Grand Forks veterans remember Pearl Harbor on 75th anniversary
Ninety minutes, 2,403 killed, 1,178 wounded, no American life unaffected. Wednesday marks the 75th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Navy on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack sparked the United States' entrance into WWII a...
Ninety minutes, 2,403 killed, 1,178 wounded, no American life unaffected.
Wednesday marks the 75th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Navy on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack sparked the United States' entrance into WWII and was dubbed "a date which will live in infamy" by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Sixteen million Americans served in the war. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that in 2016, 620,000 are still living-less than 4 percent. But those surviving veterans still remember clearly where they were when they received word of the Pearl Harbor attack and how it affected them.
Grand Forks resident Rudy Kuchar joined the Army in the mid nineteen-forties and served until 1946. But he doesn't remember that he paid very much mind to the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was visiting a cousin when he heard news of the event on the radio.
"At that age-I was 20 years old or so-I didn't pay much attention to what was going on," he said. Kuchar speculated that had he lived in a larger city such as New York, the news of the Pearl Harbor attack might have affected him more.
Jack Bachmeier's experience couldn't have been more different. He was stationed in Australia as an Army sergeant preparing to leave for the Philippines when he received the Pearl Harbor news from his company commander.
"My hair stood straight up," Bachmeier, now in his 90s, said of his reaction when he heard. He recalls the deafening sound of enemy fighter planes and remembers rumors circulating that the Japanese might attack U.S. troops stationed in major cities on the West Coast, but nothing seemed certain.
"We were scared about that," Bachmeier said. "They showed a lot of guts. ... The thing was that they didn't know what the Japanese were going to do."
His company left quickly for the Philippines. Bachmeier said it took a month to reach the islands from Australia because the ship he traveled on had to double back on its route to avoid enemy submarines.
Any correspondence with his family took a month to reach him or travel back home. He said he prayed constantly during his service.
"Every day," he said. "One rosary for sure."
Despite the time it took to reach the Philippines, the Pearl Harbor attack ignited a sense of urgency, Bachmeier explained. "When something like that happens ... you got strong feelings to get something done to change the way things are going."