#127 – Dick Bernard: Pearl Harbor. Once, we were young

Comments at the end of this post. Here is the Minneapolis Star Tribune story of the event. My uncle is mentioned in the story. I happened to be next to the reporter who was covering the story, and luckily had an extra copy of the 9 pages of archival materials I had just given Mr. Wentzlaff.
Sunday, December 7, 1941, my Dad’s brother, my uncle Frank, went down with the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Most every Pearl Harbor Day I witness Frank’s death – the explosion of the Arizona is an iconic photograph. Flags can be and often are flown at half-staff this day.
Today, I took the time to go over to the Veteran’s Service Building to meet one of the Arizona survivors. Ed Wentzlaff of Milaca is now 92, two years younger than my Uncle Frank would have been, and a most engaging man. We visited very briefly – he was in demand – and I gave him a packet of information about my Uncle and his time on the Arizona, including the 1938 Thanksgiving dinner menu for the Arizona, a dinner Ed may have had. He recognized the name of the ship commander, Rear Admiral I. C. Kidd who, he said, saved his life. Kidd perished that day, later awarded the Medal of Honor. Ed was taken to safety in Admiral Kidd’s boat.

Ed Wentzlaff, USS Arizona survivor, December 7, 2009

Ed Wentzlaff, USS Arizona survivor, December 7, 2009

Uncle Frank was 26 years old on that fateful December day in 1941. He had been on the Arizona since January of 1935, and in a letter to my Dad, dated November 7, 1941, he talked about a “little girl up in Washington”, probably Bremerton, who he apparently planned to marry.
Ed was to be discharged from the Navy the next day….
The Navy had been good for Frank. It was a job in the 1930s, and not a bad job at that. Three squares, a bunk, and opportunities to see exotic places, like Honolulu. I doubt that being killed in the line of duty was much on his mind on December 6 or before.
Frank Bernard, at right, and his cousin and buddy, Marvin Campbell, July 14, 1935.  Soon thereafter Frank entered the U.S. Navy.

Frank Bernard, at right, and his cousin and buddy, Marvin Campbell, July 14, 1935. Soon thereafter Frank entered the U.S. Navy.

Frank and over a thousand others died December 7, and many, including on the USS Arizona, survived.
Marvin Campbell, who idolized his cousin, Frank, was already in the Army December 7, 1941, ending the war as a Colonel, at least for a short time, in charge of a prefecture of Japan. He came home and was a successful businessman and a respected community leader.
Ed has his own story, as do they all, those who died, and those who didn’t. Ed is the third Arizona survivor I’ve been privileged to meet over the years. They each had their stories.
There is no other moral to this story, only to remember and share the story…. You may interpret as you wish.
Florence Hedeen: “…[We] were shopping downtown today [Dec. 7] when we entered a store where the TV showed the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I told the manager that my Uncle Frank went down with the Arizona. He quickly offered to turn off the TV, but I said it’s history and we need to remember it. I never knew Uncle Frank, but I’m quite sure that he, like many others who didn’t face the draft, entered the military for the opportunities it offered, not to fight and die. War never ends because there are no winners, only opponents who want to even the score – now and forever, it seems!”
Mel and Lee Berning: “We seem to forget that day in the mist of time and only bring up the terrible events that ended that terrible war. As a first hand witness to several A-tests I hope that we can put a permanent lid on the use of such devices. I hope that the world will never see those sights again and that some misguided political minded nations do not resort to that force.”