WWII vet: Pearl Harbor ‘an event you don’t forget’

Harriett and Jack Diehm. (Dec. 7, 2015)


KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — Few Americans remember the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. And more than seven decades after it happened, there are even fewer survivors alive to recount the tragic day.

But West Michigan couple Jake and Harriett Diehm both remember the attack on Pearl Harbor well, and they hope today’s generation will remember it, too.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, a Navy launch pulls up to the blazing USS West Virginia to rescue a sailor, Dec. 7, 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, a Navy launch pulls up to the blazing USS West Virginia to rescue a sailor, Dec. 7, 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Jake and Harriett each have different memories of that day 74 years ago. Jake, a corpsman, was stationed on Midway Island after passing through Pearl Harbor a month before the attack.

“It’s an event you don’t forget,” Jake said, recalling explosions and hiding underground on Midway Island. “I know I was so scared when I got those casualties. I got up in there and I think there were probably four Marines that had been wounded and I did what I could for them.”

Shortly after the event that thrust the U.S. into World War II, Harriett enlisted as a nurse in the U.S. Navy. Several of her brothers had already been called up.

“The Red Cross were recruiting nurses like mad. They were in the hospitals getting everybody signed up as they could,” Harriett recalled.

“We were all scared but you just did what you had to do. That’s just the way it was. I can remember that day pretty vividly,” said Jake, who was 20 years old at the time.

Jack and Harriett Diehm. (Dec. 7, 2015)
Jack and Harriett Diehm.

But perhaps there is one specific reason they will both remember that day. The tragic event is what would eventually bring them together. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, both ended up in the medical field in the Navy stationed at the same base.

“This country is worth fighting for,” Harriett said.

>>Photos: Remembering Pearl Harbor

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