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Highlights Archives

70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

The forward magazines of the USS Shaw exploding after a Japanese bomb set the ship aflame as it sat in dock at Pearl Harbor
WHI 36557

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that launched America into World War II. The attack killed 2,390 Americans at Pearl Harbor and wounded nearly 1,200 more. To the people who were alive at the time, December 7, 1941, was a watershed moment like the John F. Kennedy assassination or 9/11 are for younger Americans. Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news.

Many Wisconsin Residents Were There

Wisconsin may be more than 4,000 miles from Honolulu, but many residents of our state were on hand that day. To commemorate the anniversary, we have put online two vivid memoirs by Wisconsin soldiers about the air attack on the U.S.S. Arizona, where nearly 1,200 men died.

Electrician Herbert Buehl of Beloit was on board the Arizona that day. In a 26-page memoir, Buehl describes the operation of the battleship and his experiences on it in the months leading up to the attack. Beginning on page 14, he recounts how he miraculously escaped death on that fateful day.

Buck Buchanan, also of Beloit, was a radio operator onshore nearby. He wrote a long memoir of his World War II service that devotes a chapter to his eyewitness account of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His compelling description of what happened when the Arizona was hit begins on page 39. Buchanan writes quite graphically about the violence of December 7, 1941, so his memoir may not be suitable for young readers.

Buehl and Buchanan were not the only Wisconsin residents at Pearl Harbor that day. Maj. Stewart Yeo of Milwaukee survived, and wrote this letter home from Honolulu a week later. Alan Williams of Marinette was a photographer's mate in the Navy and took these pictures of the attack.

More Interviews with Witnesses and Survivors

The U.S. Navy maintains this page with much more information, including more interviews with witnesses and survivors.

:: Posted December 7, 2011

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