Twelve years have been peeled off the calendar since Wayne Rader passed away.
He was one of those interesting people you get to meet on this job.
He wasn’t a politician, star athlete or chief executive of some big business.
He was just a regular guy who worked for the city. A dad, who with his wife, Elsie, raised eight children in Lima and was proud of every one of them.
Oh yes, Wayne Rader also was a Pearl Harbor survivor.
For the longest time, he didn’t talk about what happened on that morning 79 years ago today. He was typical of most World War II veterans in that way. He answered his call to duty, fought for our freedom, then came home and got busy rebuilding our country.
It wasn’t until a few years before his death in 2008 that he opened up. When he did, his children wisely chronicled his memories.
He was just a teenager when he entered the Army in March 1940. Three months later he was assigned to the 27th Infantry Regiment at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, Hawaii. If it was heaven to be stationed in this Pacific paradise in 1940, what happened the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, was hell.
Rader was on the second-floor porch of a barracks listening for the bugler to sound church call when he saw the first two planes fly through the pass near Schofield Barracks.
“Dad thought it was kind of an odd time for a training mission. Within a few minutes, he heard the explosions coming from the area of Pearl Harbor. Planes strafed Schofield Barracks on their way to Wheeler Field. Dad looked up in time to see the first bomb burst and the cloud of debris at Wheeler Field,” his children wrote.
“Dad didn’t talk much more about Dec. 7, 1941, except to say he remembered rows and rows of body bags,” they noted.
It wasn’t until Rader became a lifetime member of the “Pearl Harbor Survivors Association” that he opened up.
He had started visiting schools to teach students about the U.S. flag and the meaning of patriotism. He took it upon himself to replace flags around the community, be it city and county buildings, businesses, schools — even Town Square. Students used to call him the “flag man.” They admired his patriotic spirit, and you cannot help but believe he had a positive impact on many of them.
I met him when The Lima News invited a group of local Pearl Harbor survivors to the newspaper to share their experiences. We tracked down eight from this area who were on the island of Oahu that day: Rader, Paul Stout, Ed Wallace and George and Virginia Sebenoler of Lima; Don Rhinock of Shawnee Township; Jim Welker of Elida; and Fred Berry of Fort Jennings.
Rader would use such gatherings as teaching moments. Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only place attacked that day, he would point out. Within 24 hours, the Japanese attacked several islands in the Pacific. Oahu, Hawaii, was only one of them.
He also challenged us in the media to remind people of what happened.
“We can’t let people forget … you can’t let them forget,” he would say, often with eyes shiny with tears.
America was taught a lesson in a sneaky, cruel way on the “day that shall live in infamy.”
So many young men and women — teenagers like Rader, just out of high school — were far from home when the bombs inflicted their horror. In less than two hours more than 2,400 Americans were killed, another 1,100 wounded and the U.S. Pacific fleet was severely crippled.
One of those who died was Frederick DeLong, of Cridersville. He was just 29 years old.
The United States had been caught off guard. It was a lesson we were served again on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists crashed jetliners full of civilians into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC.
Years from now, today’s high school seniors will tell stories about what it was like to attend school in the days of the coronavirus.
You won’t hear them talking about 9/11 — they weren’t even born then. And unless they had a good history teacher — or just a history class — they may not be able to tell you the significance of Pearl Harbor.
We cannot let them forget. You cannot let them forget.
ROSES AND THORNS: There are people in the rose garden singing “We’re No. 1.”
Rose: Putnam County had the highest voter turnout in Ohio during the November election with 84.1% of registered voters turning in a ballot.
Rose: To the Christmas light show at the Allen County Fairgrounds put on by Mercy Health-St. Rita’s. Cool stuff.
Rose: To Brian Winegardner, who was appointed as an Allen County commissioner.
Rose: To Irene and Howard Lackey, of Lima. She was a Lima girl, attending South High School, and he was from Lafayette. They were teenagers in love, when in 1944, Uncle Sam told Howard he was heading to Germany. He survived the Battle of the Bulge and made it home to Irene. On Sunday, they celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary.
Rose: To Rosalind and John Burgess of Lima, who celebrated 60 years of marriage on Friday.
Thorn: To Cassandra Smith, 54, of Spencerville. Veterinarians told an assistant prosecutor she likely had not fed a dog for three months prior to its death.
PARTING SHOT: Don’t look back; you’re not going that way.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.