After passing through the final room of “Personal Stories of Pearl Harbor,” the Frazier History Museum’s latest exhibition, Pearl Harbor survivor Charles Hocker paused for a moment to readjust his “WWII Veteran” ball cap.
“It brought back too many memories,” Hocker said. “But I think it’s history that (today’s youth) should know about for a wonderful country, and about those who were willing to sacrifice themselves for our country.”
Just a few hours prior, Hocker had served as the grand marshal of Louisville’s Veteran’s Day parade, which is part of the city’s Week of Valor. He joined a group of other veterans, including Tuskegee Airman Frank Weaver, at the museum to tour the Pearl Harbor exhibit. The exhibition serves as an immersive walk-through of the history and events leading up to and following “a date which will live in infamy.”
According to Andy Treinen, the director of marketing at the museum, the exhibit is set up in such a way as to “not just let people see something, but to also let them feel something” — which resulted in a number of veterans, like Hocker, and their families sharing their experiences and memories of Pearl Harbor.
Julie Anderson and Laurie Spraggins are sisters whose mother lived in Hawaii during the attack.
“They thought that the Japanese were invading the island,” Spraggins said. “And I think a lot of their neighbors went up into the hill, the mountains to hide.”
They told the story of how their mother’s dog was drafted into the military. Her family got a letter one day that they were to bring their dog — a German Shepherd named Shorty — to a specific location at a specific time.
“They threw firecrackers at him, gunshots, all these loud noises — and he really growled and barked,” Anderson said. “And he was drafted.”
About a year later, after Shorty had served on Midway Island, he was returned home.
“And they said he was never the same,” Anderson said.
Cindy Gardner Vance is the only child of a father who served in WWII. Vance said her father went to Male High School and made the decision to graduate a semester early in December 1941.
“And even though he had purchased his cap and gown, his ceremony was cancelled,” Vance said. “He was drafted right after.”
“Personal Stories of Pearl Harbor” includes collections of letters, photographs and mementos from both servicemen and civilians. There’s more information about the exhibit here.