World War II Veteran: Paul Aschbrenner
Gunners Mate Paul Aschbrenner was a 19 year-old sailor from Sumner, who had joined the Navy the year before, because there were no jobs available near his home. Aschbrenner was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma. On Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Oklahoma was docked in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack began at 7:55am, Hawaiian time. After the first torpedoes struck the Oklahoma, the lights went out and Aschbrenner found himself deep inside the ship; in the dark.
(Aschbrenner) And the ship started to list—started to turn over. And as it was turning over, I got about one or two decks up. I think the next deck was the shell deck. I honestly could see in my heart that I couldn’t possibly get out of there in my own strength. And I—I knew of the Lord, but I really didn’t really have Him into my heart. But I asked Him if He would spare my life that I would dedicate my life over for Him to use, and in some miraculous way, I did get out. And as I was getting out of the overhang of the turret, the crude oil and water was coming in.
The dive-bombing and torpedo attacks lasted for a little more than an hour. For Aschbrenner, and everyone else at Pearl Harbor, the attack had been a complete surprise.
As the Japanese planes flew away 25,000 American soldiers, sailors, and Marines where either dead or missing. Of the 525 Iowans at Pearl Harbor on that Sunday morning, 88 were either killed or never found.
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