CONCORD, CA (Nov. 12, 2023) — With the same fiery spirit and emotion he put forth in America’s defense on Ford Island 81 years ago, Pearl Harbor survivor Chuck Kohler extolled his Veteran’s Day audience to “remember us, remember us.”
“We gave our lives in service to you,” said the 99-year-old, in summoning up his energies for the day.
Kohler’s poignant remarks highlighted the annual Concord and Clayton community Veterans Day observance at Todos Santos Plaza. His unscripted remarks were preceded remarks from VFW Post 1525 Post Commander Mark Steinberg and area civic leaders, including Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister whose remarks gave special mention to the 70th anniversary of the three-year Korean War and those served in the conflict.
Kohler, filling in admirably for scheduled speaker Jake Larson, a 100-year-old veteran who served at Normandy and later the Battle of the Bulge and was just hindered by illness, shared his recollections of the sights and sounds he experienced when Japanese forces attacked the Hawaiian Island of Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941.
Just taking time to type a letter home to his mother after doing rounds with a fellow naval service man who was going off duty, Kohler remembered it was quiet day at Pearl Harbor. It was then that he heard aircraft overhead, which was odd as nothing was on the day’s schedule. Soon after he recalled the enormous roar of the aircraft and then seeing them go into power dives all the while firing unabated at their intended targets, “the bullseye of Pearl Habor.”
While a superior officer levied orders to take cover in a ditch for safety, Kohler described how he would have none of that and instead with a colleague in tow went into search of weapons and ammunition to bravely put up some armored response.
“I joined for fightin’, not hidin’,” Kohler said to those in attendance hanging on his every word at the Saturday observance.
He ultimately was able to locate a .50-caliber machine gun that he likened to “a cannon without the wheels.”
Among the targets he saw the attacking aircraft pursuing was the USS Nevada that Kohler recalled seeing in the channel attempting to make its way to open ocean waters from Pearl Harbor.
Recalling his days as a boy growing up in Minnesota and hunting, Kohler recalled “a good shot was the difference between having and not having food on the table.” He called on that mantra as he fought tirelessly on that December morning so long ago.
The Veterans Day program, held under beautiful blue skies, also included prayers for peace by military chaplains from VFW Post 1525 and its auxiliary and stirring patriotic renditions of the National Anthem and God Bless America by Clayton resident Mechele Fong.
David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.