December 5 – WILKES-BARRE – December 7, 1941 has, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “lived in infamy”.

As the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii approaches, we must take the time to remember our heroic deaths and also to pause to thank all veterans of all wars for their service. to our country.

The Pearl Harbor attack killed 2,403 military personnel and injured 1,178 others, and sank or destroyed six US ships. 169 US Navy and Army Air Corps planes were also destroyed.

On the enemy side, the Japanese losses included 29 planes, in addition to five miniature submarines, and 129 attackers were killed and one taken prisoner.

Lucerne County military killed

Luzerne County lost eight men on that tragic day. As compiled several years ago by editor-in-chief Ed Lewis they were:

—Brinley Varchol, 25, of Steel Street, Hanover Township, graduated from Hanover Township High School in 1936 and enlisted in the US Navy on September 3, 1936. Gunner’s Mate Second Class on the USS Arizona, where he was active on the battleship’s athletic teams and was a regular player on the baseball team.

—Albert Joseph Konnick, 25, of Auburn Street, Wilkes-Barre, a graduate of Coughlin High School, enlisted in the US Navy on January 14, 1936. He was a third-class carpenter on the USS Arizona.

—Keith Jeffries, 23, of Sharpe Street, Newport Township. A graduate of Newport Township High School, he enlisted in the US Navy on December 12, 1939. Jeffries was a coxswain on the USS Arizona.

—John Peter Rutkowski, 23, of Hanover Street, Nanticoke, left Nanticoke High School in his first year to work at the General Cigar Company. Enlisted in the US Navy October 16, 1940. He was a Leading Seaman on the USS Arizona.

—John Joseph Petyak, 21, of Anthracite Street, Wilkes-Barre, graduated from GAR High School and enlisted in the US Navy on October 1, 1940. He was a Leading Seaman on the USS Arizona.

—John Edward Burns, 25, of Corlear Street, Wilkes-Barre. He enlisted in the US Navy on October 9, 1940 and served as a First Class Firefighter on the USS Arizona.

—Joseph J. Resuskey, 41, of Jenkins Township, served 20 years in the US Navy. He was chief boatswain’s master.

—Edward Slapikas, 26, from Wanamie, attended schools in Newport Township. He was a leading seaman on the USS Oklahoma. Slapikas’ remains were identified in 2017 and returned home. He was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Wanamie in June 2018.

“We must never forget why they died”

A Times Leader story that was published a few years ago detailed a service to the Daddow-Isaacs Dallas American Legion Post 672.

“As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, ‘This day will live in infamy’ and we will never forget,” said Clarence Michael, an Army veteran who spoke during the service. “I visited Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. We went through the attack on Pearl Harbor, the loss of our battleships and the loss of so many soldiers.”

Michael said a lot of people still wonder why Pearl Harbor happened. He acknowledged that many WWII veterans have left, but said it is important to remember them and their stories.

“We must never forget why they died,” said Michael. “We must celebrate their service to our country – the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Ceremonies like this one at the Dallas American Legion are held to commemorate the 2,403 service members and civilians who were killed – 1,178 others were injured in the attack.

On August 23, 1994, the United States Congress designated December 7 as Pearl Harbor National Day of Remembrance.

And over the years, our World War II veterans – the foundation of “the greatest generation” – disappear before our eyes.

As we mark the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the importance of remembering our veterans of World War II becomes increasingly important.

Jim Spagnola, Director of Veterans Affairs for Luzerne County, once told me he will always remember the conversations he had with WWII veterans – how humble they are, how humble they are, how proud they are to have served, how reluctant they are to be called “heroes”.

These men and women have set the example that must be followed if we are to remain strong. There are so many stories about bravery, courage, and country before oneself that the least we can do is stop and take a break to remember what each has done for us.

Leading Seaman Edward F. Slapikas

In June 2018, Leading Seaman Edward F. Slapikas of Newport Township Wanamie Section was buried.

Almost 80 years after seeing him for the last time, Leona Hotko, who has since passed away, bade farewell to her favorite uncle during his funeral on Saturday morning.

“I’m glad he’s finally home,” said Hotko, then 88, holding the folded American flag from her brother’s coffin. “I feel a sense of peace knowing that he is at rest.”

Slapikas, who was 26 when he was posted to the battleship USS Oklahoma. She was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese planes on December 7, 1941, causing the United States to enter World War II.

