I have remembered these words for many years of my life. I don’t know why they have stuck in my mind, but I think of them every December 7th. If anyone one asks me the date on December 7th I say “A day that will live in Infamy!”
In 2006 Laurel had some business to attend to in Baltimore. I said I would like to ride shotgun and take in the sights of Baltimore and do a day trip to Washington D.C. Baltimore was a wonderful city rich with early America history. We had made our way out to Fort McHenry to tour the fort. This is the site where Frances Scott Key penned the poem The Star Spangled Banner. The sights and hallowed ground has given me a grater understanding of our National Anthem. On that same trip we took a day trip to Washington D.C. The one day trip turned into two one day trips to Washington. The most impressive site in Washington was the World War II Memorial. The one vision that has stayed with me is the Gold Star Wall. I tried to take a photo of the wall and I didn’t have a wide enough angle lens to capture the size and scope of the men and women lost in the war. I don’t know why that vision found a place in my mind and stayed.
In 2013 Laurel had a conference in New Orleans. Again I rode shotgun. I hadn’t been to New Orleans since 1976 and so I thought it would be fun to reinvestigate the city. On my daily outings I came across the WWII museum. It was an overload of history. The first display I saw was a comparison of the military size of the three nations in WWII. It stunned me how small our military was compared to the German and Japanese. In the display they used a military man to represent 2000 men. Again that vision has stayed with me.
Last April Laurel’s Uncle Joe passed away. As the house was being cleaned out of livelong treasures I asked for the photos in the den upstairs. I wanted them for my genealogy work. There were 3 boxes of photos. Many of the photos do not have any information on them. No names and no dates and leaving me with a guess game. As I looked thru the photos I came across a black and white photo of a young man in a naval uniform. I turned the photo over and there was some writing on the back. Hand written in pencil was “Uncle Joe”. Figuring the photo was from 1940’s I quickly realized “Uncle Joe” was Laurel’s Grandfather. Then someone took a marker and added the word “To” before Uncle Joe and in the upper right hand corner wrote “Donald Kraker Died at Pearl Harbor.” Wow! In the 34 years of being married into the family I had never heard any stories of Donald. I had always heard of Laurel’s Uncle Joe joining the Navy and just after he did the Japanese surrendered. His claim was the Japanese didn’t want to tangle with him!
Questions quickly flooded my mind. The first and biggest, which ship was he on? Thank you internet! So I did a search on the internet and looked of a casualty list of the dead on December 7th, Pearl Harbor day. I looked under the “K” and sure enough there was the name of Donald J Kraker. In the next column was where he died and it read “Midway Island, NAS.” Midway Island, what’s that got to do with Pearl Harbor? Back to the internet for more research. Midway Island, NAS stands for Midway Island Naval Air Station. That’s a long way from Pearl Harbor and why would the casualties of Midway Island be added to the Pearl Harbor casualties list? More research. Then I found a article on the “The First Bombardment Of Midway Island”.
On December 7, 1941 The Japanese bombed Midway Island after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As two Japanese ships passed the Midway they started shelling the small island. Four men were killed that morning including Ensign Donald J Kraker. There was the connection. The information was a reference statement to the day and not exact assignment of Donald. 5 years ago I might have not been able to do this research from home. I continued to look the internet over to research some questions that were still lingering in my mind.
The Wall of Stars. How many men does each star represent? One Hundred. There were over 2402 names listed in the data base that were killed on December 7th and the first 25 stars were added to the wall. The final total count on the wall was 4,048 stars. As I continued to research the memorial I found an area were the general public could make a donation and honor someone in WWII. I did a search for “Kraker” and several names returned. I clicked on Donald’s name and found Laurel’s Uncle Joe had made a donation in honor of Donald. Uncle Joe also did a donation for himself for he too was in WWII. He joined late in the war effort but was still part of the Navy.
The town of Gilbert Minnesota lost a son this day 73 years ago. “A Day That Will Live In Infamy!”