Hometown Hero: Richard Cmeyla, Pearl Harbor survivor

Published 12/07 2012 08:49PM

Updated 12/07 2012 10:48PM

Kewaunee, Wis.(WFRV)--A Kewaunee sailor  was stationed in Hawaii the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, 71 years ago.
    Richard Cmeyla says he was preparing to attend church services that day. Instead, Cmeyla was quickly pressed into service, helping those who were wounded in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
   Local Five's Terry Kovarik has more on a Hometown Hero who is a living link to the 'day of infamy'.
 Richard Cmeyla was marking his first year as a U.S. Navy yeoman when he was deployed to Hawaii.  In September 1941, he visited a buddy who was attached to the battleship U.S.S. Arizona.  He hoped to get a closer look. 
About three-months later,  December 7th started routinely, as Cmeyla recalls, with help from his son, Jack.
Says Cmeyla, " I was ironing my 'whites' Sunday morning, because I wanted to go to church.
But within minutes, Cmeyla was alerted to unusual aircraft activity. Cmeyla, "I was watching them planes coming in., they were low, but they were strafing. They were shooting at PBY-5's"
  Cmeyla ran outside but took cover with two other sailors armed with pistols.
The two other men were killed as they opened fire on Japanese planes straffing their area.  Cmeyla eventually made his way toward the harbor, and quickly focused on helping the wounded.
After the second wave ended,  Cmeyla and other sailors feared a landing from Japanese forces, known to dress in white.  So U.S. sailors altered their own white uniforms. Cmeyla, "We had to take them to a bin and dunk them in coffee."
The Japanese ground attack never happened.  But it would be a week before his girlfriend, Elizabeth, would know whether Richard survived. Eventually they married and raised a family.  But Pearl Harbor remains a vivid memory, especially the knowledge that one possible duty for him was aboard the U.S.S. Arizona.

Richard Cmeyla:"I was lucky I didn't go.  It was horrible.  I was assigned away. It could've been me."
According to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, an estimated 200 Wisconsinites were at Pearl Harbor during the attack.
    Richard Cmeyla is the last Pearl Harbor survivor from Kewaunee County.


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