KING, Wis. (WSAU) -- Saturday was the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War II in the Pacific Theatre. A special ceremony was held at the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home in King to honor 56 Wisconsinites who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Pearl Harbor attack, and to thank the men and women who fought back.
One of the Wisconsin soldiers was Clyde Stevenson, who was one of four Pearl Harbor survivors at the ceremony. Stevenson was a Marine assigned to the USS California, but was not on the ship during the Sunday morning Japanese attack. Stevenson and a group of shipmates were spending a week at a nearby Navy rifle range. He says they were used to hearing airplanes flying overhead, but they quickly figured out the planes were not ours. “We were in the park, and the Japanese planes were about 500 feet overhead with the sun on their wings, and so it didn’t take long to figure out what was going to happen. We were right on the route where they came around to drop their torpedoes against the battleships.”
Stevenson’s unit quickly made their way to an armory, and their group was able to fire over 8,000 rounds of 50 caliber machine guns, taking out four of the enemy airplanes.
Stevenson’s wife was back in Washington state, as one of many “Rosie the Riveter” workers at the Boeing plant making airplanes.
Dignitaries including Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos, National Guard Major General Donald Dunbar, and Governor Scott Walker, who said we need to remember the sacrifices made by our veterans and teach our children about them. “Today, we not only remember the fallen, we thank God for the living. We thank them for their sacrifice, their commitment. We thank them for sharing, and not just at programs like this, but with friends and family and others who are interested, particularly young people.”
The Governor says our citizen soldiers today and our veterans understand the courage and sacrifice needed to keep America safe. “To the four survivors that are with us today, and to all of the other survivors that were in World War II or any of the wars or conflict since then, you understand. You and your families understand first hand where that courage comes from. Today, we renew our thanks.”
Two Wisconsin veterans were Navy ship commanders during the Pearl Harbor Attack. Commander Cassin Young commanded the USS Vestal, and Commander Franklin Van Valkenburgh was the Captain who died aboard the USS Arizona. Young was blown into the water during the attack, but swam back to the ship and was instrumental in getting it grounded in shallow water so it could be brought back to service later in the war. Both men were recognized with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
(The entire Pearl Harbor commemorative program can be heard on our website, here.)