By Scott Lewandowski
It has been 76 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. This event changed the lives of many Americans and was the most devastating event in American history until the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. President Franklin Roosevelt summed up the sneak attack perfectly in his speech to a joint session of Congress the next day, calling it, “A day that will live in infamy.”
Rockford was home to many Pearl Harbor survivors. Although it has been reported that all local Pearl Harbor survivors have passed, at least one survivor still lives in the area. His name is Jim Hanson and he was there on that fateful day.
Jim served in the Navy and witnessed the horror of the attack. Although his memory is fading, he told me that he will never forget the events of that day. I spoke briefly to Jim and he said the one question he is asked often once someone finds out he was at Pearl Harbor is, “Was he scared during the attack?”
“Sure, how could you not be?” he says. “But we did what we needed to do!”
Although he said it was a day he would never forget it was difficult for him to share details. Some veterans don’t want to talk about the things they had gone through in service to our country and I respect that. It was an honor to speak to him.
Other survivors lived in the area, including Dr. Allen Pang. Dr. Pang was a student at the University of Hawaii on the day of the bombing and he enlisted in the U.S. Army the next day after witnessing the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sadly, Dr. Pang passed away Feb. 17 at age 95.
Laverne Lundstrom and Bill Foster were also local survivors of the attack and both men passed away in 2009. As time passes and memories fade, future generations will forget the events of the past and the lessons learned which is why we must keep our history alive.
One way to keep the memory alive is to honor those who were there, and what better way than attending a formal ceremony. Several ceremonies were held in Rockford to remember the Pearl Harbor attack in years past and one still exists. The Roscoe VFW Post 2955 and their Color Guard host a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on Dec. 7 at 11 a.m. at the boat landing of Riverside Park in Roscoe. The ceremony begins with the playing of “Taps” followed by a short service, with a wreath tossing into the Rock River, and concluding with a prayer and rifle volley.
Veterans are a caring group of people dedicated to serving others. Several area veterans organizations host toy drives and holiday parties to bring joy to children that might otherwise not have such an opportunity. There is one holiday program that deserves special mention, the Rockford Chapter VietNow’s annual “Christmas for Vets” program.
This program was started in 2001 by Chaplain Bob Theroux and his wife Sharon. Although Sharon passed away in 2015, Bob continues to make sure that area veterans are not forgotten during the holiday season. Chaplain Theroux and members of VietNow visit area nursing home to meet with the resident veterans and give them gifts. They are always in need of donations to make this program possible. Contact VietNow at 815-395-8484. R.
Thank you, Richard Martin, with United States Submarine Veterans Inc. for putting me in touch with Mr. Hanson.
Veterans Memorial Hall and Museum’s mission is to honor the veterans of Winnebago County. For more information about Veterans Memorial Hall, stop by 211 N. Main St. or visit veteransmemorialhall.com. You can also find us on Facebook: facebook.com/Veterans-Memorial-Hall-and-Museum.