Didn't see it mentioned yet today, but I wanted to pay a tribute to the lives lost and those saved by our armed forces on this day 64 years ago, and everyday between by this great country. God Bless America.
St. Louis Post Dispatch
It was exactly 64 years ago today, on Dec. 7, 1941, that our country's history was changed forever.
Similar to today's generation, in which every person remembers exactly where they were on the fateful morning that the World Trade Center's Twin Towers fell, hardly a person over the age of 70 can forget the first time they heard news of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
The first wave of the attack occurred at approximately 7:55 a.m. (almost noon in St. Louis), destroying most of the Pacific Naval Fleet and plunging the United States headfirst into World War II.
Because it was before the age of television, many of heard about the shocking events of that day via radio. It remains a moment that will forever be etched in their minds, especially for those that were forced into the horrors of war because of it.
Joseph Pinero of Madison was actually an eyewitness to the attacks, and vividly remembers watching the day unfold. At the time, he was only 13 years old, living in the nearby town of Aiea, Hawaii.
"Even all these years later, it's still something I will never forget," he said. "I was there. I watched it happen."
When Pinero talks about that early morning off the coast of Pearl Harbor, he starts with the memory of a fishing trip. With the sun starting to rise on Dec. 7, Pinero was wrapping up a long night of fishing on an island just north of the United States naval base. He was walking back home with his older brother and a friend when the trio started hearing planes flying overhead.
They stopped into a local restaurant and asked a waiter to turn on a radio.
"They said (Pearl Harbor) was being attacked and that planes were dropping bombs," Pinero said. "From where we were, we were able to hear the explosions and saw the whole attack."
Pinero said they watched the Japanese sneak attack, during which an estimated 2,350 Americans were killed and 1,347 were wounded, through a small window inside the restaurant. He could do nothing but watch, as a large stretch of ocean separated his village from Pearl Harbor.
The following year, Pinero lied about his age and joined the civil service, doing maintenance on naval airplanes. Later that year, he joined the Hawaii Territorial Guard and then served in the U.S. Army, serving in Italy and Germany. He served his country in World War II and in the Korean War, eventually retiring after 41 years in the military.
"Seeing something like Pearl Harbor, it gives you a certain perspective," he added. "We all wanted to serve our country."
Pinero was stationed for many years at a military installation in Granite City and eventually settled in Madison. He remains active with a number of military organizations.
He still keeps plenty of mementos from his childhood in Hawaii. He has old newspaper stories about the attack, maps of where he lived, and a long list of medals from his time in the military.
He even managed to find an official G.I. Joe doll with the story of the Hawaii Territorial Guard, a highly decorated unit that played a critical role in helping the United States turn the tide of the war.
Bob White of Edwardsville was a high school junior at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. On that Sunday morning, he was enjoying himself at a movie inside the now historic Wildey Theatre on Edwardsville's Main Street. Suddenly, the film was stopped and one of the theatre's workers came out in front of the audience to inform them of the stunning news.
"This guy came out and told us that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed," he recalled. "I was just a 17-year-old kid and I had no idea where Pearl Harbor was."
It wasn't until the next day that things started to fully come into perspective for White. Teachers brought a radio into his classroom to listen to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech to Congress.
"It was about three minutes into the speech until we fully knew what the devil was going on," White said.
Remembered forever for his reference to "a date which will live in infamy," the president requested that Congress declare war on Japan. At that point, the Japanese had also attacked Malaya, Hong Kong, Guam, the Philippine Islands, Wake Island and Midway Island.
Throughout the next year, White watched as many of his classmates were taken off to war without finishing their education. He was lucky enough to graduate before being drafted into the Navy and stationed in Europe until the war was over.
To this day, White still recalls the horrifying scenes of the Battle of Normandy, also known as D-Day, as planes, boats and soldiers stormed the beaches.
"It's something you can't imagine and something you can never forget," he said.
Troy's Bill Long was a youngster living in St. Louis at the time of the attacks. On that day, he was lying on the floor of his living room, reading the funny papers when the news came over the radio.
Though he was not yet 17, Long had wanted to join the Navy since he was a very young child. While many other boys lied about their age to get a chance to fight, his mother was adamantly against him leaving.
It was close to another year later that he finally got his wish, and ended up spending the next 42 months of his life battling enemy forces on the Pacific front.
For Collinsville's Art Leone, now 84 years old, the events of Pearl Harbor started a chain reaction that kept him involved fighting for the nation for a good portion of his life.
In those days, he was living in New York City. On the morning of the attack, he was standing on a street corner with some of his friends, outside one of their favorite stores, when the news came over the radio.
"Who could believe that they would bomb Pearl Harbor?" he said. "I wanted to enlist the day after, but I was working at a ship yard."
It wasn't until the following July that Leone was able to join the military. Following World War II, he also fought bravely in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Though it has been more than six decades that that "infamous" day, each of the four men still remembers his shock on Dec. 7, 1941.
"To deliberately start a war, and deliberately bomb people when they weren't expecting it, it was just unbelievable," Long said.