From article by Jennifer Kuszynski
Sweeny – who was 19 years old when he was stationed in Hawaii on December 7th, 1941 – is one of the only three living Pearl Harbor survivors in the county, said Jim Riesenburg, Sheboygan County veteran service officer. On previous anniversaries of the Pearl Harbor attack the Plymouth resident has paid tribute to the more than 2,400 people who lost their lives during the attack by placing a wreath in the Sheboygan River off the Eight Street Bridge and a bouquet of flowers in the Mullet River near the American Legion Post in Plymouth. "The celebration or memorial of Pearl Harbor is in honor of those who gave up their lives at Pearl Harbor," said Sweeny, 84. "It's important that we keep their memories alive. As far as the survivors - and I'm one – we're not heroes, we're just lucky they missed us." Sweeny was a private first class in the U.S. Army Air Corps stationed at Wheeler Field, just northwest of Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese struck. He watched with disbelief as the first bomb dropped on the U.S. forces in the attack that brought the United States into World War II. "I was out standing in the street, smoking a cigarette… I saw the torpedo planes flying very low along a mountain area that was near Kolekole Pass… and I heard them clearing their guns… but I didn't realize they were Japanese airplanes." Sweeny said. "I heard this aircraft and I turned around and there were 16 to 18 dive bombers there," Sweeny said. "One of them peeled off and when he let the bomb go and he pulled up, I saw the big red circles on the wings. I knew exactly what it was." As far as Sweeny was concerned, the war started at 7:37 a.m. Hawaii time when that first bomb landed in base engineering – he remembers the time because he glanced at his watch when the bomb hit. "We were caught by surprise," Sweeny said. "What we tried to do was keep from getting killed by hiding behind a tree, in a ditch, in a building… wherever you figured you had a better chance of surviving. We had no guns, we had no ammunition, we had nothing to protect ourselves," Sweeny said.
"The second bomb hit near the corner of our barracks and that's where our casualties came from in our squadron." His squadron had many wounded but luckily didn't lose anyone. "There was just total panic and anarchy, you just can't imagine." Talking about his experience at Pearl Harbor is important to Sweeny, as that dialogue ensures that others remember vital pieces of our county's history.