Museums collecting Pearl Harbor stories: They want to hear from ‘other than survivors’

By DEBRA VAUGHN Do you remember where you were on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor? If so, local people who care about history want to hear from you. The Oak Harbor PBY Naval Air Museum, in conjunction with other regional museums, is assembling a collection of “other than survivor” Pearl Harbor stories to help commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack. They want to hear from people who weren’t in military service in Hawaii but still recall hearing about the event. The stories will be assembled into binders and displayed at the PBY museum, the Island County Historical Society Museum in Coupeville and the Heritage Flight Museum in Burlington. Wil Shellenberger, president of the PBY Memorial Foundation, saw the idea to gather oral accounts elsewhere and thought it would be useful here. They’re interested primarily in people’s stories who live now in the north Puget Sound area, but you don’t have to been living here when Pearl Harbor happened. He’s already heard from two sisters who were 6 and 8 at the time and witnessed the attack in Hawaii from their front porch. “My suspicion is we’ll find an example of the melting pot of the people in Oak Harbor,” he said. “(Naval Air Station Whidbey Island) changed the demographics of the community.” The seaplane base was already being built and the Navy planned to build an airfield an Ault Field when Pearl Harbor happened, but the attack hastened those plans, Shellenberger said. The goal is to complete the project by the end of September so it can be displayed by the anniversary. The museums, including the PBY museum, have forms to fill out that include permission for the museum to share them. You can pick up one on site or email eventscoord@pbymf.org or call 360-320-4220 to arrange for a museum interview. The museum is located at 270 SE Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor. It is open Wednesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Sundays it is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.