New display honors New Cumberland man killed during Pearl Harbor attackErik L Dorr
Navy Ensign Lee Fox, one of the first fatalities in the attack on Pearl Harbor
These are photos of Ensign Lee Fox. U.S. Navy Ensign Lee Fox, 21, of New Cumberland, is believed to be one of the first fatalities in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Erik Dorr, curator of the Gettysburg Museum of History, recently acquired a collection of items pertaining to Ensign Fox. Fox, a naval aviator assigned to Patrol Squadron No. 12, was killed at U.S. Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii.
U.S. Navy Ensign Lee Fox, of New Cumberland, is considered one of the first American men to die during Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Soon, you’ll be able to learn all about his heroic actions.
The Gettysburg Museum of History plans to unveil a display that will include his dress uniform, photos, letters home and telegram to his parents informing them of his death. The display, which has been in private collection, will be completed and open to the public by January.
“It’s just so moving,” said museum curator Erik Dorr. “Here’s a guy that is at the beginning of his adult life, just got his Navy wings, he had his whole life ahead of him and he got killed. Instantly. Just like that.”
In a telegram he sent to his parents on on Sept. 8, 1941, the 21-year-old said that he received orders on two hours notice that he would be leaving for Pearl Harbor. Fox said he spent the weekend in Los Angeles and had a “grand time” in San Diego.
Dorr said you can read about how excited Fox was to be located in the beautiful Pacific. You can get a sense of what it was like to be a young man serving his country.
In one letter dated Sept. 24, 1941, Fox wrote about his “mundane” duties, familiarizing himself with his new post and participating in activities.
“The other day I borrowed an outfit and tried speer [sic] fishing,” Fox wrote. “Believe me, that’s the most exciting sport I’ve ever bumped into.”
This letter was written by Ensign Lee Fox to his family. U.S. Navy Ensign Lee Fox, 21, of New Cumberland, is believed to be one of the first fatalities in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Erik Dorr, curator of the Gettysburg Museum of History, recently acquired a collection of items pertaining to Ensign Fox. Fox, a naval aviator assigned to Patrol Squadron No. 12, was killed at U.S. Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii. Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Dan Gleiter |
Fox, a navigator on a Catalina patrol bomber, was killed when Japanese warplanes struck the Kaneohe Naval Air Station. The Japanese planes were came over the base on their way to Pearl Harbor.
He was in the bachelor officers’ quarters when the alarm sounded and he ran to his duty station, defending his hangar and airplane. He died there before the first wave of Japanese warplanes appeared over the American Pacific Fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor.
Fox had enrolled in the ROTC program at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, learned to fly at the Pittsburgh Airport and went on to naval flight training at Pensacola, Fla., before being assigned to duty in Hawaii.
After Fox’s death, the Navy named a destroyer escort after him — the USS Lee Fox. It was launched in 1943 and decommissioned in 1946. The ship completed 18 Atlantic Ocean crossings between Nov. 1943 and Jan. 1945.
The Lee Fox helped escort the invasion troops and supplies from Ireland to England for the invasion of Normandy, also known as “Operation Overlord.”
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7415 was named after Fox and Army Pvt. Paul R. Eichelberger, who was fatally wounded during the Pearl Harbor attacks.
While you can see the how much joy was in Fox’s letters, you can also experience the heartbreak his parents must have felt getting a telegram that their son was killed.
“The tragic news of the death of your son as an early result of the present hostilities is indeed a severe shock,” U.S. Navy Rear Admiral J.H Towers said in a letter to Fox’s father.
“I can find no means to express adequately my deep sorrow for you in your grief, but want you to know you have my heartfelt sympathy.”
Reading the stories of individuals who served during World War II, like Fox, demonstrates the cost of war.
“It’s easy to look at it as numbers, but when you start reading at their letters and looking at their photographs and delving into their lives, it’s very emotional,” Dorr said.