and picked up a convoy that it took to Melbourne, Australia in January of 1942. Troops were landed also at Noumea, New Caledonia, which included the same cavalry outfit that Hardwick had belonged to in Dallas.
Hardwick served aboard the USS Honolulu throughout World War II, participating in 12 enemy engagements beginning with Pearl Harbor and including the Solomon (Guadalcanal), Aleutian, Marianas and Philippine campaigns. The Honolulu was bombed once and torpedoed 3 times during these actions, the last time at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines (Oct. 20, 1944). The damage was so severe that the ship was ordered to Norfolk, Virginia for repairs to keep west coast yards open for repair of less damaged vessels that would be returned to action fast.
The Honolulu was still undergoing repairs when the war ended in 1945. In early 1946 after being refitted, she was ordered to Philadelphia Navy yard for decommissioning and placed in the “moth ball fleet”.
During the decommissioning party at the Ben Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia on March 5, 1946, Hardwick met Elva Elizabeth Pegel who was among a group of young ladies invited to the party from Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company in Philadelphia. Elva later became Mrs. James C. Hardwick (June 7, 1947, Chews Landing, New Jersey, St. John’s Episcopal Church).
In January of 1947, Hardwick was released on terminal leave from the Philadelphia Receiving Station (honorably discharged March 10, 1947) and returned to Dallas, Texas, where he enrolled in North Texas Agricultural College in Arlington, under the G.I. Bill as an engineering major now UTA). After a year, he transferred to SMU in Dallas and in June 1951 graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering.
The next 28 years were spent as a Federal employee with various agencies in the Dallas area, culminating in retirement in 1979 with 34 years of Federal service. After his first retirement, Blum Consulting Engineers employed Hardwick until his second retirement in March 1986.
James and Elva were married for over 60 years before her death on September 25, 2007.