Sterling Cale was born on November 29, 1921 in Macomb, Illinois. He enlisted for Lighter-Than-Air Training (dirigibles) at Lakehurst, New Jersey. When the German blimp, von Hindenburg, exploded and burned, the Navy Department cancelled the program and Sterling graduated as a hospital pharmacist's mate (Corpsman) from the school in San Diego, California. He was assigned to the U.S. Naval Hospital at "C" Landing, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawai'i.
A young sailor at Great Lakes Naval Training Center
The Morning of December 7, 1941
PhM2c Cale was transferred to the shipyard dispensary in July of 1941. Completing night duty on the morning of December 7, 1941, he arrived at the receiving station around 7 a.m., signed out with the master-at-arms and went outside. In less than an hour, he noticed planes diving on the ships at Battleship Row and decided it was another mock attack, when suddenly a plane turned off to the right and he saw the "Rising Sun" on the wing tips and fuselage. He gasped as he said, "My God, those are Japanese planes, and we are being attacked." Later, PhM2c Cale also was in charge of the burial party removing bodies from the USS Arizona.
WWII was spent with the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal. He transferred to the U.S. Army in 1948 and saw duty with the 5th Regimental Combat Team in Korea from 1950-1951. As an Army Serfeant Major and State Department Civilian, he saw duty in Vietnam from 1955-1974 with intermediate assignments to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.
Sterling sharing his December 7, 1941 experiences with high school students
Mr. Cale graduated with an MBA from Chaminade University in 1975. he retired with 57 years of Government service in March 2005. He started volunteering at the USS Arizona Memorial shortly after.