Kate Reardon / Herald Writer
Two survivors of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor tell students what it was like
By Kate Reardon
TULALIP — Children asking for autographs swarmed the two distinguished men in the gymnasium of Quil Ceda Elementary.
The men weren’t pro ball players or Hollywood stars. They are survivors of the surprise attacks by the Japanese military on Pearl Harbor, which occurred 60 years ago today.
Herb Dake and Walt Bailey are busy these days talking to school children and other audiences about their experiences in the military during World War II and about being at Pearl Harbor during Japan’s sneak attack.
They spent an hour with more than 75 students last week.
"I was scared to death," Dake said, adding that the attack was very loud with an awful lot of guns going off and bombs coming down. "Even though I was scared to death, I had a job to do and that took away some of the fear."
Dake, who was on the USS Maryland, had just come up on the boat deck when the Japanese planes started flying overhead.
"I looked up and saw big red dots on the planes, and I knew we were in trouble," Dake said.
Fifth-grade teacher Tim Granger said he arranged the visit of Dake and Bailey so children studying the attack over the past few weeks could connect with real faces and history.
"Their ideas of Pearl Harbor come from the movies," Granger said. "I hope they (students) got an appreciation of the human side of it."
Bailey, who was in the Army, said he was pulling weeds from a flower bed outside his barracks the morning of the attacks. He looked toward Pearl Harbor and wondered why live ammunition was being fired.
"I only saw one plane and I used my rifle to shoot at that plane," Bailey said.
Dake said he tries to keep things light when talking to kids about his experiences. One of the favorites he tells is about his introduction into the Navy. He told the kids that he went down to the recruiting office for a physical the day after high school graduation.
"They said ‘Sorry we don’t want you, you have a cavity,’" he said. So with $3 in his pocket, he zipped over to the closest dentist he could find, who told him he could get the tooth pulled for $1 or filled for $3.
"I said ‘pull it,’" Dake said. Then, with cotton in his mouth, he went back to the recruiter. "I said, ‘Will you take me now?’ And the man said, ‘You’re in,’" Dake said.
One student asked Dake how he now felt about the Japanese.
"I never hated the Japanese at all," Dake said. "But I sure hated those planes."
Zach Sylvester, 11, said he had never before met a Pearl Harbor survivor. He said he was honored to meet Dake and Bailey. The event is something that can never be forgotten, he said.
"It’s one of the most important things in our history because so many people were killed and it was such a surprise," Zach said.
Katherine Hillmann, 11, said learning about the attack amazed her.
"It was interesting to hear their point of view," she said. "Just imagine you’re 18 and trying to shoot down a plane. They were really amazing and explained a lot of things. I’m going to tell my dad all about it."
Along with other kids, Katherine and Zach realize the stories they hear now about events long ago are as important as the stories they will tell one day, perhaps in front of school children, about the events of Sept. 11.
"That way people don’t forget what happened."
You can call Herald Writer Kate Reardon at 425-339-3455
or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.