Remembering the Pearl Harbor Attack 70 yrs. ago

Bob Freel and Kenny Mensink remember the impact on their lives when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941 America was shocked when news came over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed! That action was supposed to prevent the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia. It backfired when a day later the United States declared war on Japan.

Some area residents old enough to remember that terrible time in history recall where they were 70 years ago.

Lester Schmitt: I was 10 or 11 and at home when I heard it on the radio. I remember when the president was talking and he declared war. I had two brothers who went into the service during World War II—one in the Army and one in the Navy. Both were stationed in the Pacific. They signed up for the war probably in 1943. My folks went along with it but they didn’t feel happy.

My Navy brother saw some action. The other was with the cleanup brigade. That was when if there was a stray Jap around, they’d wipe him off or clean him off.

In January 1951 I went into the Air Force. (Schmitt also had a brother who went into the Marines so all four branches were represented by his family.)

Bob Freel: I was on the farm where my folks were living, where Percy Ullom farms now, when I heard about it.

Three of us from here, me, Joe Ferrie and another guy from Maple Leaf went to Cresco and we entered the service with about 15 other guys in July 1942. I went in the Army and went to Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. Then to Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Little Rock, Ark. and to Camp Shanks at New York City to go overseas.

We got on an English ship. It wasn’t a very high class ship. After being out a day, we had to go back for repairs. When we left the first time, we were going out with a great big convoy but we lost them when we had to go back.

It took 18 days to go across. We came back on a Pittston Victory Ship and it took five days to come back. I was sick both ways across.

We landed at Scotland and took a train down to Great Malven, England. I helped set up a hospital and we started taking patients.

Kenny Mensink: I was in Waterloo picking corn. Me and my buddy were driving around Waterloo in a ‘36 Ford when we heard it on the radio. My buddy said, “We’ll both be in that” . . . and we were.

I was drafted into the Army the next October. I got a greeting from Uncle Sam and went to Fort Dodge.

They sent me to Wyoming for basic training, then to California, Los Angeles and then to school to learn how to be a mechanic.

I came home for a month and they sent me across. It took nine days and I puked every day all day. We landed in Scotland and took a train to Southampton, England. The train was a little square box car. You either had to stand or sit on the floor. It took forever. I don’t think they went over 10 miles per.

On D-Day, we went to France and stayed there until it was over with. I’ve seen every country over there. Then in October 1945 they sent me home.

Every time we broke down, we had to wait for someone to come fix us up. (Remember he went to school for mechanics but they never utilized him in that way) One time we were in Belgium when we broke down. A guy was going by with one horse and cart. We helped him haul manure all day.

This horse didn’t have lines. The farmer just told him which way to go, but he had to put the lines on for us since we didn’t speak Belgium. It was the best day.

Gene Lewis: I remember it was a Sunday, and I was cruising around Cresco when I heard it on my radio. I was shocked. I was drafted into the Air Force in Jan. 1943 and took basic training at Miami Beach, Fla. I went all over the U.S. for the next year and then was sent to Europe. I was a mechanic and was busy all the time.

Eddie Hughes: It happened on a Sunday morning. Back in those days, we had no T.V. In high school, we weren’t totally aware of what was going on with the war. I was in 10th grade.

A Navy recruiter came to school the year I was a senior (1944). We trained some, and after graduation we went to active duty. The program was called Naval Aviation Ordinance.

I loaded planes with bombs and ammunition and flew on the plane as a gunner.

I accumulated a certain number of points and got discharged in 1946, basically after we put in our time.


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