MUS2c Bernard Thomas Hughes,
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MUS2c Bernard Thomas Hughes
Teen-ager Bernard Thomas Hughes’ goal was to play trombone with the Glenn Miller orchestra, the most popular swing band of the 1930s and 1940s.
It wasn’t a wild aspiration.
Mr. Hughes, who graduated from the high school in Athens, Pennsylvania, in 1940, was good enough to play in the state band and the county orchestra. He also qualified for the county chorus.
He worked at an Ingersoll-Rand tool manufacturing plant after graduation, then enlisted in the Navy on Feb. 26, 1941. He was accepted at the U.S. Navy School of Music in Washington, D.C. and on graduation was assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona. Bandmates nicknamed him “Bee.”
He was a musician and petty officer second class when he and all 20 of his bandmates were killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. They were at their battle station in the ammunition hold when they died, close to where a Japanese bomb ignited a black powder magazine and destroyed the ship.
Mr. Hughes was born Oct. 1, 1922 in Athens near the state border with New York. His father, Thomas P., was a machinist and his mother, Gertrude G., a homemaker.
He delivered newspapers for the Evening Times of Sayre, Pennsylvania, and was active in school beyond music. He performed in both the junior and senior plays and the operetta, played football for a year, and belonged to the pep club and safety patrol.
Athens High preceded its Christmas program on Dec. 22, 1941 with a memorial service for Mr. Hughes.
Sources: The Evening Times of Sayre, Pennsylvania; 1940 Athens High yearbook; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania application for World War II compensation; Census; “At ‘Em Arizona,” the ship’s newspaper. Yearbook photograph. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.