Washington residents remember the Japanese attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor and the war that followed. These are their stories.
At first, the Navy was easy living for Carl Dry when he joined in 1940. Stationed in the Hawaiian Islands as an aviation mechanic, he worked mostly half days and spent much of his time enjoying a cabin cruiser he bought and refurbished there.
“I refurbished it on Navy time with Navy paint, calking and other stuff, and I cruised it on Kaneohe Bay,” the 96-year-old veteran recalled on a recent morning at an assisted living facility in Yakima. “It was a nice life for a Navy man.”
But that nice life ended on Dec. 7, 1941, a day President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would “live in infamy.”
Although time has worn his memory, Dry still accurately recalls the day Japanese warplanes took America by surprise.
Dry had just returned to his quarters after a night’s work installing fuel tanks on flying boats used to patrol the Pacific Ocean when he was called back to a hangar at Kaneohe Bay.
“I was getting ready to crawl into bed when the master-at-arms came and rolled us out and said: ‘Get down to the hangar, the Japanese are attacking us,’” Dry remembered. “I got down there in time to see the damage they’d done, but they were gone by the time I got there.”
Hangars were riddled with huge holes, and three squadrons of PBY patrol planes lined up for inspection were reduced to rubble.
“All we had left was just the outlines of PBYs on the ramp, of all those 36 planes, and the only thing that survived it was the steel cylinders of the engines,” Dry said. “They were still OK, but the rest of the planes, the aluminum, all burned.”
Just minutes later and about 20 miles away, the assault culminated with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
In 1993, Mas Seto was reunited with a family keepsake that hadn’t been seen in more than 50 years.
Seto’s family was evacuated to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming in 1942, where roughly 14,000 people of Japanese descent were incarcerated over three years during World War II. With little time to pack and prepare to leave their homes, many Japanese families hastily sold belongings for whatever price they could. Some managed to store items for later, unsure they would ever see them again.
Before leaving Wapato, Seto’s parents left a bronze statue of a fisherman in the care of local farmer and community leader Dan McDonald. Fifty-one years later, McDonald’s son Paul returned the statue after learning that Seto still lived in the area.
“That was the only thing I had gotten back,” said Seto, 72, who was born in the internment camp in 1944. “My parents wouldn’t talk much about the evacuation.”
Japanese evacuees and their children credit Dan McDonald and Esther Boyd, another Wapato neighbor, with protecting the Wapato Buddhist Church for the duration of the war. A handmade gold altar — which had been donated by Seto’s grandfather and shipped over from Japan piece by piece, Seto says — was stored under a stage in the church’s gym for safekeeping.
Two local stores, R & R Short’s Hardware and Logan’s Feed & Seed, helped Japanese families start over when they returned, said Lon Inaba, 61, who was born a decade after his family returned from Heart Mountain.
A warm stillness graced McCoy Cemetery one recent afternoon when Carla George placed flowers atop the grave of highly decorated war hero Louis Cloud.
Cloud was among 241 Yakama tribal members who were swept into World War II when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
At that time, the tribe’s membership numbered only about 3,000 men, women and children, and the Yakamas were not United States citizens.
Even so, tribal members didn’t hesitate to take up arms alongside U.S. soldiers.
“Our people have always been warriors, to protect this land and our people,” said former Tribal Councilman Jerry Meninick, who served on the council with Cloud.