Remembering Pearl Harbor: 75 years later, memories of attack still vivid

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Pearl Harbor survivor Walter Borchert holds a scrapbook with a map which shows the location of American warships during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

 

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Walter Borchert is one of the last remaining survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. What he saw that day is still vividly alive in his memory, even though it took place 75 years ago.
"You never forget something like that," said Borchert. "I can still see the battleship Arizona lifting partly out of the water after it got hit by a bomb that ended up going into its powder magazine. Over 1,100 sailors died when that happened. It didn't come completely out of the water, but lifted up and then sank back into the water," he said, motioning with his hands as he described the scene.
Borchert, now a resident of the New Hampshire Soldiers Home in Tilton, said Dec. 7, 1941, was a bright, sunny Sunday morning and there was a lot traffic around his ship, the 341-foot long USS Worden, one of four destroyers anchored near a destroyer tender at the entrance to Pearl Harbor.

USSWordenDD352The USS Worden
Boatswain Borchert, then 21, who had grown up in Brooklyn and signed up for a six-year tour of duty with the U.S. Navy in 1939, recalls that sailors were going ashore for chapel services while others were coming back to the ship from shore leave, or "liberty" as it was then known.
"I was just sitting down with a big egg sandwich and a big mug of coffee around eight o'clock when a guy named Yvonovich came running down the landing yelling 'The Japs are attacking!' I ran up onto the top deck and looked down the harbor to Battleship Row. The first thing I saw was the Arizona get hit," Borchert said.
Soon his ship would come under fire.

"We were constantly under bombing and strafing and had to keep ducking for cover," he said, recalling that although no bombs were dropped on the destroyers, the low-flying Japanese aircraft strafed them as each wave passed by. "They had virtually wiped us out in the first wave. We thought it was over then, but they hit us with a second wave. It went on for well over two hours. We had some .50-caliber machine guns, but couldn't use them to defend ourselves because the destroyers were so close together that you'd have shot the smokestacks off the other ships if you'd try to shoot at the airplanes."
Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes viewOne of the bombs hit 50 yards behind the Worden, exploding with such force that Borchert was slammed into the ship's torpedo racks.

"I banged up a knee, but I didn't know it because I didn't feel any pain until the adrenaline wore off'' he recalled.
He remembers going to a small arms locker on the port side of the ship where he pulled out a long-barreled .32-caliber pistol and the sailor beside him grabbed a .44-caliber pistol that they fired at the attacking aircraft.
"I don't think we hit any of them,'' said Borchert, who especially remembers one Japanese pilot who was flying so low that the sailors could see his face with each pass he made.
"He was grinning at us and firing his guns. There was an officer's locker on the ship's fantail that was filled with potatoes and onions. Some guys opened it up and started throwing them at him when he came by us," Borchert remembers.
The destroyers were eventually able to build up a head of steam and find enough separation so that they could fire back at the attackers. One of Borchert's shipmates, Quartermaster 3d Class Raymond H. Brubaker, trained a .50-caliber Browning machine gun on a low-flying dive bomber and sent it splashing into the water nearby.
"I just hope it was that guy who kept smiling at us. It was nice to know that we got at least one of them after all the damage they'd done to us. It was horrible. So many guys died that day," he said.
He says that within two hours of the start of the attack, the Worden was underway and headed out to sea.
"We spotted a sub shortly after noon and dropped seven depth charges. They were sitting out there trying to pick off ships as they came out of the harbor,'' he recalled.
Over the next 13 months, the Worden was involved in six other major naval operations in the South Pacific, including Coral Sea, Midway and Guadalcanal, frequently serving as part of the screening force for aircraft carriers like the Lexington, Saratoga and Yorktown.
"We were there ready to take a torpedo if we saw one headed toward a carrier and as the outer defense against Japanese airplanes. I spent a lot of time in what we called a gun tub, strapped in a harness and firing 20- and 40-millimeter guns when we were a screening ship for the Saratoga," Borchert recalled.
In October, the Worden returned to the West Coast of the United States, where it underwent some repairs and two days after Christmas 1942, sailed from San Francisco to support the occupation of Amchitka Island in the Aleutians, where disaster struck on Jan. 12, 1943.
The destroyer was guarding the transport Arthur Middleton as that ship put the preliminary Army security unit on the shores of Constantine Harbor, Amchitka Island. As they headed out, a strong current swept the Worden onto a rocky pinnacle that tore into her hull beneath her engine room and caused a complete loss of power.
An effort by the destroyer Dewey to tow the ship free failed when the cable broke and heavy seas started to push Worden toward the rocky shore. The ship broached and began breaking up and the crew was ordered to abandon ship.
"The water was 36 degrees. I didn't know if I was going to make it," said Borchert, who was finally pulled into one of the rescue boats of the Middleton.
"I got wet twice that day, because the Middleton ran aground, too,'' said Borchert.
He was later taken by a British gunboat to Papua, New Guinea, and got a ride on an Army transport ship which took him back to the states. He recalls that while on the British ship he would receive a daily ration of rum and was frequently pestered by the British sailors, who said that they'd be glad drink his rum if he didn't want it.

