The grave site of Peter Barry in Mount Hope Cemetery, Plot, Section V, Lot 25. Barry was a member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. [Photo: David Kramer 12/06/20]
December 7th, 2020, the 79th anniversary of the day that will live in infamy.
Last year, Rochester lost Stanley Hwalek, its last surviving sailor from the battle.
The passing of Hwalek prompted me to take a closer look at Rochesterians who were at Hickham Field in Honolulu, Hawaii on that fateful day. As I looked into the archive, two people — Peter Barry and Anne Newell — prominence and poignance — struck my imagination.
Peter Barry (1912-1973) was the great-grandson of Patrick Barry, co-founder with George Ellwanger of the Ellwanger and Barry Nursery. Peter Barry was employed for many years by the Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation. In 1965 he joined the Monroe Savings Bank as executive vice-president, becoming the bank’s president in 1968, and chairman of the board in 1972. He was a member of the Rochester City Council from 1950 to 1965. In 1955 he was selected by his fellow Republicans on the Council to become the city’s mayor. He served in that capacity until 1962.Not always mentioned in the reporting of Barry was his service in World War II, especially during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Barry’s story came to fore in Henry Clune’s “OUR MAYOR WAS THERE,” written on the 15th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor (BELOW).
As we live through the covid pandemic, Anne Newell Burgher’s (1914 – 1950) story feels especially compelling. (BELOW)
Born into an upper class Rochester family, Anne’s life seemed typical. She graduated from the Columbia Preparatory School (now the Allendale Columbia School) and the University of Rochester. An adventurous and free spirited woman, Anne ventured to Hawaii where she worked for the Eastman Kodak’s Honolulu division. Anne was partying late into the night with airmen at Hickham Field when the Japanese air force struck.
Anne survived, returned to Rochester to marry and begin a family. Then, during a surge of polio, on August 17th, 1950 Anne contracted the disease. Within two weeks, she was dead,
From Henry Clune’s Seen and Heard:
OUR MAYOR WAS THERE The waters of Pearl Harbor rippled pleasantly in the brilliant morning sun, the air was soft and balmy and a man felt good to be alive, when Ensign Peter Barry was relieved of his watch on the hospital ship Solace, anchored off Ford Island, at 7:50 a.m. 15 years ago tomorrow. The ensign had held the watch since 4 o’clock. He was being relieved 10 minutes early in order that he might get up to the officers’ quarters for 8 o’clock Mass. He reached the officers’ quarters and took a chair to await the beginning of the service. Two minutes later Ensign Barry and “the other men in the officers’ quarters were startled by a heavy volley of antiaircraft fire. “I was curious,” Mayor Peter Barry said, telling of the experience. “We all were In the officers’ quarters. Occasionally in the past the antiaircraft gunners had tried out their equipment, but before we had always been forewarned about this. I went on deck with the others to see what the shooting was all about.”
Once on deck the mayor and the men with him knew at once what had happened and what, it seemed to him, continued to happen for hours. Airplanes were swarming in the air like hornets and the antiaircraft guns were shooting for keeps. Ford Island stands in the middle of Pearl Harbor and Hickham Field, the Army airbase, is some distance away. The planes had. blasted the airbase and were now concentrating on the bulk of the United States Pacific Fleet, many of the larger units of which were moored to the Ford Island docks. More than 100 planes were in the air and the bombs they dropped and the torpedoes they projected in a morning of dreadful havoc accounted for the worst disaster in the history of the United States Navy.
Mayor Barry’s ship, the Solace, lay around a corner of Ford Island, a distance of a quarter or a half a mile from the main body of the fleet. It was marked, to conform with the terms of the Geneva Conference, as a hospital ship. It was painted white and a broad green stripe ran around the hull below the main deck level and a Red Cross insignia was displayed at port and starboard just below the beam. But the fact that the Solace was isolated from the main fleet, rather than its markings, may have saved it from attack, for this day the success crazed and blood-lusting Japanese were trying for every available target.
Mayor Barry had been a member of the Naval Reserve and Naval Militia since three years before the beginning in Europe of World War II and early in 1941 he was detailed to active duty with the Rochester units of these organizations. He and his fellow Rochester sailors were ordered to the naval station at Newport, R.I., for a refresher course in seamanship and navy practice and in April of that year they were sent to sea. Forty Rochesterians were put aboard the Solace and a similar number detailed to the USS Castor, a navy supply ship. The Castor also was in Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack, but like the Solace was in an isolated position and was not hit. Mayor Barry, with the rank of ensign, was assistant engineer office on the Solace.
The action of that fateful Sunday morning of Dec. 7, 1941, is probably indelibly etched on the memory of all who witnessed it and lived. But Mayor Barry’s coin of vantage was on the tide of the deck that prevented his observation of the main bombardment, which quickly sank to the keel such capital ships “as the West Virginia and the Arizona, and the one direct hit he saw was on the target ship, Utah, a short distance away, which seemed to erupt in giant spouts of flames. A moment later he was rushing down to the engine room to order the engines warmed up in anticipation of the Skipper’s command move.
