FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
harbor vets, 12/6/13

Retired Marine Corps Col. Warren MacQuarrie, left, who was a pilot in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, talks with Fairfield High School sophomore Ricardo Reyes, 16, while retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bill Getz, a World War II pilot, talks with freshman Eddie Taylor, 15, in the school's library, Friday. The two veterans, along with retired Air Force Lt. Col. Glen Grewe, spoke to members of the school's Air Force Junior ROTC program about their military service after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

Education

Veterans describe day that changed lives

By From page A1 | December 07, 2013

FAIRFIELD — Three veterans described for Fairfield High School students the day of infamy that sent them into military service as teenagers.

“The lesson of Pearl Harbor is that an event can happen that changes everything in your life,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bill Getz, 89, of Fairfield. “Anything we had thought about that we wanted to do was out the window.”

He and two other residents of Paradise Valley Estates, retired U.S. Marines Col. Warren MacQuarrie, 90, and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Glen Grewe, 90, spoke Friday to Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets at the high school.

Getz was a 17-year-old student at a military academy where he worked serving meals and stood with a tray when he learned about the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. About three months later when he was 18, Getz began his service in the Air Force and as a 19-year-old was a second lieutenant. Before he was old enough to vote – or buy a drink if he were a drinker – he was a captain in the Air Force, he told students.

Recounting his joining the military, he told the teens gathered in the school library that we don’t choose the year – or where – we’re born but do make decisions that alter our lives.

“I made a choice that changed the rest of my life,” Getz said. “I loved the military. I loved flying.”

MacQuarrie said in December 1941 he was 18 and installing gas pedals for 50 cents an hour on a Ford assembly line. He was hanging out with a friend who heard on the radio what had happened.

“We were stunned,” MacQuarrie said. “We never expected Pearl Harbor to be attacked.”

He enlisted in the Marines, flew his last World War II mission Aug. 14, 1945, and went on to fly 46 missions, most of them air support for Marines, in Korea. He commanded a Marine helicopter group in Vietnam and returned to the United States in 1969. MacQuarrie retired from the Marines in 1972.

Grewe remembered the isolationist group America First arguing before Pearl Harbor that oceans on either side of the country meant the United States didn’t need to get involved in war.

“They were very wrong, of course,” he said.

Grewe said discussions in U.S. history class in high school showed it was just a matter of time before the United States was involved in war.

“Pearl Harbor changed all that from guessing to knowing,” Grewe said.

After America entered the war, the country became an industrial giant almost overnight, Grewe recounted.

“Pearl Harbor unified this country,” he said. “I’m sure the Japanese by 1945 were very unhappy with what they had done.”

“I’m not sure Hitler was very happy about Japan bombing our country,” Grewe added. “It changed our country.”

Getz spoke to students about how combat is arbitrary. Flak, the exploding ammunition that can strike an aircraft, has no address, he said. Survival doesn’t depend upon your skill, Getz added. “It depends upon pure chance,” he said.

But while we’re all a product of chances, Getz added, we also get choices. Decide carefully, he said. “A choice may live with you.”

“You’re not kids anymore,” he told the JROTC cadets. “You’re mature adults.”

“You’ll do well,” Getz said. “I know you will.”

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy

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  • Rich GiddensDecember 07, 2013 - 9:05 am

    911 united the American nation too, but few families have a loved one in the military now. In the wake of 911 there was no massive mobilization or maximum industrial effort to produce armaments or sustinence. During World War 2, every American man, woman and even children woke up early everyday, prayed and thought---''with our very survival at stake what can I personally do to help win the war today?" Gone now---a failed war strategy with no leadership accountabilty, the nation foolishly elected civilian leaders who not only never served in the military but who incredibly seem to now openly sympathize and identify with a barbaric enemy! If that same mindset had perversely prevailed during World War 2, the President's name would have likely been Adolph Yamamoto! He would have continually shuttled between Berlin and Tokyo and would have continually apologized for the American people being the victim at Pearl Harbor and the Philippine Bataan province. I bet those senior vets no longer recognize the nation they bled to save. I bet they feel like they've arrived at an alien insane planet where down is now up and up is now down, where wrong is now right and no good is no longer recognized or served. I'm thankful that my great uncle who was with Mark Clark and participated in Operations Torch and Husky didn't live to see this happen.

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