JO Young

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This personal story, written by J.O. Young was originally published Dec. 9, 2008, in the Idaho Press-Tribune.

It is mind-boggling trying to contemplate where the 67 years have gone since the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec., 7, 1941.

I was not in Pearl when the Japanese bombed it. I was 2,400 miles west of Honolulu on the Island of Wake where Morrison-Knudsen Co. was building a military base.

We were across the international dateline, so it was Monday morning, Dec. 8, 1941, when the Japanese, with a flight of 37 bombers, bombed Wake Island.

In that first bombing raid they struck the cook shack. Fortunately, it was about 20 minutes until noon or the day crew of construction workers would have suffered many casualties. We were under attack for 16 days, being bombed 14 of those 16 days, with naval attacks on the other two.

On the island were about 1,150 civilian employees and approximately 375 Marines, with a smattering of Army and Navy men. A number of we civilians fought with the Marines the 16 days we held out. On the Dec. 23, 1941, the Japanese overran and captured the island.

Looking across the lagoon on the morning of capture, the American flag still flew, but shortly thereafter, it was lowered and the white flag of surrender was hoisted. Then, not long after that, it was lowered and the Japanese Rising Sun Flag was raised.

We learned suddenly that when Old Glory did not fly, there was no freedom and we were subjected to the whims and brutality of our Japanese captors. We were POWs of World War II for almost four years.

Thirty-six years after the war, the Congress of the United States recognized the civilians that fought with the Marines as guerilla fighters and awarded them the rank of E4 Navy.

I fly the Stars and Stripes almost daily as the sign of freedom that we always enjoy. May it always wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave!

— J.O. Young, Nampa

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