WWII veteran remembers attack on Pearl Harbor 80 years later

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – James Kelly is almost 100-years-old. 80 years ago, Tuesday, he was only registered in the draft, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he knew he had to fight for his country.

Kelly will never forget where he was 80 years ago.

“Well, on this day I was in a pool hall on Sunday afternoon. We were listening to the Bears game on the radio, and then they interrupted the broadcast with the Pearl Harbor announcement,” he said.

His first thought when the broadcast came through was wondering where Pearl Harbor even was.

“Who knew where Pearl Harbor was? I didn’t know where it was. No one in the pool hall knew where it was. I thought it was up around Alaska,” he said.

Kelly and his mom sat up that night listening as updates came through the radio broadcast. They heard the number of casualties climb, and Kelly said the next step for him was obvious.

“After that everybody my age, we had already registered for the draft, and then we all went and volunteered,” he said. “Everybody did. Everybody tried to get in.”

But it didn’t happen right away for Kelly. He was working at the railroad, and they classified him 2-A. Meaning he was necessary in his civilian job.

Eventually, he was able to serve in the Marine Corps, and he said it all started on that fateful day, December 7th, 1941.

“I just figured it was my duty, my obligation. I don’t regret one iota about going,” he said. “I have no regrets.”

Kelly said he’s thankful, and blessed he fought in the war and left without a scratch. He said he hopes people will continue to learn about the history of what happened this day decades ago, and how it got us to where we are.

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