Salisbury's Jack Kepley remembers Pearl Harbor and his service in WWII | People
SALISBURY - 70 years ago Wednesday the naval and air forces of Japan carried out a surprise attack on the American fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, sparking the entrance of the United States into World War Two.
"It was a Sunday, I went to church, came home, had lunch, playing with some of my friends in the front yard," Jack Kepley remembered while speaking to a history class at Rowan Cabarrus Community College on Wednesday. "My sister came out and said they had heard on the radio that the Japanese had struck Pearl Harbor, went in and spent the rest of the day listening to the radio, all of the news, and it was really bad."
Kepley said at the time, Pearl Harbor meant one thing.
"My biggest fear at that time was that it would all get over before I could get out of high school and get in the Army and get in it...I had little to fear," Kepley added.
On Wednesday Kepley was on another campus, talking to students about what happened 70 years ago, and how it changed the lives of millions.
"The next day there were lines at the draft board, there was a greater reaction to Pearl Harbor than there was to 9/11 by a long shot...draft boards were flooded all over the country people wanting to volunteer," said Kepley.
Kepley graduated from high school on a Friday, reported to the Army on Saturday. He saw action in some of the bloodiest battles of the war, taking back islands in the Pacific that had been overrun by the Japanese in the early days of the war.
"It took a long time to take that island because they could dig caves and had caves and they were dug in so it was really a tough fight," Kepley added.
And Kepley remembers the fear he faced.
"Being hunkered down in landing barges hearing the explosions on the beach and the rat tat tat of the machine guns and just wondering what your were going to face after they drop that ramp and you hit the beach," remembered Kepley.
70 years later his stories still fascinate those more than a half century younger.
He has fond memories of those days and those brothers in arms, but when the war ended, he was ready to move on with life.
"There's an old saying that when you leave an outfit, all debts and friendships are canceled," Kepley added. "Which is pretty much true, you go back to your life and they go back to theirs and there's not much give and take between after that."
Many vets dispute that claim, keeping in touch over the years through the American Legion, VFW, and various organizations, using those friendships as a source of strength through the years since their service.
For his part Kepley was one of the three founding members of the Harold B. Jarrett American Legion Post in Salisbury, and is one of three charter members still alive.
He says he didn't have a lot of contact after the war with the men with whom he served, but always enjoyed his time with other veterans at the American Legion Post.
Kepley also said his Boy Scout training helped him during his Army days.
When Kepley returned home he remained active in Scouting and has to this day, becoming one of the longest serving and most respected Boy Scout leaders in the country.