Walking down the streets of Vancouver, Canada, Clarence Byal was often confronted by people asking when he’d join the service and prepare for war. Deciding that it was time to do his part, he attempted to join the Canadian Navy but was rejected when it came to light that he was in fact an American citizen.
Clarence was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on December 6, 1921. Despite being born in the U.S., he spent his childhood and teen years in Canada, working the farm with his brothers. With the newfound knowledge of his American citizenship, he traveled to the U.S. and joined the Navy. It took some time for his paperwork to come through and he spent that time working at the YMCA, which also provided him lodging. He fondly remembers a woman at a local restaurant providing him with free meals. With his finances growing short, his paperwork was finally approved and he found himself in boot camp and then eventually on the USS St. Louis, a light-cruiser stationed at Pearl Harbor.
On December 6, 1941, he enjoyed liberty ashore and was looking forward to the same the next day. It was then, on December 7, that the Japanese attacked. Watching from his battle station on the deck of the ship, he watched explosions and fire spread through the harbor. He would spend the rest of the day rescuing survivors and doing battle-damage repairs aboard ship.
Clarence comes from a proud military family. His brothers served in different branches of the military, fighting in wars that stretched from World War II through Vietnam. He now makes his home in northern California and spends his days reflecting on the good times in his life, Pearl Harbor being a vivid memory that sticks with him.