These are the five 41-cent postage stamps showing West Coast lighthouses. The stamps feature, from left, Diamond Head Light, Five Finger Islands Light in Alaska, Grays Harbor Light in Washington, Umpqua River Light in Oregon and St. George Reef Light in California. (AP Photo/USPS) - AP

Stamps highlight West Coast lighhouses

WASHINGTON — George Larsen jumped out of bed and pulled on his jeans, thinking an earthquake was shaking Hawaii's Diamond Head lighthouse, where he worked as a Coast Guard radioman.

But it wasn't nature: War arrived that Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, as Japanese bombers swept in to attack the nearby Pearl Harbor Navy base.

Larsen ran outside to see what was happening as three torpedo planes roared overhead. He could see smoke rising from the Naval station and plumes of seawater blasted into the air.

To many people lighthouses conjure up a lonely life in an out-of-the-way location, but that wasn't the case at Diamond Head, one of five Pacific lighthouses being commemorated on new postage stamps and postal cards.

The 41-cent stamps and 26-cent cards feature Diamond Head Light, Five Finger Islands Light in Alaska, Grays Harbor Light in Washington, Umpqua River Light in Oregon and St. George Reef Light in California.

The stamps and cards go on sale nationwide Thursday. Other lighthouses, including those on the East Coast and Great Lakes, have been featured on past sets of stamps.

Dan E. Peckham served at both Umpqua and Five Finger lights as a Coast Guard chief petty officer.

"Five Finger Light is so isolated, located all alone on about an acre of rock," said Peckham, now of Oregon. "I missed my family a lot. The crew and I stayed busy scraping and painting and doing everything we could to care for and preserve the Five Finger Light. It was the least we could do — its tour of duty is a lot longer than ours."

He recalled a cruise ship going aground near Five Finger in 1982, an isolated area where a crew of four manned the light for a year.

"We made about 40 gallons of coffee," he recalled, and collected every blanket and first-aid kit that could be found in case the crew and passengers had to be brought to the lighthouse.

As it turned out, there were enough ships in the area to remove the people, though some had to be taken for medical care by helicopter.

He's delighted with the idea of having the lights on postage stamps.

"I think it's kind of cool, to recognize the old sentinels built back in the sailing days," Peckham, of North Bend, said in a telephone interview.

Larsen, of Novato, Calif., says working as a radioman at a lighthouse was a "gravy job," at least until the bombs started falling.

Even then he wasn't sure what was happening. He thought it might be Army war games, even though it was Sunday.

He could see the red ball insignia on the planes and knew it wasn't U.S. Navy, but thought it might be the Army in disguise. But when local radio stopped regular programming the lighthouse crew realized what was going on.

A fishing boat called in saying an Army pilot must have gone crazy and was attacking them and they were sinking. Larsen passed the message along, but there was little that could be done to help.

A passenger ship that had left the night before radioed in to ask what was going on and Larsen replied that they were under attack by unknown planes — the Coast Guardsmen were afraid to say Japanese planes, because of diplomatic issues, he said in a telephone interview.

He then told the ship that it had better stop sending radio messages, in case submarines were listening in.

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