The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 2, 2012

Kingfisher museum to recognize Pearl Harbor attack anniversary

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The “Day of Infamy” is recognizable to many Oklahomans with memory of World War II, and Chisholm Trail Museum in Kingfisher will feature an exhibit on Friday recognizing the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Museum Director Adam Lynn said there will be many exhibits relating to the attack, along with sound recordings and photographs.

Lynn said the exhibit was acquired from the WWII museum in New Orleans and will detail the attack by Japanese forces on Pearl Harbor. Local American Legion representatives and World War II re-enactors from the 45th Infantry Museum in Oklahoma City will be included with the exhibit.

World War II-era food and refreshments will be available, along with sound recordings and artifacts from the period. Some local artifacts also will be featured.

There will be a short film on individuals who survived the attack, and three other interviews of people who fought in the war from Kingfisher County.

Oral histories will be part of it, and also telling the story will be 62 pages of photos, plus a narrative of the attack. Sound recordings will be on some panels, including a complete recording of President Franklin Roosevelt making his “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress the following day.

Two Kingfisher cousins, Robert and Chester Jech, plan to be at the exhibit. They have vivid memories of where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news about Pearl Harbor.

“I was sitting at the kitchen table using a typewriter, getting copies for my high school lessons,” said Chester Jech. “I heard it on the radio ... I thought, ‘Boy, you’re headed over there.’”

The next day, he heard President Roosevelt deliver the “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress, declaring war on Japan and Germany. He thought it was a good speech.

“I thought it was pretty nice,” he said. “I never was a Roosevelt-lover, but I thought it was nice and he handled everything well.”

He was 17 at the time, but when he graduated high school, he was 18 and was drafted into the United States Army.

He received his uniform and was sent to Sheppard Field, Texas, for basic training. He then was called to take a physical for gunnery school.

The maximum height for gunnery school is six feet. Chester Jech was one inch taller.

“They told me I couldn’t make it; I was too tall for gunnery school,” he said. “I wanted to do it, so I shrunk down when they measured me, and I went to gunnery school.”

He recalled being sent to a number of places for training. After gunnery training, he went to Arizona for engineering school, then met his crew in Salt Lake City, Utah. He recalled being on a troop train going to Alabama on Thanksgiving Day, and he saw people dressing a large possum for dinner.

“I thought, ‘They are going to have a big possum, and we’re going to have who knows what,’” Chester Jech said.

Finally, in Delaware, he and his crew took off in their plane and flew to Labrador, then Iceland, then across the sea to Scotland, where they joined the 381st Bomb Group. He saw action over Germany and France during the war. He remained in the Army until the war was over, finally arriving home in October 1945.

His cousin Robert Jech, 92, also remembers where he was when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was on the farm near Kingfisher when his father told him of the attack.

“I was scared to death we would get bombed or some troops might come by,” Robert Jech said. “In 1941, communications were limited.”

He was drafted in the summer of 1942 and entered the Army Air Corps, where he was trained as a glider mechanic. He traveled to a number of bases in the U.S. during the war, working on damaged gliders, chasing them with a tug and dragging them back to base to get them ready to go again — “the ones that didn’t crash,” he said.

He later worked on small trainer aircraft, then worked on the B-32.

Three years and 43 days after he entered the service, he was discharged and returned to Kingfisher.