MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO (KMOX) – Four local survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor share their memories at a solemn ceremony held by the American Legion Post here.
“It was a shock,” said Navy veteran Elmer Luckett, “It was peace time and all of a sudden all hell is breaking loose.”
Luckett says he can still see the Japanese planes flying in to drop their bombs along battleship row.
“The dive bombers came in and didn’t go as low, but the torpedo planes, they skimmed the water.”
Another veteran, Army combat engineer Henry Metzler, was just sitting down to breakfast when the bombs hit.
“I put my tray down and never got back to it,” Metzler said. Running out into the chaos, Metzler grabbed a load of TNT to prepare to blow up key roads and bridges incase of a Japanese invasion.
Many were just stirring that Sunday morning when the Japanese planes came roaring overhead.
Peggy “Pearl” Fisher was married to a Navy man whose ship was out to sea. She was getting ready for church when she looked up and saw swarms of planes heading toward Hickam Air Field.
“They were too high up for us to see the insignia,” she said, “Then on the phone they told us, Pearl Harbor’s being bombed! Pearl Harbor’s being bombed!”
Among the younger survivors of the attack, Walter Schoenke was a 9-year old boy that day. He too was getting ready for church on the military post when his father and mother told him to go out in a field away from the house and lie flat. He laid down and watched the Japanese planes flying over his house toward Pearl Harbor.
“They just kept coming, one wave after another all day,” Schoenke said, “You could see the smoke and you could smell it.”
Historians have debated whether President Roosevelt knew the attack was coming, but allowed it to occur to draw the U.S. into the war already raging in Europe. As evidence, they point to the absence of the U.S. air craft carriers from Pearl Harbor — a sign, some say, that key naval assets were put out to sea for protection.
Pearl Harbor survivor Elmer Luckett believes the White House had no prior knowledge the attack was coming.
“The White House didn’t know. It was just a matter of a lot of complacency,” Luckett said, “My sister ship, the U.S.S. Ward, sank a little sub out there an hour before the attack. They radioed it in. You know what they told them? ‘We need more confirmation.’ They sure as hell got it, an hour later.”
The sadness of Pear Harbor still stings after 70 years for survivor Peggy Fisher. She was moved to tears recalling how her husband was out to sea when the attack occurred, transferred to another ship right away because of the war, and she never saw him again because the Japanese sank his ship some months later.
“We should never forget it, never forget it,” she said wavering with emotion, “It might happen again. Who knows?”
Pearl Harbor Survivor Henry Metzler also agrees that the lessons of Pearl Harbor must be taught fresh to each generation.
“You gotta be prepared,” Metzler said, “Don’t let up. Be on the alert at all times.”