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Friday, 02 December 2016 11:29

Pearl Harbor: A reunion with history

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Stan Van Hoose in the kitchen of his Beloit home talks about his experiences in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Van Hoose will be part of a group of men to return to Hawaii for the 75th anniversary commemoration of the attack. Stan Van Hoose in the kitchen of his Beloit home talks about his experiences in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Van Hoose will be part of a group of men to return to Hawaii for the 75th anniversary commemoration of the attack. Terry Mayer/staff

STATELINE NEWS -- Stan Van Hoose will be returning to the site of one of the more horrific attacks in the history of the United States.

Van Hoose, 96, is set to attend the Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration on Dec. 7, 2016.

The Beloit resident was serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was aboard the USS Maryland when Japanese fighter planes attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

Even though it’s been 75 years, Van Hoose recalls the attack vividly.

"You wouldn’t even believe it. It was like being in hell for a few hours. (The Japanese) dropped bombs and torpedoes in all directions," Van Hoose said. "We had a ship tied to our port side, the USS Oklahoma. (The ship) turned over first and it protected us."

Van Hoose will attend the commemoration thanks to the support of family friend Laura Stottler, who he calls his "adopted granddaughter."

"Somebody else is raising money for all of this. I’m just going," Van Hoose said. "(Stottler) is going to take care of the trip to and from. She’s a schoolteacher in the Madison area, but her grandparents are good friends of mine, so it all started from there. She only had one grandpa, so she took me as the other one."

As part of his trip, Van Hoose will attend a gala event, remembrance ceremony at the USS Oklahoma and the commemoration parade, where he will be one of the grand marshals. He also will visit the Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield.

Besides the Pearl Harbor attack, Van Hoose was involved in several other World War II battles, including Guadalcanal, Midway Atoll, Solomon Islands, Russell Islands, Peleliu and Tarawa Atoll.

"Very few times I was back in the United States, only to change ships," Van Hoose said. "I covered all over the Pacific. I was in a lot of invasions."

Van Hoose earned the rank of chief quartermaster after serving for 46 months. He also did some boxing while in the Navy.

"They used to call me the meanest son of a bitch in the fleet. A month before the war happened, I became the light heavyweight champion of the fleet," Van Hoose said. "I had a short boxing career, and I’m glad for that. In that type of career, you get your bell rung and your brain never recovers. It’s like playing football for so many years. I’m glad I got to be a sailor. I got to see more ports and more gals."

Van Hoose served in the Navy from 1940 to 1945 and then re-enlisted from 1946 to 1948. Despite the Pearl Harbor attack and being involved in several battles, Van Hoose said he enjoyed his time in the military.

"I’m one of the few Pearl Harbor survivors. I went in before the draft. I didn’t want to go in on the draft. I wanted to see the world and be a navigator," Van Hoose said. "I got to be a navigator for four different ships in eight years. I got to navigate three oceans and 16 seas. I got to see most of the world."

Van Hoose moved to Beloit in 1949 to work as a sales manager, and then he started his own business.

"I decided in 1948 that I had to make a decision about whether to stay in the Navy or go work for somebody else. When I got out, my wife said, ‘Are you going to stay out?" and she was stuck with me," Van Hoose said. "After I got out of the Navy, I became a merchant for somebody else as a sales manager for 10 years in Beloit and Janesville. I made some good money. I eventually told my boss you got some good new young guys now, so I want to start my own business, and that’s what I did."

Van Hoose said he has been glad to call Beloit his home over the last 67 years.

"People are very friendly. They’re hard-working people. It’s not crowded. The big cities, you can’t see the other side of the town, but you can see the other side of the town here," Van Hoose said. "You have people who stop and talk with one another. You have people who make friends with one another. Families intermarry. It’s like a family compared to cities like San Francisco and Chicago. It’s a world of difference."

Van Hoose was on the VetsRoll trip to Washington D.C. in 2014. He said the trip was an enjoyable experience, because he got to visit the war memorials with other veterans.

"It was great," he said. "I was never treated any better in my life."

Van Hoose was born in November 1920 in Kentucky. His father worked as a coal miner and a farmer.

"My dad worked as a coal miner. My brother worked as a coal miner, and my three sisters married coal miners," Van Hoose said. "So, I guess you can say I came from a coal mining family."

He said he became interested in the Navy when he was about 8 years old.

"I wanted to see what was on the other side of everything," Van Hoose said. "I would climb the hilltops with my big German shepherd dog, and I scared the hell out of my mom a few times. She couldn’t get my dad to spank me for violating her rules. He would say, ‘I don’t like this place any better than he does, but I have to work to feed my family and that’s why I’m still here. Otherwise, I would be gone.’"

Besides Pearl Harbor, Van Hoose escaped death at least two other times. He survived quadruple bypass open heart surgery in 2012, and another time one of his German shepherds saved him from a potential attacker.

"(The dog) took him down like a linebacker taking down a quarterback," Van Hoose said. "He laid on top of him. (The guy) had a gun on his belt, and I took the gun from him and in about five minutes the cops came, and they said, ‘How do you get that dog off of him?’ I just snapped my fingers and he came and sat by me. Then they put him in a squad car and took him away."

Van Hoose said, at 96 years old, he doesn’t know how many more years he has to live, but he is still proud to be an American citizen.

"When I got to be 75, I started to worry about why I’m still here. ...," Van Hoose said. "I don’t know how long I’ll live, but I always tell people only the good die young. I enjoy living, and this country is the best country in the world. People who turn their back on it, I can kick them in the butt."

Van Hoose said, over the years, he has learned to forgive the country of Japan.

"They’ve become a good nation. Beforehand, they were really, really raw," Van Hoose said. "If you saw some of the things they did and how they treated our captives, they wouldn’t only shoot them but they would throw rocks at them, too. It was a dirty war, but they’ve become nice people."

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