George Rhea was born in Lee County, Virginia., on May 7, 1920. He enlisted in the Army in 1941, heading to Fort Slocum in New York for five weeks of training. After basic training, Rhea went to San Francisco, where he boarded the USS San Miguel for Hawaii. He continued his training at the Schofield Barracks in Honolulu.
Rhea was on guard the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Pearl Harbor. He witnessed the attack from the rooftop of a four-story building. Rhea recalled spending the next year cleaning up after the destruction and getting the island to a defensive position in case of another strike.
During his service, Rhea often served as a cook. After Hawaii, he served in Guadalcanal, then later served at Luzon, in the Philippines. He was a member of the 27th Infantry Regiment, as made famous by James Jones’ novels From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line.
Rhea never received more than three days’ leave during his four years of service, so he corresponded with family through letters. He married his love, Georgie, on Aug. 26, 1945, less than a month after his return home. They had one son–who went on to serve in the Air Force–and one daughter.
In a 2002 interview for the Veteran’s History Project, Rhea said he was thankful for his service, which taught him discipline and made him a better person. He received an American National Defense Service Medal, an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and a Philippine Liberation Ribbon for his service at Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, and the Philippines.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.