- Eliot Kleinberg Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A handful of people in Palm Beach County can say they saw the attack on Pearl Harbor 76 years ago today. Families of three others have a different story; their boys died on that historic morning that ushered America into World War II.
The attack left 18 of the 92 ships in port sunk or heavily damaged, 188 airplanes destroyed and 2,403 military personnel and civilians killed.
Some survivors told their stories last year on the 75th anniversary. And gold stars honor the families of Ralph Hollis, Claude Rich and Eugene Lish.
Lish, a Fort Pierce resident who was a clarinetist in the band aboard the USS West Virginia, was felled by fumes as the stricken ship listed. He was declared by newspapers as the first Floridian killed, but only by a matter of minutes.
Hollis, a Palm Beach police officer, and Rich, a youth from West Palm Beach’s Northwood neighborhood, likely died together when a Japanese bomb set off the ammunition room aboard the USS Arizona. In 2012, the town of Palm Beach would determine that, at the time of his death, Ralph Hollis still was on the payroll. His name was added to the plaque of other officers killed in the line of duty.
And among those roused to service by the Pearl Harbor attack was Claude Rich’s cousin, George Mason. Only 16 on Dec. 7, he had to wait six days until his birthday to join. “The day I left,” Mason told The Palm Beach Post in December 2014, “I made some comment like, ‘I’ll give them hell.’ ”
And there were others:
— Harold Shore and Ellie Welch never met before The Palm Beach Post brought them together in 2016 for a joint interview. Harold was a gunner on the U.S. Argonne. Ellie was a 12-year-old living in the Waikiki area.
— Margaret Krolczyk, now 88, of North Palm Beach also was 12 that day. Her father was chief of surgery at the Navy hospital at Pearl Harbor. Margaret, along with her mother, two older sisters and a younger brother, cowered under a table in the basement for hours. Her father was overwhelmed with helping the injured — he even worked by flashlight — and would not get home for days.
— The Rev. Margaret Smart, a retired Methodist pastor and hospice chaplain in Pahokee, was just five days past her fifth birthday on the morning of Dec. 7 and living in family quarters at the Army Air Corps’ Hickam Field. She watched planes fly overhead and saw bombs drop.
— Vincent Gunderson of Lake Clarke Shores had been aboard the light cruiser USS Phoenix. It was in the mouth of the harbor, away from the targeted Battleship Row. It reported no appreciable damage and no injuries.
— And Delar “Dane” van Sand, who moved to Palm Beach Gardens two years ago from Gloucester, Mass., was on the battleship USS Nevada. Van Sand escaped injury. He has spent his later years writing his memories of that day for his family and posterity. Last year he said simply that, “It stays with you.”