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White Plains Seniors Recall Pearl Harbor Attack

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Clara Trexlar, 94, a White Plains native, said she was putting a hem on a dress when they stopped the  music on a radio program to announce that there had been a bombing in Hawaii the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

“I remember Pearl Harbor. My brother was already in the service,” Trexlar said of her brother, former Staff Sergeant Felix Magliari. “He went in at the age of 17 as a volunteer and came home at the age of 42. So he gave all of his young life.”

Trexlar and other seniors said Japan’s attack of a U.S. military base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii plunged Americans into shock and sent several American servicemen to the South Pacific and Europe, including Magliari, who was injured twice and earned the Oak Leaf Cluster and Purple Heart awards.

“He rescued nine soldiers from a Jeep that was burning or something in Germany. And for that he got a Purple Heart,” Trexlar said of her brother, who is buried in a veteran’s cemetery in Las Vegas. “In Casino, Italy, he was a prisoner of war for about two days. I felt so bad for my mother when she got the telegram.”

Magilari’s family frequently got visits from soldiers who said he was a great asset to the military, according to Trexlar.

Others at the White Plains Senior Center, including Mildred Teufel, 94, said Pearl Harbor reminded her of peers who were sent to fight the Nazis and their allies after the attacks.

“We were all upset that anything like that could happen. I didn’t know any of the fellows that were in the service that were there, but I knew many who were over in Europe,” said Teufel.

Although Adrian Van der Wissel, 94, and Helena Van der Wissel, 88, were living in Amsterdam and Holland during World War II, the now-American couple says Dec. 7 is an  important date.

“Certain days are important for a country to remember and Pearl Harbor day was a very important day. It was the entrance for American into the war,” said Helena Van der Wissel.

Her husband, Adrian Van der Wissel, agreed, saying he was taken to Poland by Germans for his involvement in an organization that assisted Jewish families. However, a Nazi guard let him and hundreds of other captives go, directing them towards a farm, where they remained for a few days until American troops arrived.

Do you know a World War II veteran whose life was changed by Pearl Harbor? Join the conversation below.

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