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'You don’t forget,' says Wentworth Alumnus Who Survived Pearl Harbor Attack

December 8, 2016

Wheeler Army Airfield, one of the other targets hit in the Japanese attacks on Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941. (Photo courtesy of the Tropic Lightning Museum).

By Dennis Nealon
 

It lasted just two hours, 75 years ago, but the attack on Pearl Harbor has not faded from Walter Maciejowski’s memory.

“You don’t forget,” said Maciejowski, 95, who recalls being rousted from his sleep by the explosions and rat-a-tat whir of machine gun rounds hitting their American targets.

A Wentworth alumnus, Maciejowski enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940 and was part of a quartermaster unit stationed near Honolulu when the attack occurred. He was just 20 years old.

On Dec. 6, 1941, Maciejowski said he decided for convenience sake to spend the night at Schofield Barracks, another of the U.S. installations hit in the attack. It was late; he had been out with some buddies to dinner and a movie at Waikiki Beach—enjoying the mild, Oahu evening.

“I remember the sounds,” said Maciejowski, who talked about the “day of infamy” from the Atria Woodbriar residence where he lives in Falmouth, Mass. To mark the anniversary of the attack, the staff at the facility recognized Maciejowski’s service. His two sons visited him for the event. 

The devastation to Pearl Harbor 75 years ago is well documented. Early on that Sunday morning, hundreds of fighter planes from the Empire of Japan destroyed 20 ships and more than 300 planes. Some 2, 400 servicemen were killed. What’s less known is that Schofield, located about 18 miles from Pearl Harbor, and Wheeler Army Airfield were also attacked. At Schofield, yanking Maciejowski from his slumber, the Japanese planes flew in low and strafed the engineer, infantry and artillery quadrangles, some officer’s quarters and the post hospital. According to military records, servicemen at Schofield were also killed and wounded.

Amid the confusion, Maciejowski threw on his clothes and was ordered back to his outfit. He was discharged from the military in 1944. Two years later, he took advantage of the GI Bill and entered Wentworth, earning a certificate in architectural construction. He also attended Boston Architectural College and, in his career as a draftsman, worked on projects including the Southeast Expressway and Seabrook Station nuclear power plant.

He married and lived in Everett, four miles north of Boston.

He has visited Pearl Harbor several times since the attack, and has stayed in contact with the Institute, supporting it with periodic contributions over the years—including a donation as recently as last summer.

Maciejowski, who will celebrate his 96th birthday in February, said he returned to Wentworth for reunions until his small band of classmates passed away. “For a while, I went every year,” he said.

“Wentworth gave me a great start,” he added. “You never want to forget where you came from.”

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