On Dec. 3, 2012, Retired Air Force Chief Warrant Officer Jay C. Groff Jr. entered AMVETS National Headquarters in Lanham, Md., and viewed the original segment of the USS Arizona Memorial Wall. As a Pearl Harbor survivor, Groff’s connection to the USS Arizona Memorial differs from the majority of other individuals.
Groff, enlisted in the Army Air Corps after graduating from high school in May 1940. Arriving at his first duty station at Hickam Field in Oahu, Hawaii, Groff was assigned to the crash boat section aboard the base. Members of his section were responsible for rescuing downed aviators, tow targets and patrol ranges throughout Hawaii. On Dec. 7, 1941, Groff’s world was changed as the Japanese launched an attack on Pearl Harbor.
“On that day I decided to stay in bed a little bit longer. Shortly before 7 o’clock I heard an explosion outside of the window,” recalls Groff. “It was real close. I got up and looked out of the window. I was up on the third floor and at eye level here comes a Japanese plane right across our view.” Racing out of his barracks, Groff eventually made his way to the boathouse. Once there, he helped defend an American B-17, which was attempting to land on the tarmac, approximately 150 yards away from Groff’s location. For the entirety of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Groff continued to defend fellow military personnel and supplies.
“For weeks after that, we would man gun positions throughout the night right on the beach at the edge of Pearl Harbor,” said Groff. “It [Dec. 7] changed my life forever.
After Pearl Harbor, Groff continued his military career for a total of 30 years. He became a Boatmaster-Marine Superintendent and served at Brookley Field, Johnston Island and Hamilton Air Force Base. Transferring to an administrative position after the Air Force retired crash boats, he has served in Izmir, Turkey and at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., where he worked for the Secretary of the Air Force.
Groff currently is the honorary campaign chairman for AMVETS’ USS Arizona Forever Fund. This program provides funds for AMVETS to restore the USS Arizona Memorial Wall. AMVETS has been closely connected with the USS Arizona Memorial since after World War II when PNC Harold T. Berc worked with President Eisenhower to establish a memorial for the 1,102 crewmen interred on-site.
“The memorial recalls December 7 and the attack on the United States,” said Groff of the USS Arizona Memorial Wall. “The memorial is for those men who sacrificed their lives that day.”
To help AMVETS with the restoration and upkeep of the USS Arizona Memorial Wall, please donate today at: https://www.transactionserver1.com/Default.aspx?tsid=650
100 percent of donations will go directly to the USS Arizona Forever Fund.