Whidbey Crosswind The Puget Sound Veterans’ Monthly | December 2018
Day of Infamy Pearl Harbor attack remembered z pg. 8
A supplement of the Whidbey News-Times
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WII survivor recalls tragic, historic events
By LAURA GUIDO
In the coming generations, stories of World War II will only be found in history books, movies and TV specials. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates under 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in the second world war are alive in 2018. Oak Harbor resident Hank Koetje is one of those survivors, and his stories are told both firsthand and in at least one of those TV specials. National Geographic released last year a documentary series “Drain the Ocean,” which examined the sinking of the troopship Leopoldville and the unique tragedy of its situation. “The last scene I saw, when the destroyer pulled away, was the bow of the ship covered with men just before it sank,” Koetje recalled. Born and raised in Oak Harbor, Koetje was drafted into the Army in 1943 at age 19. He became a member of the 66th Black Panther Infantry Division, and by 1944 he was a sergeant in charge of a mortar gun squad composed of 15 men. Koetje was 20 years old the Christmas Eve on which his troopship — headed for Cherbourg, France and the Battle of the Bulge — was torpedoed by a German submarine. The ship was just five miles from its destination. More than 2,200 Americans were aboard, and it’s estimated around 300 people died from the initial impact. “The seas were getting heavier and the ship was getting listless,” Koetje said. “Even though we were told it wasn’t going to sink, I was pretty sure it was going to pretty quickly.” The Belgian crew correctly predicted the ship’s doomed fate and evacuated on lifeboats. The remaining American soldiers did not know how to deploy the Carley floats, a type life raft that had been attached to the Leopoldville. Koetje only had a gut feeling and 15 men were looking to him for guidance. The HMS Brilliant, a British destroyer briefly came alongside the troopship to assist. The smaller vessel could only take a few hundred men, and it spent just minutes beside the sinking Leopoldville. Koetje told his men he was
going to try to jump onto the destroyer, unsure of whether this would lead to a better outcome or not. “I gave them the choice to follow or stay where they were at,” he said.
The four men who followed him all survived. The others didn’t. “I always felt bad that I didn’t order them along with me,” Koetje said. “But at the time, I didn’t know what to do … I didn’t know what was the best thing to do.” The destroyer, damaged from hitting the troopship, was able to make it to shore just after Koetje jumped aboard. Had he spent a minute longer making his decision, it’s likely he wouldn’t have made it. Over 800 Americans who’d been aboard the Leopoldville perished. Divers didn’t discover the undeployed life rafts until years later. The story of the troopship remained untold for years, even to the families of the men who died. “The Army told us not to talk about this at all,” Koetje said. Families of the fallen were only told their brothers, husbands and fathers were missing in action. The truth of the incident didn’t become known until 50 years later. “It was hard keeping it a secret for a long time,” Koetje said.
Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times
Longtime Oak Harbor resident Hank Koetje sits at his home overlooking the harbor. He served in WWII as an Army infantryman. As an infantryman, Koetje’s part in history wasn’t over. He made it to France and fought on the front lines in France for 133 consecutive days as the Battle of the Bulge raged nearby. Koetje said little of that winter in France. It was cold and wet. The men were usually exhausted and often were only able to sleep a couple hours at a time. “Why I’m here, I don’t know,” he said as he remembered the battle. “… It was hell.”
Americans completely halted the German offensive Jan. 25, 1945. It’s estimated 19,276 U.S. servicemen died in one of the most lethal American battles. After the war ended, Koetje spent a year and a half on occupation duty in Germany and Austria. At the age of 23, he returned home to Whidbey Island. In a dramatic shift from his role in the infantry, Koetje went to work with his uncle Neil Koetje. He became certified as a real estate agent and later studied insurance. He co-
founded Koetje Agency Inc., Island Savings and Loan, and Island Title Company. Although he found professional success at home, Koetje said his transition back to civilian life could at times be fraught with struggle. “I had a hard time for a year or two,” he said. “It wasn’t easy.” For years he felt on edge. For at least a decade after coming home, he still slept with a gun. And he missed the men he came to know.
“You get a camaraderie with people you’re in the war with that you don’t get with people in any other time,” he said. He said it’s probable he had suffered from PTSD, but it was never diagnosed. Although his post-war years came with a number of challenges, he wouldn’t have picked anywhere else to be besides Oak Harbor. “Even though I’ve traveled a lot, this is the best place ever,” Koetje said, as he sat in his Dillard Lane home, overlooking the water.
