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Remembering the attack on Pearl Harbor 72 years ago

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Minnesotans who defended Pearl Harbor 72 years ago will be honored at a ceremony Saturday, according to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. The event includes World War II re-enactors and the Fort Snelling National Cemetery Memorial Rifle Squad. Naval reservists from Minnesota sank a Japanese submarine while patrolling near the entrance of Pearl Harbor aboard the U.S.S Ward.

Arvid Carlson,99, of Cloquet arrived aboard the USS Chester the next day, according to the Pine Journal.

“What a big scene of destruction met our eyes,” Carlson recalled. “Smoke, oil on the water, and all kinds of other junk was floating in the bay. The battleship U.S.S. Nevada was grounded in the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The U.S.S. Oklahoma was lying belly up. The U.S.S. Arizona was completely destroyed and sunk."

Carlson had enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1935, and would go on to serve nearly 10 years, mostly with 600 others on the Chester.

Early in February 1942, the Chester made an attack on a Japanese stronghold on Marshal Island. During the attack, the ship took the full jolt of a bomb hit to its quarterdeck, which killed nine men. Carlson said the ship was on its way to join the Battle of the Midway, but it ended before the Chester arrived.

In October 1942, the Chester was hit by a torpedo while fighting with a big group of U.S. Navy ships near the Solomon Islands.

Carlson said the crew was able to control flooding from the hit.

In late 1944, the Chester was part of a fleet that won back the Philippines from the Japanese.

“I never saw so many ships within one area as around the Ulithi Atoll,” Carlson said. “There was a net surrounding the whole area to prevent submarines from Japan from entering in to damage any ships of ours. But a small two-man sub got through somehow and hit one of our oil tankers and blew it up. There was a huge smoke cloud four miles high.”

Carlson was honorably discharged when the war ended in 1945.

WXOW reports that La Crosse resident Joe Sweeney was there. The 93-year-old was stationed on the USS Whitney, docked near the USS Arizona in battleship row. Although it's been seven decades since the attack, Joe says he remembers December 7, 1941 like it was yesterday.

"I remember seeing light under the Arizona. We were wondering what kind of ammunition did these characters use? And, it turns out they hit the front ammunition hole."

In June of 2012, Sweeney and 18 other Wisconsin survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor traveled back to Hawaii on a special Honor Flight.

USA Today reports that survivors were honored by Congress in 1991, on the 50th anniversary of the attack. They had not been previously recognized because defeats were not celebrated. More than 2,400 soldiers, sailors and Marines were killed that day, and almost 1,200 wounded, along with more than 1,000 civilians. Eight battleships were sunk or badly damaged and 165 airplanes destroyed.

Japanese losses numbered 185 airmen and sailors, 29 aircraft, five mini-submarines and a large submarine.

But the primary target of the Japanese, the U.S. Navy's aircraft carriers, were out of the harbor on exercises.

The Imperial Japanese Navy left largely undamaged the vital fuel tank farms and submarine facility at Pearl Harbor.

The carriers and the submarine fleet would eventually take the war back to the Japanese.

More information about the Saturday event is here.

WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

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