Hobart VanDeventer of Streator was eating breakfast on Dec. 7, 1941 when he witnessed a horrifying historic moment. VanDeventer was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, giving him a front row seat to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
VenDeventer was one of three Pearl Harbor survivors honored at the Pearl Harbor Day memorial service hosted by Peru Veterans Memorial Group on Saturday at South Shore Boat Club in Peru.
“We had the honor of having the very first Japanese plane fly over our heads,” VenDeventer told the crowd, adding that his company didn’t realize at first that the aircraft weren’t friendly. “Someone said, ‘Oh boy, the Air Force is having maneuvers today.’”
When they went outside to look, they saw something none of them expected.
“The planes circled around and started firing machine guns,” VanDeventer said. “Then they turned around and we could see the insignia — they were Japanese.”
The next day, the United States officially entered World War II. VanDeventer said he fought in every major battle in the Pacific, receiving a “slight” wound in Okinawa, Japan.
Eugene Dorosz of Countryside Ill. was stationed at Fort Island when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
“We sank four Japanese carriers,” he said. “We were flying patrols looking for their ships. ... That was the end of the Japanese Navy. That was the beginning (of U.S. involvement in the war).”
Senator Gary Dahl spoke at the service Saturday, honoring those who protect the nation.
“As history has proven, there always seems to be another challenge on the horizon,” he said. “We cannot rely on someone else to watch our backs.”
Military mom Tammi Feehan recounted a stirring sight after the ceremony.
“While he (VanDeventer) was talking, a bald eagle flew over and circled around,” she said. “Everybody out there gasped.”
Feehan’s son, Jake Halliday, recently enlisted in the Air Force. “I’m very proud of him,” she said through tears.
Pearl Harbor survivor Leon DeKeiser of Kewanee also attended Saturday’s memorial service, which included a wreath-laying ceremony at the Illinois River and a fly-over by three military aircraft.
Amy Flanery can be reached at (815) 220-6975 or email@example.com.