CHARLESTON, W.Va. –One of the state’s few remaining survivors of Pearl Harbor says one of the best days of his life was when the rebuilt USS West Virginia was able to be part of the close of World War II in 1945, four years after it was destroyed in the attack that marked the entrance of the United States into World War II.
“I watched them (the Japanese) sink the West Virginia,” Lincoln County resident Wetzel “Sundown” Sanders told MetroNews Thursday at the Pearl Harbor Day ceremony in Charleston. “They got seven torpedoes into it and one bomb but what done me good, Sept. 2, 1945, the West Virginia pulled into Tokyo Harbor with the others following it.”
Sanders fought back tears as he remembered the complete turnaround from what he saw nearly four years earlier.
Sanders was in a camp near the harbor when news of the attack spread.
“I woke up and heard the awfulest noise going on and we had our guns loaded, already loaded with ammunition and everything. We (were previously scheduled) to go in there on maneuvers and they called it off,” Sanders said.
Sanders buried his brother, who was also a World War II veteran, earlier this year. The Sanders Brothers Bridge on Route 10 at Midkiff between Huntington and Logan is named in their honor. Wetzel received a Purple Heart in a ceremony back in September in Huntington.
He also attended the 75th anniversary of the bombing last year and plans on being there for the 80th anniversary.
“The oldest one there was 104 and he was looking forward to the 80th anniversary and I told him when he gets there to look for me because I’ll only be 99,” Sanders said.