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Day of Infamy

On a sunny Sunday, the world changed when the U.S. was attacked in the South Pacific

December 7, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN, For The Leader-Herald

Grace Eglin shook her head with sadness when she recalled the events of Dec. 7, 1941.

With 67 years having past since the day of "infamy," fewer people are around who remember how they found out about events of the day.

Eglin said her husband was on a ship in the Pacific when they were alerted of the attack on Pearl Harbor by radio.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Richard Nilsen
World War II Navy Veteran Raymond Kaszuba at the Perth Seniors meeting Wednesday looks through WWII
memorabilia he has
collected over the years.

"He said they were passing another ship going into Pearl Harbor," Eglin said. "They tried to radio that ship to let them know, but couldn't get through. That's the last they saw of it."

Many World War II veterans still were in school when the attack took place.

Dan Sala gets together with other veterans for morning coffee and cookies most weekdays at the Senior Citizen Service Center of Gloversville & Fulton County. He said he was friends with Willie Hassenfuss of Amsterdam when they were in high school, and they had made a pact to go into the service together.

"We made a pact," Sala said. "He went into the Navy, but I hung back a little."

Sala said he was dating his friend's sister at the time and learned through her that his friend's ship had been hit directly at Hickham Fields in Hawaii.

"They never found him," Sala said. "His ship must have had a direct hit."

Hassenfuss was the first casualty of Amsterdam in the war, Sala said.

Jack Holmes, also at the center Thursday, said he had been out skiing at Kingsboro School and went across the street to buy some candy that Sunday at Farhart's Grocery. The proprietor was Joe Farhart, from Lebanon, who was a bit new to English. He was obviously excited about the news he had heard over the radio and kept saying "boom, boom," Holmes said.

"What the hell is he 'boom-booming about?' Holmes said he wondered. "I didn't know they were bombing Pearl Harbor."

Jim Armstrong said he was 16 at the time. He later joined the Army Air Corps, but when Pearl Harbor happened he was in the woods.

"I was cutting Christmas trees down," Armstrong said. "I came home and was told about it. But who knew where Pearl Harbor was?"

For many, the attack put Pearl Harbor on the map. When Dave Lawton heard about Pearl Harbor, he was still in high school in Northville.

"We didn't know where it was," Lawton said. "We had to look it up on a map. It was just a dot on the map."

Lawton, now of Gloversville, spoke from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on Third Avenue Wednesday. He said he served in the Pacific in the 32nd Infantry and in the Phillipines. He still has scars from mustard gas drills and suffered from malaria he says could still become active. He said when he first heard about the Pearl Harbor attack, he didn't know what to make of it.

"We thought it was a rumor at first," he said. "Then I got home and it was on the radio."

Lawton said he remembered four of his classmates in high school quit school and joined the Navy.

"Two went down with the Arizona," he said. "It was all you heard on Monday [Dec. 8, 1941] on the radio."

John Adamkowski was meeting with other seniors at the Perth Town Hall Wednesday. He said he was 13 at the time. He is a veteran of both the Korean conflict and WW II.

"I didn't get to Europe until after VE Day," he said.

He said he heard about Pearl Harbor from the radio.

"It was a hell of a thing," he said. "I didn't know what to make of it."

His wife Dorothy said she especially remembered the air raid practices and air raid wardens who used to patrol the streets as a result of the attack. She also remembered kneeling under school desks for air raid drills in school.

Walt Sparks said he heard the news over his crystal radio set in his parlor. He was a student in high school at the time.

"I had two brothers in the service," Sparks said. "One was hit on an aircraft carrier by a kamikazi."

Sparks said when he first heard of the attack, "It didn't really sink in."

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at ga@leaderherald. com.



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