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Michigan’s Pearl Harbor Survivor

By Tom Lowrey, Senior Services Education Assistant

Army Private Donald Bloomfield worked as a fire truck driver in a fire station that didn’t even have a fire truck. “I never did get a fire truck while I was over there, but I did everything from soup to nuts. I chased prisoners. I ran errands. I did this, I did that. Of course, it was just a small outfit attached to the 251st Coast Guard artillery.”

This outfit was stationed on Oahu in 1941, and Don Bloomfield, a Midland native, usually ate with them. “We were all done eating, and were standing outside the mess hall when there was this “boom, boom, boom,” and we watched these planes flying into Pearl Harbor. It wasn’t very long before this plane came low over the treetops, and when he went by he thumbed his nose at us, just as plain as could be!”

Immediately the 251st sprang into action. “Did you ever see an artillery unit move? Well, they were gone in no time at all.”

“Just before 9 o’clock (barely an hour after the first plane attacked) Major Wheeler came over and said, ‘Don, you and Earl head for Schofield (barracks). You’re gonna start hauling sandbags.’” These were needed on the beach in case of an invasion. “Just before we got to Schofield we passed Wheeler Field…not much of it left. There were burning planes and the buildings were all busted up.”

Don and Earl picked up sandbags at Schofield, passed by the harbor (“a heck of a mess”) and headed south to their destination. They unloaded the sandbags, and as they were getting back on the highway, they saw a flatbed truck loaded with dead bodies in body bags. The two soldiers followed the truck until it turned off, then they returned to Schofield and made two more sandbag trips.”

Don Bloomfield remained in Hawaii until May of 1943, when he was assigned to flight school. He had a 15 day leave in between, so he came back to Midland, where a friend introduced him to a young lady named Jeanette Bilow. Little did he know that two years later they would meet again, and she would become his wife.

In April of 1944, a few days before he was scheduled to graduate from flight school, Don and 50,000 other aviation students found out they were being moved to infantry. Six months later, in October, he landed in France with the 103rd Division, and it wasn’t long before they saw action. During one surprise German attack, Don was wounded by shrapnel and several of his comrades were killed. Two weeks later, after his squad came to a roadblock, there was machinegun fire and Don took two bullets.

After a few weeks, Don returned to the United States and spent several months recovering at a hospital in Indiana. On a 15 day leave, he rode by bus to Lansing, and from there hitchhiked north to Midland. “That day, I had two bike (motorcycle) rides, my first and last.” At a dance at Homer Grange, he became reacquainted with Jeanette, and he decided that she was the one!

Don returned to Indiana, and soon was moved to the Fort Custer Rehabilitation Center, near Battle Creek. On July 5, 1945, Sergeant Don Bloomfield was discharged from the Army.  “I’ll never forget that,” he says. “A lieutenant said to me, ‘Well, what you gonna do now that you’re out of the Army?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna go home and get married.’ And he said, ‘Boy, you’re a damn fool, getting out of one war and into another!’” But if marriage is a “war,” Don ended up very glad that he enlisted for it! Don and Jeanette were married on July 14, 1945, and were a happy couple for almost 68 years, when the love of Don’s life passed away in 2013 after a long illness.

Last Thanksgiving Don was honored on the field at halftime of the Detroit Lions game. On December 7 he went to Lansing and was introduced on the House floor and given a special tribute. He can add these honors to his Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

Thank you, Don Bloomfield, for your service and your bravery in helping to keep our great country free.

If you’d like to know more about Don, Virginia Florey wrote an excellent article for the Midland Daily News. Online go to www.ourmidland.com and do a search for Don Bloomfield.