Honolulu, HI (WXOW)- More than 2,000 Americans died on December 7th, 1941, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack launched the US into World War Two. Earlier this month 18 Wisconsin survivors of the attack returned to Hawaii to visit the memorials built in their honor. News 19's Amy DuPont and Nick Bjerke traveled with the group and asked the men to explain in their own words what happened the morning of December 7th.
The Japanese attack began at 7:48AM when the first bombs fell on Wheeler Field. Dive bombers hit the hangers and zero fighters strafed American planes on the runway. Amos Peterson was inside a haner. "The only thing that saved me were 2 steal doors."
At 7:55 a dive bomber swooped down on Ford Island and dropped the first bomb on Pearl Harbor. Mark Schaitel remembers the radio alert. "Attack on Pearl Harbor this is no drill. Loud and clear; attack on Pearl Harbor this is no drill".
The attack was sudden and terrifying. The USS Oklahoma took six hits and capsized. The West Virginia, struck by at least 5 torpedoes, sank. The Utah took 3 hits and capsized, while the California was sunk by 2 torpedoes. Firman Balza watch the California sink "I knew there was an awful lot of folks that weren't going to go home to their mothers. There was a lot of kids in there."
The Japanese then struck Hickam Field targeting hangars and planes on the runway. The attack on battleship row continued minutes later. 4 armor-piercing bombs hit the Arizona. Joe Sweeney remembers hearing the explosion and seeing the smoke "I looked over at the Arizona and I saw daylight underneath it. It was completely out of the water."
Within minutes the Arizona lay on the harbor floor. Chuck Davis was assigned to search the harbor for any survivors. "I went over to the Arizona after the battle to retrieve bodies. It was the worst duty I ever had."
By 10 o'clock the Japanese assault was over leaving behind an incredible swath of carnage.
According to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, 200 Wisconsinites were stationed at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day; more than 40 died.