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Remembering Pearl Harbor today, 75th anniversary of attack

Pleasanton changed as high schoolers went off to war, thousands came here for military services

Pleasanton's new and majestic Veterans Memorial atop the hill at Pioneer Cemetery was dedicated last month in time to be a symbol of remembrance as we observe the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor Wednesday.

Although most in Pleasanton aren't old enough to remember that Dec. 7, 1941 morning when just before 8 a.m. hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, the impact of that attack changed our city forever.

The attack especially sent chills through those in the small senior class at Amador Valley High, then the city's only high school. Seven months later, the senior boys quickly enlisted or were drafted into the armed services. Most of the co-eds went to college or took jobs in the defense industry. When the war ended in 1945, none in the class had been a war casualty and most came back to Pleasanton where their families had weathered the war and the Great Depression before that, and settled down.

Unlike other Amador classes that now number in the 500s and find they have too many widely scattered alumni to meet regularly, the Class of '42 stayed together, often holding reunions at the home of Shirley and Bob Butler on Valley Avenue, directly across from Harvest Park Middle School. With so few left from that class, those reunions have now mostly ended.

"It was always great to see old classmates, especially when you realize it's been 60 years since we graduated," Joe Wolfenberger told the Weekly in an interview in 2002.

Wolfenberger, who died in 2008, recalled: "When we graduated, a lot of us went into the service. When we came back three years later, we wanted to stay home and we were content to stay right here in Pleasanton. After seeing a lot of the Pacific and Europe in the war, this was a pretty good place to be, to get married and to start raising our families."

He served in the Navy, at one of the most eastern islands (and closest to Japan) in the war, where he was responsible for replacing airplanes on carriers to make up for those that had been shot down.

Wolfenberger was one of six classmates who served during World War II who found their future spouses in the Class of '42, marrying classmate Barbara Lanini. Besides the Butlers and Wolfenbergers, Verna and George Garibaldi were the other classmates who married.

Four of the 34 members of the Class of 1942 were shipped off to internment camps the April before graduation. One of the teenagers, Tom Sakata (now deceased), enlisted in the famous all-Japanese-American battalion. That battalion was sent on harrowing missions and suffered many casualties.

Pleasanton was invaded after Pearl Harbor, but not by enemy agents. The government took over farmland just north of Pleasanton (now Dublin) for the site of Camp Parks and Camp Shoemaker. McNeil Construction Company of Southern California won the bid for the job, and they moved 4,000 construction workers to the site for the sped-up project.

That's when the town changed, when they built Camp Parks for Seabees (CB for Construction Battalions) and Camp Shoemaker for the Navy. Almost everyone in town worked out there at one time or another. The military hospital at Camp Shoemaker served 45,960 military patients between October 1943 and January 1946.

Also changing Pleasanton after Pearl Harbor were the 60,000 military personnel that were housed in 60 barracks and 1,000 Quonset huts. This led to a tremendous local housing shortage as wives of sailors came to say farewell before their husbands were deployed or later, to visit husbands recovering in the hospital, awaiting discharge.

Many ended up staying in Pleasanton whose families can now observe the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack without fear.

Comments

13 people like this
Posted by Former Hong Kong Resident
a resident of Southeast Pleasanton
on Dec 7, 2016 at 11:19 am

My father always tells us had US not entered WW2, the chinese would have suffered a lot more and longer. It was a 8 long year, according to history. The Japanese military was cruel and did a lot of damage to many Asian counties. The .chinese people are forever grateful for what the Anerican soldiers did. Thank you, thank you! God bless Americas! Our family legally immigrated to U.S. in 1971, and live this country. I personally avoid buying products made from Japan, because of the terrible invasion of Japan into China, Taiwan,and Hong Kong.

As Chinese born in Hong Kong, my parents often told us the horrors they went through during the war. My father lived in Canton, now Guangzhou, one of the biggest city in Southern China. Canton and Hong Kong were bombed heavily, and almost destroyed. A lot of people died. My father was in his early 20's. As Japanese soldiers would execute civilians whenever they feel like it, my father and his 2 friend escaped to the forest and hid in caves. Always moving. My father almost starved to death. His 2 friends weren't as lucky. He saw his 2 friend died slowly. He ate and drank whatever he could find, and found shelter where ever he felt safe. My father often reminded me if he died, none of the us (the children) would have been borned. I often want to write a book about what he went through.


