Thursday marked the 76th anniversary of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii that killed over 2,000 people, including 58 Wisconsin service members and one Chippewa Falls native.
But Chippewa Falls veterans didn’t commemorate the day alone. Gov. Scott Walker joined them at a ceremony at the Wisconsin Veterans’ Home at Chippewa Falls Thursday, praising local native Harry W. Kramer, who was killed while aboard the USS California during the attack.
“Harry was a 1938 Chippewa Falls High School graduate,” Walker said. “When I think about it, he had just turned 22, less than a month before the attacks at Pearl Harbor.
“To me, it’s important to know names like that…they weren’t just names, they were real people with real lives.”
Heads around the room began to nod when Gov. Walker mentioned Kramer’s name. A group of Chi-Hi students traveled to Pearl Harbor to visit Kramer’s grave in 2013; Kramer is believed to be the first casualty of World War II from Chippewa County.
It’s important for young people to remember the effects of these attacks, Walker said: “For those young ones just starting out and those yet to be born, we want to make sure they don’t have to make those sacrifices.”
Local veterans also recalled that December day, and how they felt when they first heard the news.
“I was a youngster in the early 40s. I lived in the country … we had no electricity, there was no newspaper communication. Our only periodic source of national and world information was from the box radio hooked up to a six-volt vehicle battery,” said Robert Gadwill, retired Marine Corps Colonel and a member of the Chippewa Veterans Home Recreation Committee. “The Pearl Harbor attack in World War II had a great impact on me.”
Gadwill’s career in the Marine Corps included several years in Vietnam and Okinawa, Japan – something that cemented his respect for the service members who died in Hawaii in 1941, he said.
During the ceremony, Tom Rhatican, Deputy Secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, praised the Chippewa Falls veterans’ home for its quality of service. The home passed an inspection —one that involved more stringent rules for care and service— with flying colors and no deficiencies earlier in the week, Rhatican said.
“We have the best of the best,” he said. “We have 85 vets in there, and families on the waiting list and 210 applications.”
For more on Harry W. Kramer’s story and the Chi-Hi students who honored his sacrifice, visit the Herald’s website at http://bit.ly/2kxUeJU.