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Iconic war machines of the past live on at Paul Allen’s museum Weeks after his death, the Flying Heritage museum unveiled a new space for planes, tanks By CALEB HUTTON Herald WRITER In battle, the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka became propaganda fuel, an emblem of Nazi Germany’s ferocity and twisted innovations in human suffering.
Sirens screamed on the fixed landing gear when the dive bomber plummeted toward its target with such G-forces that German pilots often blacked out, only to be saved by the automatic underwing brakes. One of three remaining Stukas on the planet resides at the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum at Paine Field. Unveiled in November at the grand opening of a new display hangar, the Stuka is a refurbished fuselage without wings, wiring or engine. It’s a reminder to grandchildren and great-grandchildren about the horrors of the past. In a better world, all of our
weapons of war would be in museum halls. The 30,000-square-foot expansion isn’t just about the stories of machines. It’s a modern history of humans. “We’re trying to get more into the context of things, rather than just laying out a bunch of planes and tanks,” said Adrian Hunt, executive director. “We want you to think about the people, not just the planes, of the past.” Over the past decade, that’s been the trajectory of Paul Allen’s museum at the south end of the airport. Recent additions to the rows of fighters and bombers are interactive exhibits about the causes of 20th century conflicts; a room dedicated to arguments for and against the atom bomb, with replicas of the original Fat Man and Little Boy; and videos of veterans recounting memories of combat. Banners of soldiers’ faces —
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Andy Bronson / The Herald Tanks dwarf the visitors in the new hangar. The extra space allows for visitors to see the tanks up close.
infantry riflemen, a black airman from the World War II era, a female Soviet sniper — adorn the new hangar, above exhibits about women in war, animals in war and a life-size diorama of a Belgian city
destroyed in the Battle of the Bulge. And of course, there’s the Stuka and several newly restored, working tanks. The expansion brings the total museum space to over
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two acres, or a bit smaller than your average Costco. Allen was one of the world’s wealthiest history buffs. He died in October from complications related to nonHodgkin lymphoma. The museum in Everett opened the new hangar weeks later, on Veterans Day weekend, just before the 100th anniversary of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the First World
War ended. Outside, a long line of people snaked from the entrance to the street. A ribbon was cut by B-17 gunner Staff Sgt. Art Unruh, of Arlington, on his 96th birthday. Allen wanted these planes to look and fly exactly as they did in their heyday. Subtle monuments to the museum’s creator are scattered across the floor: In a framed photo in the original hangar, Allen
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VOL. 8, NO. 11 WHIDBEY CROSSWIND STAFF
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poses in a cockpit, gazing skyward; in a breezeway, you can relive his deep sea searches for sunken military ships; dangling in the new building is White Knight, the launch craft that helped Allen’s team win the X Prize in 2004, pioneering private space flight.
Airlines pilot, visits the museum every couple of months. On summer Fly Days, he watches vintage warbirds take flight that he never thought he’d get to see — and basically in his backyard, too. “I always feel like a blind dog in a meat shop in this place,” he said.
The Microsoft co-founder, 65 when he died, took up hobbies like only a billionaire can. He owned a pro football team and a pro basketball team, sailed the seas on a super yacht with two helipads and amassed millions of dollars in guitars made legendary by Hendrix, Clapton and The Beatles. He left a $2 billion legacy of philanthropy, in art, science and education.
Jackson Ward, 15, of Bremerton, rode a ferry with his parents to see the new artillery. He’s most interested in the Churchill Mk VII Crocodile, a heavy British tank with a flamethrower that fired 120 yards. “One thing I love about this place is if it drips oil, it runs,” he said. “The one thing I wish they had is a B-24. That’s what my great-grandfather flew in World War II. He was a top gunner.”
The future of Allen’s airplane collection is not in danger, Hunt said. In-house mechanics have plans to restore the Stuka, for example, to flying condition by June 2020, with a Jumo 211 engine. Once that’s done, it will be the world’s only airworthy Stuka. The arms race of the 1940s spurred rapid advances in aviation, from biplanes to jet aircraft, in just a decade. A Stuka lumbering at a top speed of 200 mph grew vulnerable to far more agile Allied planes. Out of 5,000-plus that were built, one Stuka is on display in London, one is in Chicago and one is in Everett. The rest are scrap or lost. The wreckage of Everett’s long-range R-4 model was
Andy Bronson / The Herald
Visitors admire the tanks and planes in the new 30,000-square-foot hangar at the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum at Paine Field on Saturday, Nov. 10 in Everett. discovered in the icy wilderness of northwest Russia, hundreds of miles north of St. Petersburg, in the 1990s. It has been undergoing restoration in Hungary for five years.
