The community paused Sunday to remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and to honor a local man who survived it.
BATH | The community paused Sunday to remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and to honor a local man who survived it.
Donald Bosket, 92, of East Campbell, was the guest of honor at Sunday's ceremony, held at the Steuben County Veterans Memorial outside the Bath VFW on State Route 54. The ceremony included a prayer, the laying of a wreath, and the raising of the American flag.
Afterward, Bosket - the last remaining member of the Southern Tier Pearl Harbor Survivors Association - told his story as a crowd inside the VFW listened in rapt silence.
A farmboy who graduated from Corning Northside High School in 1940, he enlisted a few months later in the Army Air Force, hoping to see other parts of the world.
In December 1941, he was stationed at Wheeler Field, where the U.S. fighter planes were based on Oahu. It was the first target in the Japanese attack, even before Pearl Harbor was hit.
"There were 85,000 military personnel on Oahu, unaware that our lives and the lives of our comrades were in jeopardy from a surprise attack," Bosket said.
"We just were not prepared for the unexpected. The political and military warnings were all evident on the early Sunday morning, but were disregarded."
Bosket recalled having breakfast and tossing a football around with his buddies just before the Japanese strike began shortly before 8 a.m.
The Japanese planes attacked in waves, he said.
"I was hit in the head with either shrapnel or a bullet and was unconscious for about 30 minutes," Bosket said. "When I came to, they asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I said no, I would help the wounded or dead on trucks to go to the hospital. Later, doctors put a patch on my head."
Nearly 4,000 Americans were killed or wounded in the Pearl Harbor attack, which pushed the U.S. into World War II.
It was the worst defeat in U.S. military history, Bosket said, but "it did not have to happen."
"We were properly trained, equipped and spirited, but we were not alerted by our leaders in time to mount an effective defense," he said. "Simply, we were caught asleep."
Also on hand for Sunday's ceremony was state Sen. Tom O'Mara, R-Big Flats, who called Pearl Harbor - much like Sept. 11, 2001 - a "sucker punch" that "shows why we always have to be ready."
Also speaking was state Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, R-Corning, who called on those in attendance to not just remember the events of Dec. 7, 1941, but all veterans who have served and sacrificed.
"It can be as simple as, if you have an elderly veteran for a neighbor, go over and check on him," Palmesano said.
The local Pearl Harbor remembrance was held at the Bath Rod and Gun Club for 31 years, from 1982 to 2011, before it moved to the Steuben County Veterans Memorial. A driving force behind the ceremony was the late Richard Yartym, longtime organizer.
Yartym was honored posthumously Sunday for his efforts.
"Dick did this out of love. He always loved the military," said his wife, Etta. "This was in his heart every year, and it was so important to him."