HOKAH, Minn. -- Seventy years ago today, the attack that launched America into World War II shook the nation. The Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor inspired many brave Americans to enlist in the military.
There are fewer and fewer people left with memories of that day, and even fewer who served in the war.
That makes Hokah resident Gerry Davison a living piece of history. But he says the lessons he learned fighting the war in the 40s are still just as relevant today.
Davison was a college junior sitting in a classroom when he got the news.
"The instructor got an interruption on the telephone in our classroom and echoed it to us," said Davison.
Japanese aviators had launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
"I didn't even know where Japan was really on the map—or Pearl Harbor…. But I knew immediately I was going to go."4897090
It was hard to get much information about what actually happened.
"It was more gossip. One person heard something on the radio or one person read something in the Reader's Digest or something. That's all we had to go on."
But Davison, along with nearly all of his classmates, knew war was coming and quickly made plans to enlist.
"It was such a devastating attack. It absolutely meant that we were totally going to go to war. And having heard from my dad about World War I all my life, I thought that's what you're supposed to do."
Davison joined the Navy and was assigned to a minesweeper in the South Pacific.
Looking back on that sense of duty he felt to enlist, he says now he feels connected to those who were inspired to join the military by the September 11 attacks.
"On 9/11 [it was] kind of like it was after Pearl Harbor, a little bit—the attitude. Yeah, I feel real close to them. In fact, I would have volunteered. But I was too old for sea duty that time."
And as he reflects on his service, he says there's only one thing he would have done differently.
"Regrets? No, no. Only that I could have been there sooner."
During his time in the Navy, Davison actually had a few close calls with kamikazes. Even now, if he sees an old movie that reminds him of those encounters right before bed, he still gets nightmares about it.
Davison's military service extended beyond World War II. He also served in the Vietnam War for two-and-a-half years and was part of the Reserves.
- Local family moves in to Habitat for Humanity home
- Women's March on Madison draws thousands to protest Trump
- UW-La Crosse students organize 'Women's March on La Crosse'
- Wisconsin Supreme Court orders John Doe documents released
- UPDATE: Officer won't be charged in Holmen shooting
- The Latest: Judge won't drop charges against ex-UW student
- Baldwin supports pair of Trump nominees
- Taste of Onalaska raises money for teachers
- Chili cook-off warms up community while raising money
- Area protester goes to joins Women's March on Washington D. C.