Latimer Correa, then 20, saw Pearl Harbor just weeks after it was attacked by Japan.
The attack, which took place 80 years ago today, killed more than 2,400 Americans and destroyed dozens of naval vessels and hundreds of planes.
Correa, now 100 and living in McHenry, was en route to Guam, said the destroyed base gave him and the other soldiers other a sense of what they were about to start fighting for.
“I had to get in and fight for it,” he said, adding he still has dreams about his military experiences “once in a blue moon.”
He had enlisted before the Pearl Harbor attack while living in his native Puerto Rico as a way to help support his family and see other places in the world. He was later involved in the recapture of Guam from the Japanese later in the war, he said.
Frank Doroba, a 100-year-old Cary veteran of World War II, was a teenager living in Chicago at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. He was working for a manufacturer contracted by the U.S. government at the time, so was given a deferment from being drafted when the Americans first declared war on Japan.
But in 1943, when he was 20, he was enlisted in the U.S. Navy and became a part of the Seabees, the informal name of the Navy Construction Battalion.
He served in the South Pacific, he said, and was a part of the American fight against the Japanese for more than two years. There were several frightening moments during his service overseas, he said.
Doroba suspected he would enter the military at some point after hearing of the Pearl Harbor attack.
“I went through hell, and it’s over with,” Doroba said.
Lorraine Murphy, an 102-year-old Wonder Lake resident, was supposed to be married in 1941, the year the Pearl Harbor attack happened.
But then, her fiancé, Edward Murphy, was deployed overseas. He was in the Army Air Force, 335th Squadron. It was his responsibility to arm the planes for bombing, Murphy said.
It would be four years before they would officially become husband and wife, when Edward came back in 1945. Murphy said she felt joy when Edward finally returned home and she got to see him again for the first time.
When he did come back from the war, he had gout and heart problems that would stay with him until he died. He was in the hospital, sick for three months while he was deployed, Murphy said.
While Edward Murphy was off fighting in the war, Lorraine Murphy worked at a tool-and-dye company to help her mother, Agnes Ryan, support the family. At the factory, she worked long hours making shells for machine guns. Lorraine made $18 a week at the factory, or 10 cents an hour. She still remembers rationing butter, sugar and gasoline to get through wartime.
Another U.S. Army veteran of the 1940s, Lloyd Freund, a 93-year-old Johnsburg resident, joined the military when he was able, although he still was too young to serve right at the time Pearl Harbor was attacked.
He did not join the military until several years later, but recalled his reactions to the news that the U.S. naval base had been decimated by the Japanese.
He was home in Illinois when he heard about the attack over the radio.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Freund said. “It was terrible.”
Even at his young age, he knew right away the event would lead to America entering the war, which changed the course of global history by preserving cultures and democracies threatened at the time by totalitarians, monarchs and fascists, according to many historians.