GM3c Worth Ross Lightfoot
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GM3c Worth Ross Lightfoot
Worth Ross Lightfoot survived despite severe burns for almost two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the destruction of his ship, the U.S.S. Arizona.
All but a few of the 1,177 men killed on the ship died on Dec. 7, 1941. One survived till
Christmas Eve, and another till Dec. 30. But only Mr. Lightfoot, a gunner’s mate and petty officer third class, was still alive in 1942. According to early 1942 Navy records of Arizona casualties, he died Feb. 1, 1942 at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Pearl Harbor.
When the Japanese bombers and fighter planes attacked the Arizona, gunner’s mates Lightfoot and John McCarron raced to join Seaman Jim Foster on one of the 5” anti-aircraft guns on the first deck of the superstrucure behind the No. 2 turret. Foster, alone, had just seen Rear Admiral Issac Kidd and Capt. Franklin Van Valkenburgh sprinting to the bridge. Kidd hit Foster on the shoulder, telling him to man his battle station, but 15 more men were supposed to man the gun. Lightfoot and McCarron made it three out of 16, and managed to help load a shell and pull the trigger, but nothing happened.
Abruptly, Foster, as he later recalled, was knocked unconscious. When he came to, he could see that his legs and feet were all burned to hell, and his nose broken. “We were blown off the gun,” he said. “We went over the gun shield and landed on our hats … I was on the bottom of the admiral’s boat.” The bridge was in flames: “It was like pouring molten metal in there.” Kidd and Van Valkenburgh were nowhere in sight.
With planes still strafing, Foster jumped overboard to get to Ford Island. He survived even though it was months before he could wear shoes. McCarron survived too. But in the end, not Gunner’s Mate Lightfoot.
Mr. Lightfoot was born May 13, 1919 at Fort Worth, Texas. His father, William Lightfoot, was then a salesman and later a Tarrant County law officer. His mother, Mittiebelle Ross Lightfoot, was a homemaker. A grandfather was a Texas Ranger.
The father died of a heart attack in late November 1937.
Young Worth, known as Tommy, graduated from Paschal High School in Fort Worth and attended Allen Military Academy in Bryan, Texas. The 1938 Paschal yearbook said he was a sergeant in Company D of the military school. He enlisted in the Navy on Nov. 15, 1939.
A memorial service paid tribute to Mr. Lightfoot on Feb. 8 at College Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
The youngest of three children, both of his sisters contributed to the war effort. Opal Lightfoot Rose earned her nursing diploma in 1940 and enlisted in the Army. She served for five years, including in Italy and Egypt, and became a captain. Clarabelle Lightfoot Baker worked at a war manufacturing plant in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Sources; the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram; Census; Navy muster roll; Texas death certificate; “Pearl Harbor from Infamy to Greatness” by Craig Nelson, Scribner’s, New York: 2016. The U.S. Veterans Administration lists Mr. Lightfoot’s birth year as 1917, but that seems wrong. He was seven months old when the Jan. 2, 1920 Census was conducted. Also, news accounts of his death are consistent with a birth year of 1919. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.