Harold Wyatt Hope USMC USS Arizona

PVT Harold Wyatt Hope

Harold Wyatt Hope, born June 10, 1922 in Eliasville, Texas 80 miles west of Fort Worth, “was in love with life and everything that happened was hilarious,” recalled his high school friend Dave Goldsmith 45 years later. 

“If things didn’t happen, he would stir things up so that something would happen. He was a very intelligent boy but made poor grades because he was too busy having fun. While almost all of the boys went bare headed, he always wore a hat cocked at an outlandish angle. So many amusing things happened when he was around that he was given the name Hopeless.”

Hopeless and Dave, who was a year older, became friends after Goldsmith persuaded his parents to let him move from their small town in Idaho to Borger, Texas, a town of about 10,000 north-northeast of Amarillo and one with a big benefit — the high school was large enough to field a football team.

Dave lived with his uncle, a dairyman, next door to the Hope family. Harold’s father, Arthur, was a foreman at the adjacent oil field and his mother, Dora Harrison Hope, was a homemaker.

The boys became friends and even decided to live together in an old garage behind the Hope family house. “My uncle had a pile of junk lumber from some modifications in the milk processing unit,” Goldsmith wrote years later. “We used that to build walls inside the shell of the building, put in a floor, built bunk beds, installed a shower, and even ran electrical wiring for our lighting system. The only thing we lacked was an inside toilet. We lived in that apartment all that school year. When I left that spring after graduation, Hopeless moved back in his folks’ house.”

When friends visited that summer of 1938, Hopeless moved back to the apartment. One night the family and their guests went to town for dinner. He wore a nearly new suit.

Early in the morning, Hopeless needed to use the bathroom. “He didn’t want to bother his family or the guests so he went to the outhouse located next to the oil field office,” Dave wrote. “Now Hopeless loved to smoke although he didn’t smoke around his folks. When he flopped down on the toilet seat, he pulled out a cigarette and lit it with a match. Then he threw the match down the hole. The day before, the clerk in the oil field office had seen some black widow spiders in the toilet. He had poured a quart of gasoline down the hole to kill the spiders.”

Readers can imagine what happened next. “Hopeless was blown out through the locked door of the outhouse. His suit pants were blown to shreds and he was burned rather severely in his sensitive parts. He wrote me a letter to tell all about what had happened,” Goldsmith recalled.

Another wonderful anecdote Mr. Goldsmith described involved the band at Phillips High School in Borger, where Hopeless played saxophone.

“He was rather sweet on the young lady who was the majorette,” Mr. Goldsmith wrote. “One fall day the band was practicing for a half-time performance at the next football game. The band director was called away and left the majorette in charge of the practice. Marching directions were given by signals with a whistle and movements of the baton. Hopeless had a whistle in his possession and used it to evil purposes. He would blow his whistle at inappropriate times, and band members were marching off in all directions. The majorette watched in frustration and finally located the source of the problem. The next time he came marching by, she hit him over the head and broke her baton. At least order had been restored.”

Harold graduated in 1939 and enrolled at Texas Tech College (now University) to study aviation welding. He quit in June 1941 to become a Marine. He was a private on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

A memorial service in his memory was held at the First Methodist Church in Borger. Chapter 39 of the American War Dads was organized in his memory in 1945.

Sources: Phillips High friend Dave Goldsmith, who died in 2006, wrote about Mr. Hop for the Phillips High Alumni Association. Other sources include the Amarillo (Texas) Daily News; the Borger (Texas) Daily Herald; Pampa (Texas) Daily News; Census; Marine muster roll; Texas Tech University yearbook; Texas birth certificate. This profile was researched and written by Bobbie Jo Buel on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.