Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, a graduate of West Point and former Army Ranger, presented the Distinguished Flying Cross to World War II veteran Bernard Creswick of Warwick on Monday.
“It was one of those medals that never quite got around to him,”
said Ruby Creswick, Bernard’s wife of 64 years. “He’s got so many of them, most of them campaign medals for actions he was in.”
Bernard Cheswick joined the Army in August of 1940 and was at Hickam Field studying instruments for aircraft that were employed by the military.
“I was in bed, sleeping, when I heard the dive-bombers,” Creswick said on Monday. “I looked out the window and saw them all heading for ‘Battleship Row.’ I ran down the stairs and was heading across the road to Hickam Field to see how I could help when I ran right back up the stairs again, put on my pants, and then down the stairs again.”
Creswick said there wasn’t a hell of a lot they could do but he and the other men helped get as many planes as they could off the open airfields and into hangars. The idea was they would be less than sitting ducks that way but the reality was the Japanese were bombing the hangars as well. Creswick was in one of the hangars when a bomb slammed into the rafters of the hangar and the pieces fell around him. Fortunately, the bomb was a dud and Creswick acknowledges that it probably would have killed him if it wasn’t.
He also found that the mess hall, where he normally would be on an early Sunday morning, was heavily damaged in the attack and the barracks where he normally slept was peppered with machinegun fire.
“I guess I was just lucky,” he said. “I got through the whole thing [the war] without getting hurt.”
What marks Creswick’s experience truly extraordinary was the fact that his sister Marjorie was a nurse at Pearl Harbor’s Naval Hospital and his brother-in-law was chief of surgery at the hospital on the same day.
“It was awful for his mother and the rest of the family,” remarked Ruby Creswick. “The poor woman had no idea if her children survived. It was about four days before she got word that they were all right.”
Creswick was a technical sergeant with special instrument training in Army Air Force but ended up spending most of the war as a belly turret gunner in a B-17. He said he tallied 67 missions before the war was over, more than twice as many missions as required in the European Theatre of Operations. He was at Midway, the Solomons and Guadalcanal and did duty throughout the Pacific.
After the war, Creswick was a civilian employee at Quonset before he became a technical representative for Command Aircraft, a maker of airplane parts and helicopters.
On Monday, as Creswick was quiet and reluctant to talk, Senator Reed leant him some words.
“Your deeds and your life speak louder than anything we can say here,” said Reed.
Creswick is among six Rhode Islanders who were veterans of Pearl Harbor who will be honored at the State House on Dec. 7, the 70th anniversary of the attack. Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr., chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, will host the ceremony.
The Permanent Advisory Council to the committee, the Rhode Island World War II Commission and the Rhode Island Veterans Council are sponsoring the ceremony at 1:30 p.m. in the House chamber on the second floor of the State House. Five other veterans of Pearl Harbor will be honored during the ceremony: Gilbert J. Hawkins of East Greenwich, Ralph N. Churchwell of Portsmouth, Daniel Hunter of Cumberland, Wilmer Stevens of Wakefield and Raymond J. Haerry Sr., a U.S.S. Arizona survivor, of East Greenwich.
On Monday, Creswick also received the Air Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.
But there is no Purple Heart among Bernard Creswick’s ribbons and medals – that’s OK with Creswick. In fact, if Creswick had his way, he would have preferred that his brother never earned one as well.
“His brother was a paratrooper in Europe,” Ruby explained. “He got the first one when he was wounded and got the second one after he died in action.”