Dr. Harley Jolley: Pearl Harbor Survivor, Beloved Professor, Historian

Written by: Patrick Cash

December 7, 1941: On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy carried out a planned surprise attack against the United States naval base located at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Intended to serve as a preventive attack, the Imperial Japanese Navy hoped to prevent the United States Naval Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor from becoming involved in Japanese military actions in Southeast Asia. Using 353 Imperial Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes, the Imperial Japanese Navy carried out the deadly attack in two waves in which they damaged all 8 of the United States battleships docked at Pearl Harbor, 4 of the 8 were sunk by the attack. Along with the battleships, the Japanese also attacked 3 three cruisers, three destroyers, one minelayer, an anti-aircraft training ship, and destroyed important infrastructure located on base. The attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in the loss of 2,403 American lives with another 1,178 wounded.

In the days following, the attack on Pearl Harbor proved to be a world-changing event that pushed many of the world’s most powerful nations into war with one another. On December 18, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress in which he called the attack “a date which will live in infamy,” as he asked and received Congressional approval for a formal deceleration of war against the Japanese Empire. Throughout World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor would continue to appear in pro-war American propaganda.

Dr. Harley Jolley, retired professor of history, is remembered fondly by his students as one of most loving and interesting instructors to grace our campus. Those who have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jolley are also aware of his experiences surviving the attacks at Pearl Harbor that took so many other of his fellow veterans. A veteran of the Army Air Force, Dr. Jolley was one of thousands stationed at Hickam Air Field on the morning of December 7, 1941. When asked about his experiences that day, Dr. Jolley remarks how he was asleep in his bunk when the attack commenced. Hearing the commotion from the dropping of bombs, Dr. Jolley and his bunk mate initially believed it was some sort of practice being carried out by the United States Navy stating, “the damn Navy is at it again.” After realizing what was happening, Dr. Jolley rushed to his post along the perimeter of the airfield and began defending his fellow soldiers.  Today, Dr. Jolley still suffers from a piece of shrapnel picked up from the attack as well as the realization that he was” very fortunate” to avoided a much serious injury.

Following the attacks, Dr. Jolley was stationed in France and Belgium throughout the remainder of the war before returning home and beginning his academic career. Dr. Jolley taught at Mars Hill College, now Mars Hill University, from 1949 until his retirement in 1991. Today, Dr. Jolley’s former students still think highly of him and often ask how their beloved history professor is doing when they return to campus.

Dr. Harley Jolley, his wife Mrs. Betty “Mama” Jolley, and their son Ben Jolley (MHC Class of ’73)



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