On Dec. 7, 1941, two torpedoes and at least one wave of air raids hit the USS California at Pearl Harbor.
The blasts triggered anti-aircraft ammunition, killing 50 men and propelling the final death count on that ship alone to nearly 100.
Chippewa Falls native Harry Wellington Kramer was aboard that ship.
A 1938 graduate of Chippewa Falls High School, Kramer was believed to be the first casualty of World War II from Chippewa County.
The attack, the deadliest on U.S. history before the 9/11 terrorist attack, killed 2,402 and wounded 1,282 more.
Chi-Hi’s “Flags for the Fallen: Pearl Harbor” student group sponsor ed a memorial ceremony Friday at the school to honor those killed in the attack that brought the U.S. into the world war.
John Kinville, a social studies teacher at Chi-Hi, organized the event along with two other teachers and 19 students. The group will travel to Pearl Harbor in the last week of June 2013.
“I hope they’re moved,” Kinville said of the students. “I hope they come back feeling like they have a stronger connection with their country.”
Friday’s event spotlighted veterans of foreign wars who are members of the Chippewa Falls Patriotic Council.
Veteran Ronald Pinter, who shares his birth year with the Pearl Harbor attack, said events like the one Friday are meaningful to him.
“It’s always a good feeling to have people come and shake your hand,” he said.
Pinter fought in the Vietnam War and in Desert Storm, the war in Iraq in 1991.
He recalled an instance in Vietnam when an incoming mortar killed his best friend who was standing next to him.
Pinter was knocked out by the blast, but wasn’t severely injured.
“I’ll never forget it,” he said, noting that flashbacks serve as constant reminders.
In preparation for the veterans’ visit, several students planted 56 flags on school grounds Friday morning to honor the men from Wisconsin who fell victim to the attacks.
When the students visit Pearl Harbor, they hope to plant 55 of the same flags at the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
The last flag will remain at Chi-Hi in honor of Kramer.
Kinville said the Friday’s event was mandatory for all freshmen students, but nearly 500 other students voluntarily attended the ceremony.
“I was very proud of the students,” Kinville said.
Amanda Hill, social studies teacher and member of the History Travel Group, fought back tears during the three-volley salute.
“We don’t ever take enough time to say ‘thank you’,” she said.
Hill has familial ties to several veterans and is helping Kinville organize the Pearl Harbor trip.
“The best learning experience is to shake hands with a veteran,” she said.
Kinville said his intention with next year’s trip and the research to supplement it is to treat the death count from the attack with humanity.
“See (Harry Wellington Kramer) as somebody who could have been you,” he said.
Students made ribbons as part of a fundraising effort for their trip. They garnered nearly $400 Friday at a suggested donation of $1 per ribbon.
Kinville said he would raffle off some of his Pearl Harbor collectables if it meant raising money for students to go on this trip.