By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Johans Chavarro, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Detachment Hawaii
PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- An ash-scattering ceremony was held for Pearl Harbor survivor Urban K. Mills on May 19 at the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Born on Feb. 19, 1919 in Arkansas, Mills joined the Navy following high school and went to Recruit Training Command in San Diego, after which he was assigned to the miscellaneous auxiliary USS Argonne (AG 31). Mills went on to achieve the rank or Chief Petty Officer, serving on the gilliam-fast attack transport USS Brule (APA 66), the gearing-class destroyer USS McKean (DD 784) and the fuel oil barge USS Whipstock (YO 49).
Jim Taylor, Pearl Harbor survivor liaison, gave an overview of Mills' life and military service to Sailors, friends and family members at the ceremony.
According to Taylor, on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Mills had just been relieved from watch so he could go to breakfast when he heard and noticed low-flying planes above him.
"He and most of the others figured it was just another training evolution so they didn't get very excited about it," said Taylor. "Then they saw huge columns of smoke coming from a couple battleships. It still didn't immediately dawn on anyone what was going on until they saw one of the planes drop a torpedo toward one of the battleships."
It was then, Taylor said, that the ship's bell began to ring, calling everyone to their battle stations. For Mills, this entailed manning an anti-aircraft gun on the main deck of Argonne.
It was at this time that Mills, and those around him, noticed all of the ammo was in storage.
"He and another shipmate finally broke open the lock on a storage bin and a line was formed to get the ammo to the guns," said Taylor. "The ship did quite well getting the shells into the air and the crew was quite proud of their success."
Following the attack, Mills became responsible for driving one of the ship's boats to rescue Sailors in the burning water.
"His life made a huge change that day," said Taylor. "Amazingly, the Argonne was able to make it through the attack without losing any of its crewmembers."
Later, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mills left Hawaii and headed to the Pacific, serving in the Korean War and later being deployed to Korea, Yokohama and Yokosuka Japan.
He served in the Navy until October 1960, when he was honorably discharged.
"I feel quite certain [Mills] would have said he wasn't a hero, that he was just doing his job, doing what he was trained to do," said Taylor. "I differ with that. I believe everyone who has worn the uniform of our military is, and were, heroes."
For Linda and Matthew John McCulloch, Mills' daughter and grandson, the ash-scattering ceremony at the USS Utah Memorial proved to be the perfect resting place for Mills.
"It's just amazing because it's what he really wanted," said Linda. "He had very fond memories of his time in Hawaii...so it's only right that he should be back here."
"It's really surreal [being here] because all I ever really remember him talking about was how he wanted his ashes spread here and to be with the rest of his shipmates," said Matthew John. "I honestly couldn't have asked for a better service."