"But I always drank it!" he said.
When he returned stateside, he was assigned to Long Island City in New York, not far from his boyhood home in Brooklyn. Borchert worked as a security guard for the remainder of the war and met for the first time his future wife, a woman from New York who had been sending him letters through her church group while he was stationed in Hawaii.
He and Gloria, a school teacher, enjoyed their free time at places like Coney Island and at a Queens bar and restaurant, where the proprietor, Karl Vollmerding, always gave Borchert free drinks.
Vollmerding would later move to New Hampshire and build Karl's Steakhouse and Hofbrau Lounge near the Weirs Beach bridge, which Borchert and his wife would frequent after they moved to New Hampshire.
When the war ended, Borchert worked briefly for the Red Cross and for a company servicing vending machines before becoming a short-haul truck driver
"I remember driving through Brooklyn and honking my horn every time I saw Roy Campanella (Brooklyn Dodgers catcher) in front of his liquor store," said Borchert, who later became a New York City building inspector. A lifelong Dodger fan, Borchert said he gave up on them and his heart was broken after the team moved to California in 1958.
He and his wife bought a summer camp on Sachem Cove in Meredith in 1954 and spent many summers in the Lakes Region before moving to Meredith after they retired in 1977.
They most recently lived at Briarcrest Estates in Belmont, before Gloria moved into Golden View Health Care in Meredith and Walter moved to the Veterans Home.

 

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Pearl Harbor survivor Walter Borchert describes what it looked like when the Arizona exploded after its powder magazine was hit by a Japanese bomb. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Children's Auction underway, more biddable items needed

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — The Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction got underway Tuesday at a new location, Pheasant Ridge Golf Club in Gilford, and the volunteers who are the heart and soul of the auction say they're pleased with their new home.
"We're off to a good start. It's been a good first day for us and everyone seems to like the new location," said Sandra Marshall, co-chair of the Children's Auction Board of Directors.
She said that volunteers starting setting up on Sunday morning and after about six hours had the entire set in place.
She said that even though the enthusiasm level is high, there is still a need for more auction items.
"We're a little thin in the back room right now," said John Walker, one of the volunteers, who added that he was confident that donors will be dropping off auction items throughout the week as excitement grows.
Those looking to donate items can drop them off at the Bank of New Hampshire, Franklin Savings Bank, Meredith Village Savings Bank, Irwin Marine  and MetroCast. They can also be dropped off at Pheasant Ridge and successful bidders can pick up their items at Pheasant Ridge.

Grace McNamara, station manager for Lakes Region Public Access Television, said that students from the Huot Center are helping out throughout the week, under the direction of Ray Sleeper, Digital Media Arts teacher, and are enjoying the experience of working on a live television broadcast.
It was the decision by LRPA to televise the auction in the 1990s that led to its rapid growth in popularity and fundraising for local nonprofits.
This is the second year that the auction, now in its 34th year, has been under the direction of the Greater Lakes Region Charitable Fund for Children, a nonprofit corporation which last year took sole ownership of the auction.
Since the first auction in 1982, which was conducted singlehandedly by Warren Bailey of WLNH, the auction had been effectively owned and operated by the radio station and its owners. Last year volunteers, who devoted their time and energy to the success of the event, reassessed the relationship with the station and chose to vest ownership of the auction in a nonprofit corporation, the Greater Lakes Region Charitable Fund for Children.
The auction has grown to become a major source of funds for local charities and last year distributed $428,7000 to dozens of organizations across Central New Hampshire. More than half of the funds came from the popular Pub Mania event hosted by Patrick's Pub, which will take place on Thursday.
Tony Felch, one of the volunteers, said there are three new teams in Pub Mania this year: Laconia Harley-Davidson, Fusion and the Ladies of the Lake. Thirty teams will compete in a 24-hour bar stool challenge at Patrick's.
For the second year in a row, CruCon Cruise Outlet of Moultonborough is the presenting sponsor of the auction.
The auction will be broadcast live through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 6 to 9 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tune in on 104.9 the Hawk, 101.5 WZEI, MetroCast Channel 12, LRPA Channel 25, or online at www.ChildrensAuction.com.

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The “Kinder Choir” from Imaginarium in Center Harbor perform “God Bless America” on the opening night of the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction on Tuesday. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Car slides off Bay Road in Sanbornton

SANBORNTON — A local woman escaped injury Monday morning when her car slid off the Bay Road at 10:30 a.m. and nearly landed in a nearby brook.

Police Chief Steve Hankard said slippery roads from Monday's snow made the "S" turns on Bay Road very slippery.

Hankard said the department was very lucky that the car didn't go into the water and was stopped by some trees.

He said they closed Bay Road for about 30 minutes while Rusty's Towing pulled the car out.

Hankard said the car was damaged from hitting the trees but was driveable. He said a friend of the driver's drove the car from the scene.

Local police said there were a number of minor accidents because of the snow but no serious ones.

– Gail Ober

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The first serious snow of the year caused this car to slide off Bay Road in Sanbornton Monday. (Courtesy Sanbornton Police)

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