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Veterans recall Pearl Harbor



Published: Wed, September 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Some Pearl Harbor veterans are expecting Americans to respond to Tuesday's attack with anger and patriotism.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Shock and despair came first. Then the anger began to grow.

That's how most Americans reacted to the Japanese attack on the Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941, according to Charles Skibbe of Youngstown.

And that's how Skibbe expects most Americans to react to Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"From my experience, I bet they'll be madder than hell," said Skibbe, the president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Mahoning Valley Chapter 5.

Skibbe was a seaman second class serving on the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor when the attack occurred Dec. 7, 1941. Then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt would later refer to that day as "a day that will live in infamy."

A total of 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 were injured in the Japanese attack. Several local veterans said that Tuesday's attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., brought back memories of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Impact: The people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and those who felt the impact on the ground "probably felt the same way we did," said Wendell Totten of Youngstown. Totten was a 1st-class petty officer on the USS Maryland during the Pearl Harbor attack.

That attack on the Navy base was "just unbelievable," he added.

Array of emotions: Skibbe said that immediately after the Japanese attack, Americans expressed despair and surprise at the number of people who had been killed.

About a month later, that sadness turned into the anger that drove the initial United States war effort, he said.

"They were up in arms about everything," Skibbe said, adding that the attitude of many Americans was, "let's go attack this guy, let's go attack that guy."

Skibbe said he feels Americans will have a similar reaction to Tuesday's violence, rallying against those responsible for the attack.

"Oh boy, you're going to see some action," Skibbe said.

Totten added that several people have already spoken to him about their anger at the terrorists who committed the attack.

"Nobody wants to see two or three of our buildings destroyed," he said. "That was what happened in World War II -- the Japanese bombed us, and people got mad."

Patriotism: Totten said he feels that anger will encourage Americans to unite in the spirit of patriotism during the next few months.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with Americans' patriotism; it just needs something to bring it out," he said. "It'll bring Americans together, sure."

Earl Husman of Newton Falls echoed his sentiments: "You can't attack a country like this without people pulling together." Husman served with the Navy's mobile hospital during the Pearl Harbor rampage.

Anger: Skibbe said, however, that not all the anger will be directed at the terrorists.

Husman said he is angry that U.S. security couldn't stop the terrorists from carrying out the attack.

"It's just inconceivable that someone can attack the U.S. in this manner," he said.

Skibbe said he thought that American politicians should have warned the rest of the country about the possibility of the attack.

"Why didn't they say the airplanes were hijacked right away?" he said. "It's asinine ... you get mad at the politicians."

Other veterans shared the views of Husman and Skibbe. Donald Milano of Youngstown, who was a sergeant in the Marines during the Korean War, said, "I think they had wind of it."

"I can't see how anyone can get through," he said.

Yet despite their criticism of political figures and U.S. security, some of the veterans said they felt the government is committed to finding and punishing the terrorists responsible for Tuesday's attack.

"I think they'll pull out all the stops to see who did it," Husman said.

Ray Ornelas of Lowellville, who served in the Marines during the Korean War, added that he thinks the government's response will ensure that "this is the last straw for terrorism."

hill@vindy.com




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