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Story Courtesy of Jeff Rankin, Monmouth College Historian Author and Literacy Critic.
In the 20th century, two
Monmouth men made their mark on history on a tiny Pacific island 4,000 miles
from the Maple City—about two decades apart. The island was Oahu, and each of
the men exhibited bravery of a unique sort near its tropical shores.
In 1941, Dr. Russell Jensen,
a 1931 Monmouth College graduate Dr. Russell Jensen, was just settling into his
new home of Honolulu as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve, on the staff of the
U.S. Naval Hospital at Pearl Harbor. After earning his M.D. degree from
Northwestern Medical School in 1934, he had completed a residency at Chicago’s
St. Luke’s Hospital before attending the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, where
he had graduated with a degree in general surgery in 1940.
established a general surgery practice in his native Illinois, borrowing $3,500
for equipment while still owing medical school debt. His plans were
unexpectedly derailed, however, when in January 1941 a telegram arrived,
ordering him to report to San Diego for duty in the Naval Reserve. Shortly after
his arrival in San Diego, he and a fellow physician became bored with the
routine and asked their commanding officer for permission to create a mobile
medical unit. The doctors were rewarded for their enterprise by being ordered
the next day to ship out to Pearl Harbor.
Jensen had married Alice
McDougall in 1937, and both she and their furniture finally arrived in Hawaii
on Dec. 1, 1941. A week later, their lives would be thrown into turmoil.
On the morning of Sunday,
Dec. 7, Jensen was the only physician on duty at the Naval Hospital. On a
second-floor balcony overlooking Hickam field, he was stitching up the face of
a soldier who had been injured in a bar fight. At 7:55 a.m., he heard
explosions, then 20 planes flying low at a high speed, skimming the hospital’s
Members of the 250-bed
hospital staff were notified to report immediately for duty, and by 9:15 the
entire staff of the hospital was assembled. Medical officers and corpsmen from
ships which had suffered damage during the attack reported intermittently
throughout the morning. A large number of civilian women who had first-aid
training volunteered to assist the 29 Navy nurses. The Red Cross also supplied
several dozen registered nurses.
To make more room for
casualties, ambulatory patients were transferred to two old frame buildings and
five hospital tents in the rear of the hospital. Convalescent patients eager
for duty were permitted to return as best they could to their commands.
The first casualties arrived
at the hospital within 10 minutes after the first attack, and by 9 a.m. they
were coming into the hospital in a steady stream, being transported from harbor
None of the admitted patients
wore dog tags and many who were unconscious when admitted to the hospital died
before they could be identified. Some of the bodies were so badly charred that
they could not be identified from physical features.
A total of 546 battle
casualties and 313 dead were brought to the hospital that day. Approximately
452 casualties were admitted to the hospital in less than three hours. The
census of patients in the hospital by midnight was 960.
Jensen and his fellow
officers worked tirelessly for the next 48 hours. Jensen’s ward was soon full
with about 25 burned sailors, many of whom were injured while swimming in the
harbor, which was afire with burning fuel. He never saw the harbor during the
attack, only attending to sailors, disfigured and in great pain. All he could
do was give them morphine and cover their burns with tannic acid.
Six months later, Jensen was
promoted to lieutenant commander. His wife, Alice, got a job with the Army, but
their furniture, which had stood on a dock, was never found. In May 1943,
Jensen was transferred to Midway Island, where he would treat hundreds of casualties.
He was discharged from the Navy in 1945 and established a medical practice in
Monmouth with Dr. James Marshall, where he would treat patients for the next 30
Fifteen years after Jensen
was discharged from the Navy, a 20-year-old Monmouth man was making history,
finding his sea legs aboard a nuclear submarine, the USS Sargo, which made a
treacherous but successful voyage under the ice cap to the North Pole in early
1960. James Smallwood, a motor machinist’s mate, would then return with the crew
of the $50 million sub to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
On the afternoon of June 14,
Smallwood was the duty auxiliaryman while the sub was taking aboard oxygen from
a pier-side truck. Suddenly, a high-pressure leak occurred in the rubber hose
connecting the truck to a manifold in the stern. Realizing the danger to the
ship and crew, Smallwood woke the only other man in the room and told him to
get out. He then sought to contain the leak, when the room erupted in an
explosion, instantly killing him.
Flames shot 100 feet into the
air. Fire control units battled the blaze for 45 minutes without success, so
the Sargo was taken away from the dock and partially submerged by leaving the
torpedo room hatch open in the stern.
As a result of the tragedy,
the Navy instituted a thorough review of oxygen loading procedures, and its
subsequent revisions have prevented any similar accidents over more than a half
In 1987, Submarine Base Pearl
Harbor opened a new 17-story bachelor enlisted quarters, which was dedicated in
memory of Smallwood and the sacrifice of his life while performing in the
service of his country. In 2004, Smallwood Hall received a $23 million
Smallwood, who was
posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroic conduct, is
buried in Warren County Memorial Park Cemetery in Monmouth.