By Jake Jaekel
This story was given to me by Herb Louden, a Navy Corpsman from the hospital ship USS Solace during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Of the 1,178 listed as wounded at Pearl Harbor the story of Dean Derrow might be the most astounding. Derrow was a Fire Control-Man 3/C aboard the USS West Virginia that was struck by five torpedoes and two bombs. Derrow was blown over board into the oily water wearing only his underwear, tennis shoes and life jacket.
We found him unconscious and pulled him into our motor launch. When we had him about half way over the gunnel a Japanese plane started strafing our boat and we were frantically trying to dodge bullets. We took him along with others back to the hospital ship USS Solace.
Finding nothing wrong with him he was returned to duty aboard the destroyer USS Porter which sailed to Midway and Christmas Island. In January Derrow passed out while swimming and was put in the sickbay where he slept for ten days. He was sent back to the hospital ship Solace and February 24th, 1942, they removed his appendix. Then finally, March 7th, 1942, an x-ray technician by the name of Robert Rule found a 7.7MM 1½” long bullet lodged in Derrow’s heart, three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It became obvious that when he was pulled into the rescue boat a bullet from the strafing Japanese fighter plane had struck his back, penetrated his lung and the back muscle of his heart, stopping before popping out the front.
Derrow was taken off the Solace and shipped by transport to Mare Island at Vallejo California where on April 17th, 1942, Navy Surgeon Lieutenant Commander C.C. Meyers cut away part of a rib and pulled the bullet out with a forceps. Derrow had carried the bullet in his heart for 132 days. This was ten years before anyone had ever performed open heart surgery
Derrow married Alice the nurse that took care of him. They lived at Clear Lake California for 50 years and Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Chaplain Herb Louden, the Navy Corpsman that helped pull him out of the water December 7th , 1941, conducted his funeral January 4th , 1992.
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