Pearl Harbor survivor draws crowd to book signing

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PLOVER, Wis. (WSAW) -- Saturday is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, marking 78 years since the Japanese surprised the U.S. and attacked its naval station, killing thousands and marking America’s entry into World War II.

Will Lehner signs a book for someone in Plover Saturday (WSAW Photo).

One veteran in plover witnessed history that day—and at 98 years old—is telling his story with a book called “Legacy of a Pearl Harbor Survivor.” Saturday, hundreds of people lined up for his book signing at the VFW post in Plover.

At 17 years old, Will Lehner was aboard the USS Ward, where he fired on and sunk a Japanese submarine approaching Pearl Harbor before the attack. 78 years later, a line wrapped around the block for a copy of his story.

“It was very exciting and nervous. I got a few pictures with him, got a few books signed. With my husband being deployed right now it was nice to be able… it brought me closer to him,” said Cheyenne Stoflet, who attended the signing.

Though he’s treated like a celebrity, Lehner is humble about his experience.

“Thank you everyone for listening to me,” Lehner said.

Lehner was assisted by former Portage County Executive Patty Dreier in writing his book. At 98, he knows that while they say it’s never too late to tell your story… “I was thankful that I have my memory. I’ve met friends of mine who can’t remember last week,” he said.

He wants to make sure his experience is passed down.

“And I’m hoping, when they get old enough, they can say, ‘this is what grandpa did, this is what great grandpa did, this is what great, great grandpa did,” he said.

Americans born in this century will likely only hear about Pearl Harbor in a textbook. Lehner also included some background on what America was like in his youth, describing Christmas during the Depression and receiving his first bicycle.

“It was very exciting and I’m very grateful that I got to experience that moment,” Stoflet said.

So Lehner is leaving them a piece of our past, when he fought for our future.

“I wasn’t a hero. I did my job,” he said.

Each copy of the book is $10, and Lehner is donating all of the profits from his book to the Never Forgotten Honor Flight, which he went on years ago and hopes other veterans can experience.