Pearl Harbor survivor Dick Schimmel was a familiar sight at the Allentown YMCA when I was going there to swim. I remember thinking, here’s an old guy who’s taking care of himself, staying fit.
That was two decades ago. Schimmel is ninety-nine now and spry as ever. He’s in Hawaii with his grandson Mark for ceremonies marking the eightieth anniversary of the Japanese attack that yanked the U.S. into World War II.
Though I knew about Schimmel from the Y as we entered the new millennium, it was years before I interviewed him, not until 2007. That’s when I wrote an “in their own words” war story about his experience on December 7, 1941. He was with the Army’s new radar unit, which had early warning of a large number of planes heading for Oahu. Stationed at Fort Shafter, east of Pearl Harbor, he heard explosions and saw planes diving over the harbor, and smoke. The attack was on.
For the seventieth anniversary in 2011, I got Schimmel together with two of his fellow radar men, Joe Lockard and Bob McKenney. Lockard was one of two soldiers manning the mobile radar station that picked up the host of planes coming in. The reunion of the three became another story for my employer, The Morning Call of Allentown.
It’s ten years later, and I’ve written about Schimmel again for the newspaper. I’ve put links in this blog to that just-published story and to the two previous ones, so you can learn how one soldier experienced this enormous event. Precious few who were there are still with us. Schimmel remains a witness to history.