Piece of Pearl Harbor History Donated to Drexel

Chuck Vincent presents the flag that flew above the USS Arizona to the student veterans at Drexel.
Drexel alum Chuck Vincent presents the flag that flew above the USS Arizona to the student veterans at Drexel.

On Dec. 7, 1941, more than 2,400 American military personnel lost their lives and over 1,100 were injured when the Japanese Navy attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor, off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii. The attack shocked Americans and changed history, as the United States and others declared war against Japan and began World War II.  President Franklin Roosevelt stated that the bombing of Pearl Harbor is "a date which will live in infamy.”

Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, was the 73rd anniversary of this historic event. A piece of that day is now a permanent part of Drexel’s military artifact collection.

On Veterans Day (Nov. 11, 2014), Drexel alumnus Chuck Vincent, electrical engineering ‘57, presented an unprecedented historic gift to the University – a framed flag that was raised July 4, 2011, over the Pearl Harbor Memorial and the submerged USS Arizona, one of the naval ships attacked that day. More than half of the victims that day in Pearl Harbor were aboard the Arizona.

The American flag was flown each day above the Arizona and continues to be flown above the ship’s memorial. On the day of the attacks, the ship band was lined up on the fantail ready to play during the daily raising of the stars and stripes when the first attacks occurred. It was 7:55 a.m. The band members retreated to their battle stations when the bombs began to fall. The Arizona was first hit at 8:06 a.m. and within seconds a huge explosion occurred. All 21 members of the band died in the attack, along with over 1,000 more from the ship. 

Vincent, a Korean and Vietnam War veteran, won the flag this year as part of a silent auction at his biennial military reunion. He immediately knew he wanted to present it as a gift to his alma mater to display in the University’s Veterans Lounge in the Armory.

Vincent was a student at Drexel from 1949 to 1957 and graduated from the College of Engineering after a four-year hiatus to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. While on campus, he was a member of the choir, wrestling team and later the lacrosse team. He was actively involved in the Advanced ROTC program. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army as a 2nd lieutenant. His military career included deployments in Europe and Asia and culminated in the rank of lieutenant colonel, including numerous years of distinguished service marked by citations, medals and ribbons.

Vincent remains actively involved with Drexel, as a founding member of the Drexel Veterans Alumni Network (DVAN) and through continued involvement with his fraternity, Alpha Pi Lambda. He was inducted into the initial class of the Alpha Pi Lambda Crimson and Grey Society in 2011 during their 78th Anniversary Ball celebration. He also attends various Drexel sporting events and cheers on the Dragons.

While presenting the flag, he shared the personal story of his continued commitment to supporting student veterans at Drexel. He recalled the change in how veterans and active military were treated following WWII and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. During and following the war in Vietnam, veterans were greeted by hatred and unkind words like never before. His goal is for no other veteran to choose not to wear his/her uniform in public for fear of negative treatment.

Members of the Drexel Veterans Association accepted the flag on behalf of the University during the Veterans Day Tribute. They expressed their desire to have the flag displayed across campus so the most people possible can see it.

To find out more about the flag and where it will be displayed throughout the University, contact Rebecca Weidensaul in the Office of Veteran Student Services, at 215.895.2501 or rebecca@drexel.edu. To read more about Vincent and his memories of Drexel and serving in the war, check out this profile from the summer 2014 issue of Drexel Magazine.