But the Solace did not move that morning and the attack, from what Mayor Barry heard and occasionally saw for much of his duty was now below decks seemed to continue interminably. Eight battleships and 10 other ships were sunk or damaged in a period from 8 o’clock until noon. And the balmy, spring like morning, that made a man glad to be alive, before the last of the swarm of hornets, disappeared over the horizon, minus a few that the antiaircraft guns had killed, had become a carnival of death, with more than 3,000 killed or missing and the wounded an incalculable toll.
“The whole area seemed an unbelievable chaos,” Mayor Barry related, “but actually, in a comparatively short time, chaos had given way to order and constructive things were being done. Once we knew what had happened, I am sure that everyone on our ship was frightened. But there was no panic of any kind, and inside an hour our crew was performing the sort of service for which it had been trained. Our small boats and motor launches were set down and soon they were bringing the wounded to us from ships that had been struck. At the time of the attack we had only 20 patients aboard. By early afternoon we had more than 600. By then we were well organized. The wounded were brought on deck from the small boats by our deck force, classified according to the seriousness of their wounds, and sent either to beds or emergency operating rooms. When the regular hospital compartments were filled we put patients in the officers’ quarters, or any other part of the ship where there was room for a bed.”Mayor Barry said that like a Shakespearean tragedy there was a brief moment in that day of terror for a comic interlude.
A pharmacist’s mate had been detailed to the top of the gangway to administer a shot of morphine to each seriously wounded patient that was brought aboard. Mayor Barry, temporarily stationed in that area, had admiringly observed a huge and muscular boatswain who no sooner delivered one patient to the top of the gangway than he darted back for another. His exertions were mighty and effective. But suddenly he began to slow down, his feet dragged, his eyes were glassy, and he was having difficulty holding his end of the stretcher.
Curious about this sudden debilitation of a man who had seemed as strong and perdurable as an oak, Mayor Barry discovered that the pharmacist’s mate, swiftly jabbing his morphine needle into patients, had three times mistakenly jabbed it into the boatswain and the boatswain was virtually out on his feet, He was ordered off duty and spent the rest of that hectic day sleeping off the effect of the drug In a shaded corner of the deck.Filled with patients, late in the day the Solace moved to a quiet corner of the Harbor, and Mayor Barry never put foot on solid ground for two weeks. Then he was sent into Honolulu for supplies. In time the Solace left Pearl Harbor. The ship went far into the Pacific to transport the wounded from Guadalcanal I and other engagements to base hospitals in New Zealand, besides serving as a base hospital itself, while island hospitals were being built. Mayor Barry remained with the ship two years. Later he was sent back to the States for a brief period, and returned to the Pacific as chief engineer of a tanker that fueled the combat task force. He was in the Pacific most of the time from October, 1941, to October, 1945, and ended his active service as a commander.For four years following the war he served as commander of the Rochester units in the Naval Reserve and Naval Militia and was commander of the northern area of the state for a year after that. His duties as mayor of Rochester and an engineer for the Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. caused him to end his long career as a citizen sailor. But he saw our part of the war start with the attack on Pearl Harbor and he saw it end in the far Pacific. And the beginning for him may have been the more unforgettable of the two experiences.
Anne Newell Burgher
Excerpt from Ripple in Time: The Newell Family of Rochester, NY (University of Rochester research), I added D & C clippings and contemporary photos.George Russell Newell’s daughter Anne Newell was born in 1914. She attended Columbia Preparatory School and was a graduate of the University of Rochester class of 1938, where she was a member of Theta Eta Sorority.
In her early adulthood, Anne was employed by Eastman Kodak of Rochester. In September 1941, she decided to transfer to the branch office in Honolulu and sailed across the Pacific on the ship Van Buren. Anne apparently inherited her grandfather’s terrible luck and faced a series of unfortunate events during her travels. An article in her undergraduate file in the University of Rochester Rare Books Department stated:
On its maiden voyage from New York the ship (Van Buren) ran into the worst storm known on the Atlantic in many years. Passengers were strapped into bunks and fed sandwiches for eighteen days since the galley was completely destroyed and $1,000 worth of china ruined in the thirty-six hours of chaos. Recovering in the Caribbean the ship ran into the tail end of the Texas hurricane which Anne says was tame. They managed to get through the Panama Canal and on to San Francisco where, after gala night life and excitement, they sailed for Honolulu …Anne will be living with the Stewart Wilcoxes at 2040 Round Top Terrace, Honolulu, and will be working in the branch office of Kodak there. Her new home is right on the beach near the Royal Honolulu Hotel where broadcasts to America originate. Someday you may hear, ‘Hello, Mother, I’m washed up on the shore of heaven safely’ (Rochester Review Oct-Nov).
Once in Hawaii, Anne worked in the Honolulu branch office of Kodak, where she witnessed the Pearl Harbor attack on the dawn of December 7, 1941. An article from a Rochester newspaper in her alumni file quotes, “She could not believe the noise was anything but practice maneuvers until she heard the radio. At that point Anne doesn’t mind admitting, she was plenty terrified.” (Unknown Source, “Newell, Anne Burgher” File of Undergraduates, University of Rochester).
Anne would marry Lieut. John Laidlaw Burgher of Fort Sam Houston Texas. Together Anne and John Burgher had two children John and Mary (File of Undergraduates, University of Rochester).Anne Newell Burgher died of polio on August 26, 1950 (Mt. Hope Interment). SEE ALSO