I began interviewing World War II veterans in 2016 and since then I have interviewed over eighty men and women who have served in World War II. However, the stories of those who were present for the very start of the war are the ones who stick out to me the most. On December 7, 1941 American military bases in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii were attacked by Japanese air and naval forces. That was seventy-eight years ago and the number of men and women who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor is believed to be less than two thousand.
One of those survivors who sticks out to me was Stuart Hedley. Stu Hedley is one of the few Pearl Harbor survivors living in San Diego, California. In a phone interview with him he shared with me the story of his survival experience aboard the USS West Virginia on December 7, 1941. He and Kathleen Hansen were fascinated that at the time a young fifteen-year-old was interested in World War II and so they mailed me countless framed pictures signed by Pearl Harbor survivors who had made up the San Diego Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
In 2019, I met Telina Cuppari who is originally from San Diego herself. Her lifelong family friend Robin Franck is the daughter of Herbert Franck, a Pearl Harbor survivor who had since passed on. Robin who is a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors was keen on sharing her father’s story. Herbert Franck had been born on September 12, 1919. He joined the navy in 1937 after graduating from high school and was sent to Pearl Harbor. He was stationed on Ford Island when the Japanese began to attack on December 7, 1941. Herbert passed away on November 2, 2013.
After talking with Robin, she pointed out that her father had been in the same chapter of Pearl Harbor survivors as Stu Hedley. Jokingly she asked if his name had been on one of the signed pictures of Pearl Harbor survivors. It turns out that in the corner of one of the many photos was the signature of Herbert Franck. After a sense of disbelief, it amazed us that Telina Cuppari and a Pearl Harbor survivor from San Diego was able to connect a Kenilworth resident to a personal connection to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
As we near the 78th anniversary few Pearl Harbor survivors remain living today. The attack on Pearl Harbor led America into World War II. Over 2,403 men and women were killed during the Pearl Harbor attack. As time passes, we must remember those who were killed on and present for that tragic day.