Fayette County

Lexington woman treasures sailor's four-page story of Pearl Harbor

Pearl Rutledge recalls Pearl Harbor through four faded, typewritten pages that a young sailor gave her almost 70 years ago.

Tom Brown served on the light cruiser St. Louis, which was docked at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. The "Lucky Lou" survived, escaping disaster when two Japanese torpedoes exploded before hitting the ship.

Later, the government sent Brown home to give morale-boosting speeches at U.S. military bases. At one stop, he met Pearl Black Rutledge, a dancer in a traveling show that entertained troops.

They dated some, and Brown gave Rutledge the typed manuscript of the speech he gave at each base he visited. She has kept it ever since.

Brown described his personal experiences at Pearl Harbor: roaring planes, ear-splitting explosions, flaming oil and burning ships.

"Perhaps we can make a better world," Brown concluded. "Let us hope and pray that this will be end of any such action as Pearl Harbor."

Rutledge, now living in Lexington, lost track of Brown years ago and doesn't know whether he is still alive. But his words speak for themselves.

"I remember him as being from New Jersey, but it's been so long I'm really not sure," she said. "He was a nice kid. I was just a teen-ager."

Rutledge's dance troupe did many shows for GIs. She said one stood out.

"It was at Camp Peary, Va., and these boys were shipping out the next morning. An officer told us, 'You're the last American girls some of them will ever see.' I still tear up remembering that."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader