LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – After decades in the Armed Services, Colonel John Ridge has a lot of stores to tell but none as incredible as the event that pulled the United States into World War II.
On the anniversary of that attack which may well have changed the course of history, Ridge gave a firsthand account.
Col. Ridge is two months shy of his 100th birthday and he doesn’t claim to recall everything about December 7, 1941. After 72 years, at least one memory of that Sunday morning on Pearl Harbor hasn’t faded a bit.
“I can see the bomb dropping right now,” Col. Ridge said.
At the time, Ridge was a 26-year-old Corporal and just been drafted 6 months earlier. He and two fellow soldiers were returning from mass and heard what sounded like training exercises overhead.
Within seconds, Col. Ridge realized they were no longer preparing for war with Japan.
“I realized as soon as that bomb dropped that we were at war,” he said.
Ridge said the explosion was only close enough to spray dirt on him. So he was able to react quickly when his sergeant passed him a browning automatic rifle.
“Actually, I was one of the first people to fire at the Japanese,” Ridge said.
He’s not sure if he hit anything, but his regiment was credited with taking down a Japanese plane that morning.
“I think that it was going on so fast that I didn’t get a chance to be terrified,” he said.
Eventually, the fear did take hold.
“All hell broke loose that night,” he said.
Ridge remembers staying all night, shooting at everything that moved waiting for another Japanese attack that never came.
It wasn’t until months later when Ridge left Pearl Harbor for officer training he would get a full night’s sleep.
Shortly thereafter, he was deployed to North Africa and then Italy.
Ridge returned home to his wife and to Louisville but not to his career in real estate. The Manual High School and University of Louisville graduate instead served 30 year in the military.
Ridge says a career as a soldier taught him many lessons but none as important as the one he learned December 7, 1941.