Hunt said. “But the tanks? They’re built like — well, you know.”
Along with new displays, the Flying Heritage museum has refreshed its layout to let people walk right up to the tanks and artillery.
It’s one thing to read in a book about an M5A1 Stuart, a “light” tank at a mere 16.9 tons, with a 37mm cannon that was outgunned by German Panzers. It’s another thing to see a real one up close, to feel the cold metal and touch history.
“These planes are very delicate — put a bit of chewing gum in the wrong place, or break the wrong thing, and somebody’s life’s at risk,”
Each piece is refurbished with care by a team of mechanics. The collection ranges from an early military Harley Davidson motorbike to one
of the few privately owned Russian MiG 29 jet fighters in existence. Old canvas bags hang on the armored vehicles, in a nod to how they looked between battles. “Most people think of a tank as a huge weapon,” Hunt said. “But five guys lived in that vehicle. It’s more like an RV. Your toothbrush, your toilet paper, everything came with you. (The crew) didn’t look glorious.”
At the entrance to the new hangar is a tattered American flag in a display case, with a bullet shot through it, from the storming of Utah Beach at sunrise on D-Day. After the battle, a U.S. Navy boatswain lowered the flag, tucked it into a shoe box and raised a new one. “So as dawn rose on June 6, that flag was on the landing craft,” Hunt said. “It’s not just a flag. It tells you a story.” Learn about the museum’s artifacts and admission cost at flyingheritage. org. Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday.
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Memorial created at American Legion post Names of fallen members of the military from Whidbey Island sought for tribute By PATRICIA GUTHRIE
American Legion members creating a permanent memorial to Whidbey Island’s fallen soldiers need help gathering names for the tribute. The partially complete memorial will fill the sloping entrance to American Legion Post 141, which is located off Highway 525, south of Bayview Corner on South Whidbey. Flags already wave high above five large headstones, each representing a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces — Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. A wooden sculpted centerpiece symbolizing a fallen soldier — a pair of boots with rifle and helmet — is being created by local artist Dexter Lewis. Names will be placed on the cement stone matching the branch of service of the deceased.
The American Legion, Post 141, is building a war memorial dedicated to Whidbey Island residents in front of its center north of Langley. “We plan to have plaques from combat, and they’re made for each service member from the island, that’s what that has fallen during a war,” we want. Eventually we may said Bruce Lougheed, first vice expand on that.” commander of Post 141. “We The post has been wanting are in need of help from those to contribute a war memoin the community that have rial for a number of years. the names and branch of serTributes to fallen soldiers exist vice of anyone that fell during in a few communities, such a war or died as a result of as Langley and Oak Harbor, wounds received during a war.” Lougheed said, but none cover The memorial criteria may all Whidbey Island residents. change, but for now any mili“The one in Langley has tary service member who died “from any war at all is eli- two or three names and it’s gible,” Lougheed said. “If they rather hidden,” he said. “This died in combat or of wounds one is for the public. It’s made
Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Group
American Legion Post 141 member John Hilberg, left, vice commander Bruce Lougheed, center, and commander David McCammo, briefly chat at Bayview Cemetery. to be seen from the road and people can stop, park and look at it.” Naval Air Station Whidbey Island has a memorial for aviators assigned to the electronic attack community who died while on active duty, according to Michael Welding, public affairs officer.
Members of the post have donated their own money to cover the $5,000 memorial building costs, said Lougheed, who’s retired from the Army and an active member of the legion’s motorcycle Riders group. “Once we get the headstones faced and the monu-
ment up, then we’ll have a ceremony,” he said. l Relatives of Whidbey Island military service members killed in combat or died as a result of combat injuries are encouraged to contact American Legion Post 141 at 360-321-5696.
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Former Navy nurse practices compassion By LAURA GUIDO
Kathleen Pendleton has always had a unique skill set. “I’ve always felt comfortable with people who are dying and their families and helping with that process,” said Pendleton, nursing director at Regency on Whidbey. This personality trait ideally suited her for a varied career path that began when she entered the Army at the age of 18. She wanted to go to nursing school and thought joining the military would be an effective way to accomplish that goal. This idea turned into a 23-year career as a service member. She worked as a lab technician in the Army for six years before joining the Navy. While attending nursing school in Florida, a professor suggested she apply for a Naval scholarship. She received the award, switched branches and was commissioned as an ensign the day she graduated from nursing school. “I ended up completely falling in love with the Navy,”
both women died of breast cancer.
