America should remain vigilant, and be good to its allies.
Those are among the lessons local World War II veterans shared on the 76th anniversary of the day America entered the war.
It was 7:55 a.m. in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. Until then, America had remained on the sidelines of the war. Over the next four years, 16 million American soldiers would fight in the war. More than 400,000 would never return.
The last known Douglas County veteran who survived Pearl Harbor, Max Hardy, died in 2015, and the number of World War II veterans who remember that day grows smaller each year.
In San Francisco it was just before 10 a.m. at the time of the attack. Arnold Ebert, now 97, had joined the Army three years earlier, and was stationed there as a platoon sergeant. It was a Sunday, so he and his friends were hanging around in the barracks when the news came.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It was hard for me to believe. It shook up the world.”
He would go on to serve in a machine gun platoon, fighting during the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded twice during the war. The first time, he took shrapnel to the foot. The second time, he was shot in the back and fell into 4 feet of snow. He expected to die.
“I thought maybe I’d come back in a box or something,” he said.
Instead, he woke up some time later in a hospital tent, and was told he would be sent home.
Ebert said he’ll be thinking about the war today, and the more than 400,000 American soldiers who died in it. About eight years ago, he said he visited a military cemetery and looked at the rows and rows of crosses.
“It’s a sad feeling,” he said.
Ebert was 22 years old when he was sent overseas, and he had been married one month to Bernice, a Red Cross nurse. When he returned home, she met him for lunch and said she had quit her job. He had hoped for a little time off, but it wasn’t to be. He went to work in the lumber industry in Salem and then in Roseburg, where they moved in 1950.
The lesson Ebert wants to pass on is the importance of remaining friends with our nation’s allies.
“I don’t think there will ever be another World War,” Ebert said. “That was the greatest war of all time.”
If anybody ever does attempt another attack on America, “they’d better look out,” he said.
Roy Vanderhoff, 98, was at home working on his dairy farm in central Minnesota that Sunday morning when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was planning to go to church with a friend that day.
He had never imagined an attack like that would occur on American soil.
“I have to say it was a surprise,” he said.
He didn’t enter the service until 1942, when he was drafted into the medical corps attached to the 12th Air Force. He flew to Casablanca and from there to Leon, France. He said he was trained as an X-ray technician, but never had to perform any X-rays while he was overseas. His work was more than just medical, as he was part of a service squadron that worked on aircraft. He also was charged with ensuring the airmen had latrine service. He said he was never closer than 15 miles from the fighting.
Vanderhoff was in the service for 3 years, 8 months and 4 days. After leaving the Air Force he did “a little bit of everything,” from working in machine shops to teaching. He moved to Roseburg in 1970, and then to Winston in 1998.
Vanderhoff said the lesson he wants to pass on to future generations is to be ready, so America doesn’t suffer another surprise attack like the one that occurred 76 years ago.
“The main thing is to be on the alert, even when you think there is no danger,” he said.
He drew connections between the Japanese attack and the present tensions with North Korea.
“We need to keep an eye on those guys,” he said. However, he did say he doesn’t think North Korean President Kim Jong-Un is as “sneaky” as the Japanese were. He’s more of a “braggart,” he said.
Clyde Marriott, 95, had been married seven days when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was outside their Sacramento home washing the car when his wife, Vernita, came out to tell him the news.
“We couldn’t understand it at all,” he said.
A year and a half went by before Marriott was sent overseas. At first, the military was drafting only single men. Once the draft board did call up his number, Vernita was pregnant, and he asked them to hold off until a month after the baby was born. They granted his request. Marriott was shipped to England in August, 1943, as part of the 318th Depot Repair Squadron of the 8th Air Force. Airplanes needing more than 4 days of repairs were brought to them.
“Of course, being a Christian I felt Hitler had to be stopped. We had to do something, otherwise our whole country would not be a free country,” he said.
The Germans still had some fight in them, he said, and they were in an air raid while they were on the south coast of England about 60 miles south of London.
He had many friends who were Japanese American. His best friend was moved to a Japanese internment camp, but subsequently went overseas to fight for America. After his friend was injured, he returned to America, and Vernita took him bowling — something he had never done. Some people harassed them, making racist comments, and Vernita told them they should stop, because they were attacking a veteran who’d been injured for their country. After that, they apologized, Clyde said.
Clyde was still overseas when that happened. His wife wrote him every day, but it could take a month or two to receive the letters.
“There were no cell phones in those days,” he said.
After the war, he repaired airplanes as a civilian at McClellan Air Force Base, and then sold home insulation door to door. The couple bought a mom-and-pop country store in Glendale, and later moved to Canyonville.
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” he said.
What he learned from the war was how well the country was able to pull itself together after the Great Depression, coming together to win the war and thriving afterward.
“Our country grew in strength and still is strong,” he said.