It was a quiet Sunday morning on December 7, 1941. Young Army Lt. Robert Bradford Shapland (my wife’s uncle) was taking a leisurely stroll on the beach, taking in the bright sunshine shining down from a bright blue Honolulu sky. He was smiling. He knew he would be seeing the of his life, Jeannie, in just a few hours. Bob and Jean has been united in marriage at Ft. Lewis, Washington, less than a year earlier. Present at his wedding was his commander, a man by the name of General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Bob was stationed very near the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. Just before 8 he heard a plane overhead, thinking it was a strange time for his fellow soldiers to do practice maneuvers
It was only seconds later when Bob realized it was more than a practice run when he witnessed a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a fierce assault. The United States was at war.
As Bob told the story to our family, the next many hours were a blur as he worked to assist fallen soldiers on land and in the sea. He was proud that he could help save some but, in the end, 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded.
Still in shock the next day, after hearing President Roosevelt officially declare war on Japan, he began looking for that love of his life, Jeannie. The housing unit where they lived on the base had been destroyed. He feared the worst.
Two weeks went by. Every day he asked everyone he saw if they had seen Jean. No one had. About to give up, he happened to drop by a hospital on the island where dozens of the injured troops and others were being treated. He thought that maybe, just maybe, Jeannie had been hurt and might be there.
He asked one of the staff people at the hospital if anyone had seen or heard anything about Jean Shapland. To his incredible surprise, one of the doctors said, “Sure, she’s here right now helping us take care of the soldiers.”
Accompanied by the doctor, Bob rushed in to see Jeannie. She had volunteered to help. Help was in very short supply. They saw each other, ran to each other and hugged for what seemed like forever. They cried together. Jean said that she had wondered all this time if Bob was still alive. Bob told Jean he wondered the same about her.
They were back together again and more in love than ever before. Ultimately, they moved to a little town in southwest North Dakota where Bob started his own business. He remained active in the VFW until he passed away in 2005, just one year after Jeannie left this earth. They were again united.
A sidebar: Bob saw the movie Pearl Harbor. He told the family, it was almost like seeing the story of his life.
God Bless Uncle Bob and those thousands and thousands of WWII vets who served and sacrificed for our country. Those vets are quickly leaving us at a dramatic rate every day. Soon there will be none left. When you see a WWII vet, thank the soldier for his service. Most wouldn’t even mind if you gave him (or her) a hug.