Cape Coral WWII veteran remembers Pearl Harbor on anniversary

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over into the sea during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941 – Photo by AP.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was an event in American history that changed the course of many things to come worldwide. The event propelled a generation of Americans into World War II. One man in Southwest Florida is a living testament of the generation who served the nation during a time of great need.

Memories from World War II are still vivid for 95-year-old veteran Richard J. Bergeron from Cape Coral.

“That changed everybody,” Bergeron said. “I think everybody … everybody was lined up to enlist in the service.”

Bergeron remembers being very close to the war.

“We were close to the front believe it or not,” Bergeron said. “You could hear small arms fire. And if you hear that, you’re close to the front.”

Bergeron lived in Rhode Island 77 years ago when the surprise bombing at Pearl Harbor left the United States in shock.

“I was scared,” Bergeron said. “Believe me.”

The attack on Pearl Harbor killed nearly 2,500 Americans and left at least 1,000 others wounded.

“When that happened, a friend of mine came to the door and said, ‘We are going to enlist,’” Bergeron said.

Southwest Florida Military Museum in Cape Coral has a display dedicated to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Prior to Pearl Harbor, we were supplying aid to the allies,” said Taz Gehling of the SWFL military museum. “But we were not directly in the war at that point, so when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, that’s when it dragged us into the war, full on conflict.”

If you decide to stop by the museum, you may run into Bergeron, who is a volunteer there.

“World War II,” Bergeron said. “There aren’t many around left, not many left.”

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