As a brand-new Navy nurse, Pendleton was stationed on the USNS Comfort in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. The hospital vessel is one of two of the Navy’s “Mercy-class” ships and has one of the largest trauma facilities in the U.S. while it’s fully active.
She was also inspired by many of the cancer patients she worked with and their ability to maintain a positive outlook, she said. “No matter what their circumstances were, they would try and lift someone else’s day,” she said.
The assignment was nerve wracking at first, Pendleton said. She and others aboard were told mines were likely in the area and minesweepers often had to test the waters ahead of them.
Pendleton’s career took her a number of places, and she considered each duty station a “new challenge and adventure.” She met her future husband in Guam in 1992 and reunited by chance in 1998 when she called her new hospital assignment and he answered the phone.
“That was a little scary,” she said, ‘just knowing the ship could be blown up.” Without email or cellphones at the time, it was also isolating. But she enjoyed the camaraderie of the service everywhere she went. She’s maintained connections with many of the people she worked with. “The Navy nurse corps is a pretty tight group,” she said. ‘You always have that connection to them if you need some-
Photo by Laura Guido
Kathleen Pendleton, the nursing director at Regency on Whidbey, retired as a lieutenant commander in the Navy. thing you can just pick up the phone.” She also became close with many of her patients. While working at the National Naval Medical Center, she met a woman with a number of health issues. She worked with her for an extended
period of time, and Pendleton was still relatively young at the time. “She kind of adopted me,” Pendleton said. The two stayed friends until the woman passed away. That part of the job could at times be “exceptionally dif-
ficult,” Pendleton said. She also worked in oncology and became close with many of the patients there. She recalled two women, one 23 and the other 28 years old, whom she identified with. Pendleton was also 28 at the time and was struck when
“It was fate,” she said with a laugh. Her last duty station was Whidbey Island, where she and her family decided to stay when Pendleton retired in 2006. “I just fell in love with Whidbey Island,” she said. “The people are friendly, it’s scenic. … You’re living in paradise.”
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Pearl Harbor Day marks surprise attack that changed the world December 7, 2018, marks the 77th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This was a pivotal day in world history, ultimately leading the United States to enter World War II. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan participated in a series of invasions into China, believing the only way to solve its economic and demographic problems was to expand into China and take over its import market.
surprise attack. Five additional attacks followed throughout the day. The Japanese managed to destroy nearly 20 American naval vessels, which included eight battleships and more than 300 airplanes. While the military equipment could ultimately be replaced, the more than 2,400 military personnel and civilians who died paid the ultimate price.
This attitude helped create rising tension with the United States, and American officials ultimately responded with economic sanctions and trade embargoes.
It is believed the United States was especially surprised by the attack, as American military leaders felt that if an attack were to take place, it would come from the sea rather than the air.
Although it seemed war was inevitable, the Japanese preempted the American military with a surprise attack targeting Pearl Harbor, which is 2,000 miles from the United States mainland and 4,000 miles from Japan.
In addition, American intelligence officials were confident that any Japanese attack would take place in one of the European colonies in the South Pacific, such as Singapore or Indochina, which are closer to Japan than Hawaii.
Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base located near Honolulu. On a Sunday morning on Dec. 7, 1941, just before 8 a.m. local time, Japanese fighter planes descended on the base in a
Despite devastating Pearl Harbor, all hopes were not lost that day, and the Japanese could not cripple America’s Pacific Fleet. Aircraft carriers were not docked at the base,
The USS Arizona Memorial was built in 1962 on top of (but not touching) the sunken USS Arizona.
and the key onshore oil storage, shipyards, repair shops, and docks were left largely intact. From a functional standpoint,
the U.S. Navy was able to quickly rebound. However, even 77 years later, the residual emotional effects of the
attack continue, particularly among World War II veterans, as well as the family members of those who perished.
