Uncle Al's Interview
THE PACTS Sunday, (tocwnter 6,4998 COUNTY Pearl • Continued from Page 1A As the Japanese planes made bombing runs on the U.S. fleet, Zubik and others grabbed what rifles they could — obsolete weapons from World War I — and fought back. "We were shooting at those planes, but we weren't hitting anything," anything," he said. "I think I could have done better with a shotgun, they were so close." Harnden wasn't at Pearl Harbor when the attack came. He was on the U.S.S. Wright, a seaplane tender, tender, returning to Hawaii after ferrying ferrying supplies to more distant islands. When the attack came, he and his crew realized how vulnerable vulnerable they were, out all alone. But whereas he and other young sailors might have been scared, not everyone everyone was. "Our captain, he was an old salty sea dog," Hamden said. "He said, 'Load all the guns, we're going to go down fighting.'" At the time, Harnden had just entered the Navy, as "the first man drafted from DeWitt County" and was suddenly propelled into a World War. That whole first day was an anxious one, as a great battle battle miles away crackled over radio and crew members scanned the skies and seas for airplanes or submarines. submarines. Back at Pearl Harbor, Zubik was told to stop firing at the planes and to save his ammunition, as a . Japanese landing was expected at any moment. After two waves of attacks, the fleet was a wreck — dozens of ships including several battleships had been sunk, and still others were in danger of capsizing. At nearby air bases, U.S. planes sat burning where they had been parked, with only a few rising up to fight the attackers. But at the submarine base where Zubik was stationed, and more than 100 oil tanks remained untouched. "The Japanese wanted to come back," he said, adding that if they had, he wouldn't be alive today. "But they didn't know where our carriers were." Four U.S. carriers and their support support ships, had left Pearl Harbor the day before on a training mission. mission. Had they been in port at the time of the attack, the war would have been totally different. When Harnden's ship arrived in port the next day, confusion still reigned. Several Japanese midget subs were lurking in the area, waiting waiting for the Americans to lower the "submarine net" that blocked entrance to the harbor, in an attempt to finish off the surviving ships. "We were coming toward the harbor gate when another ship called us and told us to stop," Harnden said. "I was right in the Facts photo: James A. Bernsen Albert Zubik of Brazoria shows off pictures and mementos of his military military service. Zubik was stationed in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7,1941. bow as a torpedo went by. The water was so pretty and blue, you could look down and see them go by" Arriving at the base, Harnden saw something completely different different from the gleaming fleet he had seen the last time he was there. "When we arrived at Pearl Harbor, it was a mess," he said. "The Nevada, the Arizona, the Utah, the Oklahoma, the California, the West Virginia were all hit badly, as were the Shaw and the Pennsylvania and many others." others." After the battle, both; sailors went on to fight for four more years. Harnden's ship made quick runs of ammunition and supplies to bases across the Pacific Ocean as America went into high gear to rebuild its naval fleet. On a trip to Australia, he heard radio calls from the battle of the Coral Sea, where he heard "mayday" calls from the carrier U.S.S. Lexington, which was sunk. "I was on that ship two years and we never stopped," he said. For Zubik, the next few years meant hazardous duty onboard a submarine, work which won he and his crew the Silver Star and the Presidential Unit Citation. One of the more interesting assignments took place right after the battle. With the U.S. fleet temporarily knocked out, the Japanese Army invaded the Philippines. A small contingent of Marines were holding holding out on the Island of Corregidor. Under heavy air bombardment, they shot back futilely with obsolete obsolete anti-aircraft shells. Zubik's ship brought them a much-needed shipment of modern shells, which could shoot much higher and more accurately. "They knocked the hell out of those planes the next morning," he recalled. More interesting was what Zubik's ship returned with — a huge shipment of gold and silver, part of the Philippine Government's national treasury. And the U.S.S. Trout still found time to sink two ships on the way back. The Philippines eventually fell, and the soldiers at Corregidor were forced to endure one of the most brutal atrocities of the war, the Bataan Death March. Several years later, when the island was liberated, liberated, Harnden's ship picked up some of the survivors to take to a hospital hospital ship. "What it does is make you hate the Japanese," Harnden said; "These guys couldn't even eat food, hardly, because they hadn't eaten in so long." Though 53 years have passed since the war ended, both men still remember everything very clearly. But even though the war lasted nearly four years, one day still sticks out — Pearl Harbor. "You just couldn't believe what was going on," Zubik said. "They had told us our fleet could wipe out the Japs any day of the week. We thought the Japanese wouldn't dare." Both of them were well aware of how serious the job of winning the war had become. "It was everybody's war, you didn't have a choice," Harnden said.