Remembering Pearl Harbor, and a Lesser-Known Attack that Same Day
Today, the country pauses to remember the seventieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, an attack which killed thousands of Americans. A less known part of that day is what came later, in the Philippines. Colonel John Wallach was there.
“They hit us ten hours after they hit Pearl Harbor.”
John, a member of the 19th Heavy Bombardment Group, initially started his military life in Pearl Harbor. But his unit got moved out to the Philippines months before the attack. Still, they weren’t spared.
“No, no we knew they were going to come over, but they really got a lot of our airplanes. And finally the Americans started sending airplanes over and we took control.”
Warnings of the attack on the Philippines came in time, but didn’t make it up the chain of command. About a hundred soldiers were killed in the Philippines early on December 8th, and many of the Army’s Air Corps was lost, mostly B 17s. For John Wallach, memories from the day come back, time and again.
“It is a constant reminder. But I don’t do it to get credit or for publicity. It happened and we did our job, and we did a good job over there.”
The credit Colonel Wallach speaks of? It’s the Silver Stars, the Flying Crosses, the Oak Leaf Cluster.
“I got that full of medals, but I really wasn’t there to get medals.”
Colonel Wallach flew more than 60 missions, making a sacrifice few can even fathom. Yet, he calls his life a lucky one.
“I’ve had bullets come through the airplane and I’m just fortunate that I’m still here.”
Through war and the images that remain, John remembers one thing…
“I pray every night that it doesn’t happen anymore.”