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Walter Schoenke shares memories of Pearl Harbor attack

6:20 PM, Dec 7, 2012   |    comments
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By Tracy Clemons

UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (KSDK) - On December 7, 1941 Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor. The surprise attack killed about 2,400 people and brought the United States into World War II.

For many of the people who were alive on that day who are still around today, the memories will never fade.

"We were living in military housing when the japanese came through," says St. Louisan Walter Schoenke. "And boy we had to run. When my dad saw those planes he said 'take cover, this is an attack.'"

He was only nine.

"It was scary. But as a nine year old living in a military installation, living a military life, all of our conversations revolved around military war and military science. That's all we ever talked about at the dinner table because we knew there was a war raging throughout Europe," he said.

And with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the war came closer to home.

Gert Oneill and Henry Kerr shared their memories of that day when NewsChannel 5 visited with them at the Crown Center in University City.

"I was at my uncle's house and we were sitting in front of the fireplace listening to the radio. And the news came on about the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. My uncle was trying to explain this to me because I didn't know what it was all about. I was trying to understand," Kerr says.

"It just didn't hit you," says Oneill. "Like now you know what's coming, but then you didn't. I didn't have any idea that there could be a war."

She had two cousins that went to the war, and a host of schoolmates.

Schoenke's father sent his family away to live with his parents in Minnesota. His mom was a native of Hawaii who'd never left the island.

"The thing I remember most is my mother crying. When she got off the train and looked out there was 13 white Germans staring at her. And we were four brown Hawaiians. "My mother looked at them and then looked at me and said 'I want to go home.' I said 'Mom you're not going home. It's over. This is it. We're going to have to live with these German people.'"

But some good came out of it. He got to know his grandparents.

"It took four years but they turned out to be very very nice."

We're told Schoenke is one of three people living in Missouri who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor.


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