On Dec. 7, 1941, a college football team from Salem, Oregon was in Hawaii for a series of games. That morning, the 23 men watched in confusion as bombs exploded near their hotel.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army used the entire football team to help defend the island. Players and coaches were given rifles with bayonets as they dug trenches on the beach, assisted injured children at the Army hospital, and protected the vital water towers and storage tanks.
After returning home to Oregon, almost the entire team enlisted in the Army.
This is just one of the stories told in the Frazier History Museum’s latest exhibition, “A Morning That Changed the World: Personal Stories of Pearl Harbor.”
Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack, the exhibition features narratives told by people who experienced this moment in history. It opens to the public on Oct. 25.
Andy Treinen is director of marketing at the museum.
“What we’re trying to do here at the Frazier is not just let people see something, but to also let them feel something,” Treinen says. “I think our exhibition and curatorial staff did an amazing job with that.”
Treinen says visitors will enter the exhibit through a space that looks like an officers’ club. There’s a bar, there’s laughter, there’s music — and it’s Dec. 6, 1941.
“There’s no reason to expect the world was about to change,” he says. “We then transition visitors from that experience by having them walk through a battleship.”
From there, you’re confronted by the sights and sounds of that morning. Alarms, explosions, newspaper clippings and text panels all work together to build the scene. The exhibit will also feature the Rex Knight Collection of letters, photographs and mementos from both servicemen and civilians.
As the exhibit continues, heavily censored letters and political propaganda lead visitors through the aftermath of the attack and through the gates of a Japanese internment camp, to a generation forever changed.
As present day emerges, marked by a memorial wall, the exhibit explores the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
“It’s really the only attack on American soil that most visitors will remember,” Treinen says. “There are some things that are common between Pearl Harbor and 9/11 — including the immediate aftermath. There’s fear, there’s anger, there’s patriotism, there’s nationalism.”
This Veterans Day, the Frazier will host a commemoration and opening reception of “Personal Stories of Pearl Harbor,” as part of the city’s Week of Valor. Following the Veterans Day Parade, a ribbon-cutting will be led by parade Grand Marshal Charles Hocker, a Louisville native and Pearl Harbor survivor, and collector Rex Knight, with special recognition of Tuskegee Airman Frank Weaver.
Veterans and military personnel are invited to attend the ribbon-cutting and viewing of the exhibition at no cost.