Pearl Harbor victim honored in Amsterdam

December 07, 2016 06:27 PM

AMSTERDAM - Seventy-five years after the Japanese sneak attack in Honolulu, Hawaii, residents of Amsterdam, New York were dropping a wreath into the Mohawk River in memory of hometown hero William Hasenfuss, whose remains were never found at Pearl Harbor.

"It's one of those watershed events in American history where, in a moment, everything changed overnight," was the reflection of Amsterdam City Historian and retired US Army Intelligence Officer Robert vonHesseln.

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vonHesseln says Pearl Harbor should serve as a reminder that we need to reevaluate our national preparedness and intelligence.

"In all fairness," vonHesseln points out, "You have to understand they were prepared. They were prepared for the wrong thing. they thought, by watching the traffic of all the Japanese shipping going to the Far East, and by hearing no naval traffic in the Pacific waters, they thought the greatest threat was terrorism or sabotage."

To this day, the main American scapegoat for the devastation suffered at Pearl Harbor is Admiral Husband Kimmel, who commanded the US Pacific Fleet.

"We have a saying in the army: a commander is responsible for everything his unit does or fails to do," vonHesseln says, "Kimmel made but there were also mistakes made in Washington."

Army veteran Ray Ciotto was five years old in 1941.

"I think it was unfair (to point fingers at Kimmel)," Ciotto, a longtime Amsterdam resident, states, "Someone had to take the fall. Unfortunately it was him."

"The whole attack was a tragic series of mistakes both on the part of the Japanese and on the Americans," vonHesseln assesses. "The Japanese really didn't have to attack us. They thought they desperately had to take out our fleet. They didn't."

Fortunately, vonHesseln points out, The japanese didn't take out our oil depots, submarines, or aircraft carriers, and that he says, enabled us to win the war.


Dan Levy

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