A day of remembrance

On the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor -- Dec. 7, 1941 -- two current Craig residents were hundreds of miles apart. And hundreds of miles away from the war.

But the bombing, which is remembered today as part of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, put Don Seick and Einar Carlson on the same path -- a path of serving their country and into World War II.

Seick's story

The date that would live in infamy would have to wait for Don Seick to hear the news.

In December 1941, Seick lived on a ranch west of Craig, and his family was "so damn poor" it didn't even have a radio, he said.

It was the day after the Pearl Harbor bombing that Seick found out the United States was at war in response to the attack.

He recalled listening to President Roosevelt's speech on a radio in the Craig High School study hall.

"The whole school listened to Roosevelt give that speech," Seick said. "That was the first I knew of it."

By spring 1943, Seick finished school. Knowing he was about to be drafted, he made a pre-emptive move.

"I saw these sandwich-boards around town advertising the military service," he said. "The Army one showed soldiers walking, the Marines showed men fighting, the Navy board showed a sailor with his arms around two girls, and I thought, 'Boy, that's for me.'"

Seick was 17 years old.

Boot camp was in Farragut, Idaho, followed by torpedo school in San Diego.

"I was shipped out to New Caledonia, but the (Japanese) were further in, so we went to Guadalcanal for a while," he said.

It was 22 miles across Iron Bottom Bay in the Solomon Islands where Seick spent the next 19 months, working in the torpedo shop on Tulagi island.

His job included prepping torpedoes for destroyers, submarines, PT boats and airplanes.

North Dakota to Japan

Einar Carlson heard about the Dec.7 attack on Pearl Harbor while in Halliday, N.D., where he was born.

"I was working for my cousin when we heard about it on the radio," he said. "I didn't think too much about it at the time."

He enlisted in the Army on Oct. 8, 1942, and was assigned to the infantry.

After three months of training at Camp Roberts, he was shipped to Brisbane, Austrailia.

Assigned to the 32nd Infantry Division, Carlson found himself with a number of Wisconsin troops that would fill in for soldiers coming off the front lines.

He had the same assignment after being shipped to New Guinea.

"I moved from one outfit to another," he said. "Troops were pulling back, and we filled in for them."

As a private first class rifleman in the infantry, Carlson recalled firing his weapon often.

His next assignments read like the allied battle plan for the Pacific, first going to Leyte, and then to Manila in the Philippine Islands. Then on to Japan.

"I was in the Philippine Islands for quite a while. In Leyte, we were watching for (Japanese) in the mountains," he said. "I remember we had a nice Thanksgiving dinner in Leyte."

His transfer to Japan at the end of the war allowed him to see the signing of the Japanese surrender on the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

"We gathered at the railing and watched that," Carlson said.

Today in Craig

Both Seick and Carlson visit each other often these days at their Sunset Meadows apartments.

They say dropping the atomic bomb on Japan to end the war was the correct move for the United States.

"I was assigned to go to the destroyer USS Anthony for the invasion of Japan," Seick said. "Because they dropped the bomb, I'm alive today."

"Aren't we all," Carlson added.

Seick never saw the USS Anthony with the war's end coming soon after the bomb was dropped.

Seick had enough points to be discharged, but so did a lot of other guys, he said.

He was assigned to Guam for the next five months.

With the Japanese surrender, Carlson counted the days until his release from the military.

"Then my time was up. I had my days in," he said. "It was the happiest day of my life. It was Sept. 28, and I was heading for home. It was my birthday."

A few months later, with his discharge from the Navy coming on Dec. 21, 1945, Seick also finished his military career.

He hitched-hiked back to Craig, arriving at sundown on Christmas Eve.

It was 35 degrees below zero.

He was home, had no trade and $300 in his pocket, he said.

"I was 20 years old, with a wife, and I was ready to whip the world."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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