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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of December 5 - 11, 2001


Idaho veteran remembers Day of Infamy

Roessler: ĎWe should do ití 
in Afghanistan

Express Staff Writer

The terrorist attacks Sept. 11 on the East Coast on prompted many comparisons to the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor in 1941 by Imperial Japanese forces.

An Imperial Japanese Navy photo shows Wheeler Army Air Field on Dec. 7, 1941. It was attacked as part of the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor.

Now, with U.S. armed forces engaged against terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, it is perhaps time for Americans to reflect on their freedoms again this Dec. 7.

Idaho native Ray Roessler was a U.S. Army sergeant stationed at the Schofield Barracks in Honolulu when the Japanese attacked.

Roessler, 80, now lives in Gooding with his wife of 25 years, Cory.

The barracks was the location of the opening scene from the 1953 movie "From Here to Eternity."

In a phone interview from his home, Roessler said he remembers he was trying to get some sleep that Sunday morning when he heard "something like a plane going down about a half mile away at Wheeler Army Air Field."

It didnít take him but a moment to realize the sound was coming from Japanese bombers when he looked out.

"After they dropped their bombs, they strafed everything in sight.

"We were coming out the front door when they strafed the barracks, so we went back inside. They didnít hit anyone."

Roesslerís post was the 24th Division Headquarters Signal Office across an open field from the barracks.

He said that as he made his way across the field, a lone Japanese plane flew over. And while the pilot ignored him, Roessler didnít ignore the pilot. He emptied his .45 caliber automatic pistol shooting at the plane, but he didnít hit it.

"Lord no," he said, "the pistol was like a bean flipper."

In the attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which lasted one hour and 50 minutes, 2,403 people were killed, including 68 civilians. Another 1,178 Americans were wounded.

The day after the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the Congress to declare war on Japan.

"Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941óa date which will live in infamyóthe United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

"Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

"I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire."

Roessler was 20 at the time. He had joined the Army a year earlier on March 13.

"I had the advantage of working at division headquarters, so we all felt something was going to happen," he said. "We could just feel it."

Ironically, he said, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States Kichisaburo Nomura reviewed American troops at Schofield Barracks a short time before the attack.

Roessler said he was "the telephone runner under the ambassadorís viewing stand."

"At the time I thought this was an honor, but Iíve changed my mind since."

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roessler fought in the South Pacific on the islands of Leyte, Luzon, New Guinea and Okinawa.

He was discharged from the Army in 1945, but was called back into active service in May 1951 to fight in Korea. He eventually retired from the Army in 1966 and worked as a well driller in Blaine County until 1988.

He is a past president of the Magic Valley Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Association, and he last visited Pearl Harbor on the 50th anniversary of the attack.

The Association has two chapters in Idaho. The Magic Valley is No. 2 with about 19 surviving members. Boise is Chapter 1, and it has about 34 members, Roessler said.

About Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, he said, "When Bush was first elected, I didnít think much of him. But now I give him credit. Heís right in the way he is pursuing terrorism. Itís right. We should do it."


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.