Westfield Area Elem. School Pearl Harbor Survivors Day
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Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941     On February 19, 1991, while demonstrating the operation of his "ham radio” station (WB3CIS), teacher Bruce Weaver and his sixth grade class came in contact with a group called the Pearl Harbor Survivors Amateur Radio Net. The net control, Max Fritsch (N5NRS) in Canyon Lake, Texas, welcomed them and gave a brief description of the net operations.   He then turned it over to the PHSARN founder, Earl Selover (W4LPF) in Chesapeake, Virginia.

     Earl had a nice visit with the class. He told them how he started the net in July of 1981 with sixteen other hams who were stationed in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  The net membership has grown to well over 200 since their first operation. They meet several times each week at specific times and frequencies.

     Earl also briefly told the class about his experiences at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack and suggested that more of the members might want to share their stories with them. Mr. Weaver "checked into" the net several times over the next few weeks and the students had a chance to visit with some of the members.

     The class wrote for a membership list from Jack O'Shea (W8JZH), the group's membership secretary.   Forty of the sixth graders in Mr. Weaver's and Mrs. Heyler's classes volunteered to write to the entire membership and ask what they remembered about Pearl Harbor.

     The response was unbelievable. By the end of the school year the students had received over 160 letters from 35 states. They also received letters from survivors that are not part of the radio group, but wanted to be included in the project. The letters described what they were doing and what they witnessed on that fateful day. The responses fill six volumes of binders with over 600 pages of stories, pictures, and information. These were placed in the school library.

     Some went beyond letter writing.    Eugene Price (W6RBD), a survivor from California, arranged to have a special flag flown over the Arizona Memorial and sent to the school  as did Mike Gerstein, of Phoenix, AZ, on a separate occasion.  Many sent pictures and old newspaper clippings.

     The students used the information in the letters to write stories about each of the survivors.   These were put together in a book, We Will Remember Pearl Harbor, printed by the school district and sent to the letter writers. The book includes essays and poems written by the students as well as some of their Illustrations.

     The highlight of the project came on October 25, 1991.  On that date the students had a chance to meet some of the survivors, in person, during "Pearl Harbor Survivor Day" at the Westfield Area Elementary School. The school invited all of the survivors and their families to attend a special dedication ceremony for both the flag and the book.  Thirty-eight survivors from eleven states, including California and Texas, were able to make the trip to Westfield. Special guests included Earl Selover - the founder of the radio net, Sidney Manwaring - founder of the Elmira Chapter #2 of the NY State Pearl Harbor Association, Rear Admiral Martin W. Leukhardt (representing the pentagon), Tioga County Commissioner Brian Edgcomb, and several other local dignitaries.   Letters of congratulations from the Secretary of the Navy and President George Bush were read during the ceremonies.

     The project drew local and national attention.  Newspaper reporters and photographers attended as well as  WETM-TV Channel 18.  The Cable News Network (CNN) also sent a camera crew and reporters.

     The project continued over the following year as members of the new sixth grade classes wrote more letters.  This time they wrote to all the members of the Pennsylvania Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.  The responses were added to a second edition of the book, We Will Remember Pearl Harbor.  Over six hundred copies of the books were sent to the project contributors.  In total, the school has received over 300 letters documenting personal accounts of the beginning of World War II for the United States.
 

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