5 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2016 at 12:18 pm

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

I recall my conversations with an elderly lady who lived through that period in north eastern China and some of the stories are some crazy **** but not uncommon from what I heard from other witnesses. She mentioned that in her town which was occupied by the Japanese starting in 38(I think the war there started in 31 or so), at the check points everyone had to bow to the troops each time they passed through, and people often got severely beaten and once in a while some poor schmuck would get beheaded if the Japanese soldier on guard didn't like the bow.

Between the brutal occupation, the likes of the 731 unit, and the comfort women fiasco, I can see why successive Japanese governments continue to insist that the United States stations its troops on their soil.


Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Dec 7, 2016 at 12:37 pm

@FrequentWalkerMiles :"Between the brutal occupation, the likes of the 731 unit, and the comfort women fiasco, I can see why successive Japanese governments continue to insist that the United States stations its troops on their soil."

I think that you've got your history all wrong in this regard. It was the US which suddenly saw the strategic importance of Japan during the Korean War, when Japan was used as a staging and support base for supporting US combat efforts in Korea. As for Japan's interests, even without the US they are more than capable of handling themselves against any other threat in the Asian theater with the possible exception of the new, emergent China, which may turn out to be a handful for the combined efforts of the US and Japan. The US-Japan Defense agreement is one which is mutually beneficial to both parties.


3 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Dec 7, 2016 at 12:51 pm

@Former Hong Kong :" I personally avoid buying products made from Japan, because of the terrible invasion of Japan into China, Taiwan,and Hong Kong."

The war is over and most people involved in it passed away long ago. The current Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is a 62 year old man, and even he didn't participate in the war because he was born in 1954, about 10 years after the war ended. Any Japanese below the age of about 90 wouldn't have been even old enough to serve in WWII.


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Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2016 at 2:20 pm

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

"As for Japan's interests, even without the US they are more than capable of handling themselves against any other threat in the Asian theater with the possible exception of the new, emergent China, which may turn out to be a handful for the combined efforts of the US and Japan"

You seem to forget the other regional player that loomed over Japan, Japan needed the US as a backer against the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent, Russia today. Not to mention one of the few things the two Koreas agree on is their shared experience as a Japanese colony.

There is consistently an enormous amount of pressure from within Japan to push out the USFJ but their governments have so far resisted that for practical reasons, like survival.


Like this comment
Posted by AR15
a resident of Stoneridge
on Dec 7, 2016 at 6:31 pm

AR15 is a registered user.

I recommend as additional reading the memoirs of the great author/historian William Manchester of his service in the Pacific Theater, "Goodbye Darkness".


1 person likes this
Posted by Pearl Harbor and 9/11
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2016 at 9:35 pm

@sam, you are very insensitive. you haven't been in a war, how can you say such a thing! As all of us in America went through Pearl Harbor and 9/11, We will never forget!

What you are saying is if someone murdered an innocent person 75 years ago, why put do we need to put that murderer in jail now?! Think about the victim's family!

Abe is the son-in law of the master mind behind the brutal killing and Japanese war crimes. Abe went to the Shrine honoring thses war criminals. Abe is not stupid. Japanese government tried to rewrite history. They never admitted they invaded the Asian countries.The Japanese never told their citizens the truth.





2 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Dec 7, 2016 at 10:44 pm

@Pearl Harbor :"Abe is the son-in law of the master mind behind the brutal killing and Japanese war crimes."

Even if what you say above is true, it doesn't matter. Children do not inherit the guilt of their parents, and you're being ridiculous in trying to suggest otherwise.


1 person likes this
Posted by Elderly
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2016 at 9:00 am

Sam,

Young man, you are clueless. I am elderly man, and you don't know what happened when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Former Hong Kong Residence and Peatl Harbor are referring to the Japanese government, not the Japanese people. it took 2 bombings (Nagasaki and Hiroshima) to stop the Mad emperor. The Japanese refuted to apologize about the Pearl Harbor bombing even when Abe was with President Obama this or last week at the Arizona Memorial. The American and Asian countries do not have issues with the Japanese citizens. It's this relentless and unrepentant Japanese government we need to be cauruousmof!


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Ridgeview Commons

on Apr 26, 2017 at 6:38 am

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Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Livermore's Marchand, aka the mayor of Seville, seeks re-election
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