Alvin Krueger was asleep in his barrack on Dec. 7, 1941 when he awoke to the sound of airplanes.
“It was around 7 a.m.,” the World War II veteran said. “I heard planes diving down on the building. The Navy practiced dive bombs, so that was nothing new. Then, I saw Japanese planes.”
Krueger was two blocks away from the USS Arizona when the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese airplanes and bombs.
He crawled under a truck.
“I could see the bullets bouncing in front of the truck,” said Krueger, who turned 91 on Nov. 15 and has been a member at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King for a little more than two years.
The Oconto Falls native received a standing ovation during the Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor Day ceremony at the veterans home.
The ceremony marked the 70th anniversary of the attack and included musical selections from Waupaca High School’s Wind Ensemble and guest speakers.
Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was the keynote speaker. Prior to the ceremony, she spent close to 30 minutes talking to Krueger about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941.
During the ceremony, Kleefisch turned and directed her initial remarks to the high school students as she said, “When I was just about your age, I went on what I thought of as the trip of a lifetime.”
That trip was to Hawaii, where Kleefisch anticipated plenty of time to spend at the beach.
However, one side trip was planned – to the USS Arizona.
“I’ve always been a history buff,” she said, “so I read all the plaques and listened to the tour guide.”
Kleefisch said it was the trip of a lifetime – not because of the luaus but because of the lesson in gratitude.
“Thank you, Alvin, very much for your service,” she said.
Krueger served in the U.S. Army Air Corps a total of four years, 10 months and 9 days.
At the time he enlisted – in 1940 – the United States was just building up in Hawaii, he said.
“At that time, it was like going to the moon,” Krueger said of the trip to Hawaii.
A friend he went overseas with was wounded so badly on Dec. 7, 1941 that he spent a year in the hospital. “I don’t know if he ever walked again,” Krueger said.
After Krueger was discharged, he married and had a career as a foreman.
Kleefisch said, “To us, his career was as a serviceman.”
She said people have much to learn from those who can still tell their stories.
“Once in awhile, I think about it,” Krueger said of Pearl Harbor. “I remember it. I can picture the Arizona burning yet. That’s a shame.”
Raymond C. Kaquatosh also remembers that day.
He joined the U.S. Marines in 1942, volunteering to enlist at the age of 17.
The 87 year old has been a member of the veterans home since last June and recalled his own visit to Pearl Harbor in 1944.
“I received a wound on my right ankle and was flown to Pearl Harbor where I witnessed the devastation that had been inflicted.”
Kaquatosh said that each Dec. 7, “I pay tribute in my American Indian fashion and remember the victims of Pearl Harbor. I visited the site (in 1944). Even though I was on crutches, I was able to view the Arizona. It’s a remembrance of the sacrifices we veterans endured in World War II.”