ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Few people are still alive who don’t need the newsreel footage to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the few remaining survivors, the surprise Japanese attack on that December morning is forever seared in their minds.
“Seventy years ago but I can remember it,” says retired Army Colonel, Ed “Bud” Nakasone.
Nakasone was just a boy of 14 on Dec. 7, 1941. The young Japanese-American boy was living with his family on Oahu, just a few miles from the main Army air base.
The sight of Japanese airplanes strafing Wheeler field quickly brought loud explosions and thick black smoke.
“I looked up there and saw the big red meatballs on the side fuselage of the planes and under the wings,” Nakasone said. “I knew right then and there that the war had come to us.”
Ninety-year-old Donald Pepin was on duty as a naval lookout aboard the USS Ward. The restored World War I cruiser was staffed largely with sailors from Minnesota. In the early morning hours leading up to the attack, the Ward spotted and sank a Japanese midget submarine that was cruising the harbor.
Pepin said he and his fellow sailors were unaware of the hell that would soon to follow.
“You can’t imagine how quick you could wake up when they start dropping bombs on you,” Pepin said.
On this 70th anniversary of the historic attack, Pearl Harbor vets are getting fewer in number. Of the 11 remaining in the Minnesota chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivor’s Association, only four of them remain active.
Richard Thill is among them and was a guest speaker at the ceremony.
With tears in his eyes, Thill said, “now it gets to me every time we lose one — it’s bad.”
That reality is what made the 70th anniversary gathering so special — staying true to the promise to “never forget.”
Brave sailors, soldiers and airmen who gave service and sacrifice, while helping change the course of history.
To that, Thill replies with a bit of advice, “just to stay out of war, war is so terrible.”