His remains were identified through DNA testing and the Wanamie native was returned to his hometown for burial, 76 years after he died for his country in Pearl Harbor.

As the hearse carrying its flag-draped coffin passed through Wanamie and Glen Lyon, residents stood along the road, waving flags and waving signs – “Welcome to Eddie House,” one said. – while the Stars and Stripes proudly hung outside many homes.

US Navy Rear Admiral Mark Fung led a large naval contingent that escorted Slapikas into the church and to his final resting place. There was a 21-gun salute before the flag was removed from its coffin, folded and presented to the family at the edge of the grave.

Mullery said Slapikas made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.

Slapikas’ last message, a Christmas card, arrived two weeks after the family learned of his death.

At the funeral. Frank Slapikas said he was only 3 years old when his uncle died in Pearl Harbor. He said he only knew Slapikas through his father, Frank, and his father’s brothers.

“I remember sitting on our porch and listening to all the brothers tell stories about Uncle Eddie,” Slapikas said that day. “Even though I didn’t know him, I felt like I should be here today for him.”

Vern Treat, of Glen Lyon, also attended the funeral, who said he considered himself a naval historian. He said he bought a hat with the USS Oklahoma on it and presented it to Ms. Hotko. Treat said the Township of Newport has shown pride in Slapikas.

“When people watch Newport Township, sometimes they think it’s a run down and run down town,” Treat said. “I love watching the history of the city and its people, like the sailor Slapikas who gave his life for us. It is a huge honor for him to come home and for his hometown to introduce himself and to show their respect. “

Megatulski’s Pacific Memories

Bob Megatulski was 20 years old and worked hard with his fellow US Navy Seabees on military construction projects thousands of miles from his home in the Philippines.

Two years after serving overseas, the news that thousands of people prayed, fought, and killed finally arrived – Japan would stop fighting, bringing World War II to an end.

It was August 15, 1945, but for Megatulski, the memory remains clear.

“We all ran outside and cheered,” Megatulski, 96, said in a Times Leader article last year. “We shouted ‘It’s over! It’s over!’

The official surrender order was not signed until September 2, 1945 – Megatulski still has a copy among his war records and other memorabilia – but the fighting ended less than a week after US forces dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan. , hitting Nagasaki city on August 9.

Discussing the war last year in an interview in his kitchen on Durkee Street, Megatulski very succinctly summed up his take on President Harry S. Truman’s decision to launch nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“He did what he had to do,” Megatulski said.

Megatulski was 17 when he enlisted in the Navy and 18 when he was sworn in and was soon sent to war. He said that those who went to fight had one thing in common.

“We had the bullets to go over there and shoot,” he said.

While at the Pacific Theater, Megatulski won four bronze stars.

“I was bombed, machine-gunned, shot at, bombed,” Megatulski said.

He was assigned to the 77th Naval Construction Battalion (hence the name “Seabees”, from CBs) in the South Pacific.

Megatulski said that when the Seabees were building an airfield in Manila, Japanese planes flew over the skies, dropping 15 to 20 bombs at a time.

Has he ever been afraid?

“We were strewn with bombs, sometimes for two weeks in a row,” he said. “We knew we were at war. We encountered a lot of action, but luckily we had very few casualties.”

Megatulski also recounted the time they encountered a sniper in a coconut tree.

“We took him down,” he said with a fiery tone still in his voice.

And, he said, there were times he thought he might never go home.

The Japanese banzai squads were constantly attacking.

“They kept coming and going,” he said.

Megatulski knows what war is. He knows what it means to kill or to be killed. He knows guys like him – all of The Greatest Generation – have done what they had to do for their country. Without question or reservation and with the full acceptance that they might never return home.

As Megatulski spoke about his return from war, you could see the emotion on his face and you could hear it in his voice.

Megatulski worked in the hardware business and would later become a member of the Forty Fort city council and later mayor of the city.

Megatulski, like all those who have returned from the war, returned to their hometown, found a job, got married, started a family and got involved in their community.

After defending our freedom, the greatest generation returned to rebuild their country, city by city, state by state. They made America great again long before the phrase became a campaign slogan.

Megatulski received his honorable discharge in April 1946 as Boatswain’s Mate 2.

Megatulski is rightly proud of his service. He knows what he and all the military have done for their country.

“I would never want to go through this again,” he said. “Kids today don’t understand what we’ve been through. I’ve had enough.

“People today tend to take everything for granted. Freedom comes at a price. “

Contact Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.