An Emotional Father's Day in Pearl Harbor - WBAY

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An Emotional Father's Day in Pearl Harbor

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More than 70 years after surviving the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a group of Wisconsin veterans returned to Hawaii.

For one Green Bay veteran, it was chance to re-live his story for the first time with his son and grandson.

If you're a Pearl Harbor Survivor, you have quite a story.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Bernie Duchateau remembers sitting on an ammunition locker, chatting with other shipmates aboard the USS Dale.

"We happened to look up over toward Pearl City and saw some planes coming in and said, 'Well, I guess they're reinforcements,' but then all of a sudden there was a red ball."

Bernie and the crew scrambled to their guns and opened fire on the enemy planes, splashing at least one.

When the attack ended, the Dale set sail across the harbor.

"All we could see, smoke and fire; and the buildings were all blown to pieces."

Bernie returned to Green Bay after the war but he kept the war inside. "The first 25 years I don't think I said anything to anybody," he told us.

Bernie says it wasn't until a reunion with former shipmates that he finally started to open up.

Son Allan didn't learn about his father's painful past until high school.

"It was something I was very proud of," Allan Duchateau said. "You can't go to many people who can say 'my dad is a Pearl Harbor survivor.'"

As the years passed, Bernie's stories started to flow.

Brian Duchateau, Bernie's grandson, said, "Unlike my father, I don't remember the quiet years from Gramps. I remember as a little kid being pretty engaged in hearing him tell stories."

Allan and Brian have visited Pearl Harbor before, but never together -- and never with their hero.

This trip, they say, means everything.

Allan said, "This morning talking to my son, I had a tear in my eye when I was talking to him alone and saying, you know, I really understand."

"I'll never forget this. This will be with me for the rest of my life," Allan added.

"This is not really about a war that ended almost 70 years ago. This is about a generation of men who changed the political landscape of the world and really defined who we are as Americans. And I want to know that story because as his generation passes we become the ambassadors of the story," Brian said.

It just so happened our interview with the Duchateaus took place on Father's Day.

We'll have more on their emotional time together in Hawaii on Action 2 News at Ten, including Bernie's thoughts today, more than 70 years after the attack.

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