Remembering Pearl Harbor

By: Justin Ware
By: Justin Ware

In the pre-dawn hours of December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese planes, ships and soldiers made their way toward Pearl Harbor for that infamous attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed there.

One of those ships was a submarine first noticed by the U.S.S. Ward. The ward fired on the sub, sending it to the ocean floor.

Those would be the first shots fired by the United States in World War II, and central Wisconsin resident Will Lehner was there to see those shots fired.

"We were at the entrance of Pearl," said Lehner, "So, we could see Pearl Harbor and we saw it when the planes came and started dropping the bombs."

Sunday, Lehner was at the Cedar Creek Mall recalling his experience from that day in front of a crowd spanning several generations. Lehner stayed on the destroyer until it was hit and he was injured on December 7, 1944, exactly three years after Pearl Harbor.

Since then, he's gone through a recovery period. First for his physical wounds, and then for the emotional scars. The first part of that healing process came when in 2000, Lehner was aboard a submarine that dropped 1,200 feet to the ocean floor to photograph the sub his ship had sunk 59 years earlier.

"That was the closing for me, when I got the chance to go in that sub and lay down there and take pictures."

That feeling of closure was complete when two years later Lehner met face to face with the pilots who had dropped the bombs during the attack, men he had hated long after the fighting had stopped.

"They're sorry now that it happened," said Lehner, "but they were in the service same as I was, and that was the job that they had to do."

That new friendship was solidified when Lehner, along with other American and Japanese men who fought, signed a banner forgiving the horrors of the war between them.

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