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A nation remembers Pearl Harbor will be remembered Friday, Dec. 7. The White House and all United States government buildings fly the American flag at half-mast as should all homes and private buildings to honor those who died in the attack at Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor survivors, associations and the military community typically commemorate the day with memorial services, wreathlaying ceremonies and the retelling of the days events. Many schools and museums have activities to educate students and the public on the historical importance of Pearl Harbor. Prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, World War II had been going on for almost ten years in China and two years in Europe. The Japanese began invading China in 1931, and this was when the war began to brew. The Japanese had been unsuccessfully negotiating with the United States in the hopes of continuing expansion within Southeast Asia, namely the Philippine Islands (an American Territory at that time), Dutch West Indies and Malaysia.
In response to their aggression, the United States had placed strict embargos on Japan, which brewed hostility between the two countries. By late 1941, many Americans expected war with Japan to be imminent, though they had no idea it would begin with such a sneak attack. The Dec. 7 attack was carried out with the intention of destroying the U.S. Pacific Naval Fleet before an announcement of war was even made. The hope was that the surprise attack would devastate the power of the United States Navy and allow valuable time for Japan to strengthen its own naval capabilities once the war with the Unites States had been engaged. Japan also hoped to severely cripple American morale, aiming to hinder their acceptance of the war and diminishing overall U.S. involvement in Japan’s aim to conquer.
Pearl Harbor numbers and facts The base was attacked in two waves by a total of 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes There were 165 U.S. Naval ships involved. A total of 20 were damaged and 12 of those were back in service in less than one year. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged; four were sunk All but one battleship were raised and six were returned to service and fought in the war No aircraft carriers were in port at the time of the attack. 2,008 naval officers were killed, 710 wounded 218 Army personnel killed, 364 wounded 109 Marines killed, 69 wounded 68 civilians killed, 35 wounded A total of 2,402 Americans were killed, 1,178 wounded
Europe, but over time, these conflicts had built unimaginable tension. The attack on Pearl Harbor was essentially the breaking point. On Dec. 8, 1941, just one day after the attack, the United States declared war on Japan. As a result, on Dec. 11, 1941, Germany and Italy retaliated with a declaration of war on the United States, as they were allied to Japan under the Tripartite Pact (or the Axis Pact) of 1940.
Museums and memorials USS Arizona Memorial – National Park Service Battleship Missouri Memorial – Honolulu, Hawaii USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park – Honolulu, Hawaii Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor – Honolulu, Hawaii Pearl Harbor Tours, Memorials and Museums – Hawaii Although the Japanese attack was overwhelming, it was not complete, nor did it achieve what they had hoped. No United States aircraft carriers were present at the time of the attack, and they neglected to damage the shoreside facilities of the naval base, which later went onto play a crucial role in the Allied victory at the end of the war. Additionally, all but three ships damaged in the attack were raised, repaired, and later used in victorious war efforts. Most notably, the outrage caused by the attack fueled the strength of the United States and its citizens to commit to victory in World War II. Source: Military Benefits
President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed December 7, 1941 as, “a date which will live in infamy.” After years of a global conflict, the United States had officially entered into World War II.
Prior to the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the United States had maintained formal neutrality in the global escalation of conflict. Up until this point, America had isolated itself from the conflicts in Asia and
Coupeville United Methodist Church
Sunday Service: 10:30am Children, Youth, & Adults
Please call 360-675-6611
10:00 Sunday School Free child care available
Pastor Jin Ming Ma 608 N. Main St. • 360-678-4256
CALVARY APOSTOLIC TABERNACLE (The Pentecostals of Island County)
Located on Goldie Road
A SAFE PLACE TO CALL HOME Sunday Morning................10am Sunday Evening.............6:30pm Wednesday...........................7pm
Pastor Greg Adkins
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11:00 Worship Service
1780 SE 4th St. (360) 675-3032
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Saturday Worship 11am Bible Study 10am Find Respect, Honor, Friendship
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Oak Harbor Lutheran Church
NW 2nd Avenue & Heller Road Across the street from OHHS Stadium
Worship Services..........8 & 10:30 am Sunday School ........................9:15 am Nursery Available Sunday Evening Prayer 6:30 PM at St. Mary Catholic Church in Coupeville Jeffrey Spencer, Lead Pastor Pastor Marc Stroud, Associate Pastor
Worship Hours: Worship Service: 10:00am Contemporary Service: 1:30pm Children’s Sunday School 10:30am Everyone is welcome. Come join us! Youth Ministries-Choirs-Bible Studies Pastor David Parker ...................................................................... Pastor Erin Tombaugh....... ....................................... Young People’s Ministries Christina Queeno ................................................ Music & Worship Arts
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November 30, 2018 edition of the Whidbey Crosswind