Pearl Harbor: Jack Langford’s Journey

Written By: nppladmin - Dec• 04•20
Originally published to on December 4, 2020.

“Pearl Harbor, a day that will live in infamy,” according to then President Franklin Roosevelt. As we remember that day, some 79 years ago, read the miraculous story of one North Platte man.

For one North Platte family, the attack on Pearl Harbor would be the first of many ups and downs for them. In addition, it would give them the “Best letter ever received”, as one local paper reported.

Jack Langford, son of Harold and Marjorie Langford ,was born in North Platte on February 13, 1923. Jack was an outstanding scholar and athletic in school according to teachers and coaches.

In March 1941, Jack joined the Navy. Jack quit school early in the spring of 1941, and departed immediately to serve his country. Even though he didn’t finish high school, Jack was ranked high in academic achievements. And because Jack had already received many scholarships, was an outstanding academic student, and was college bound, the North Platte High School granted Jack Langford his high school diploma.

On December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Jack was stationed on the battleship SS California.

The ship got hit hard. Two torpedo’s and a bomb caused enough damage that it took three days for the ship to sink. There were many casualties.

Back home, here in North Platte, the December 8th newspapers ran a list of local boys that were stationed in Pearl at the time. Jack Langford was on that list and all that his parents could do was wait for word.

A few days later they received a card stating their son was safe and had survived the attack. Then on December 16, 1941, the Langfords’ received a telegram that their son was lost at sea while “engaging the enemy.” The telegram went on to say that if his body could be recovered it would be taken to Pearl Harbor and temporarily buried until the end of the war.

Unbeknownst to the Langfords, Jack was still alive. But they wouldn’t find out until December 29, 1941.

On December 29th, Harold Langford was at work in the North Platte Post Office, he was the local postmaster, and, recognized some handwriting on an envelope and knew it was from his son, Jack.

He opened it immediately.

The letter was written on December 14, 1941 and it said:

“Dear Dad: I am still getting alone fine. Am having a time of my life. Don’t worry about me. I’ll make out all-right. Tell all the folks hello and that I’m thinking of them. My address is F Division, USS_________ (blacked out by the censors). Well, that’s all I can say for now, but I will write again very soon.”

The Langfords believed their son was alive. The letter was postmarked at 9:30 a.m. on the morning of the 15th. They knew several other families in North Platte had been told their sons were lost and then they found out they were still alive. So they hung on to their hope it was a mistake about Jack also.

On January 1, 1942 the Langfords finally got word that the Navy had made a mistake and Jack was alive.

Jack would go on the serve in the Navy until his retirement. He passed away on October 29, 2000 in Kearney, Nebraska.

The North Platte Public Library salutes all current and former service men and women. From the bottom of your heart, we thank you for your sacrifice and service.

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