DOWNTOWN WILMINGTON (WWAY) — Saturday afternoon, the World War II Wilmington Home Front Heritage Coalition held a commemoration honoring Pearl Harbor service members.
Cape Fear residents learned about the tragedy at the Hannah Block Historic Community Arts Center.
For Wilmington, December 7, 1941 holds a significant meaning.
Retired U.S. Navy Captain Wilbur Jones says, “It was the Japanese attack on Hawaii, that thrusted America into World War II.”
It was a surprise attack initiated by Japan.
Hundreds of their fighter planes destroyed and damaged large numbers of American naval vessels, battleships, and aircrafts.
“At age 7.5 and a third grader, I knew that the world was warm, but of course they wouldn’t grasp the significance,” Jones said.
He told residents what he remembered mostly from his childhood about the attack.
“I heard something important about the Japanese bombing in the U.S. Military base at Pearl Harbor,” Jones expressed.
Jones says New Hanover County has direct ties to the tragedy.
“We had about 30 people from New Hanover County who were serving in the armed forces, or who were living otherwise in that area around Honolulu in Pearl Harbor at the time,” Jones said.
Survivor Leslie Hollenbeck was one of those service members who showed WWAY’s Lakeeda Johnson the exact letter he wrote to this family after the attack.
Till this day, he still grapples with the aftermath.
“We didn’t have a fleet to attack them. Why would they come after us? It was stupid of them to do it,” Hollenback said.