Veterans Remember Pearl Harbor Through Video Memories at Alle-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum


When the late Mike Sopko enlisted in the Navy in 1943, he forged his father’s signature.

The 17-year-old’s draft letter arrived in the mail at his home in Arnold, and his parents made a deal for him: graduate and you can enlist.

“I (got early release) and left school in February to go to training camp, then straight to artillery school in Maryland,” said Sopko, who recorded his memoirs before his death earlier this year.

“From there I went to Gitmo and Pearl (Harbor). I spent the next 22 years in service, 17 of them on some type of vessel. “

To mark the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Alle-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum in Taranto will present excerpts from “Duty, Courage, Honor: The Alle-Kiski Valley Goes to War”, the video memoir series of alumni. fighters recorded by John Bailey of New Kensington.

Since 2013, Bailey has recorded the stories of 60 WWII veterans in an effort to keep their service alive.

“I thought it was a good idea to collect people’s memories before losing more,” Bailey said.

Its free presentation will begin at 2 p.m. at the museum along Seventh Avenue. It will include video presentations from people with connections and memories of the December 7 attack.

Sopko obtained the rank of chief gunner in 22 years of service. A security observer on four destroyers, two amphibious ships and an aircraft carrier, he spent his last military years aboard the Newport News, the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet for the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“I left there just before she left for Vietnam,” Sopko said. “The worst thing I have ever seen was an aircraft carrier called the USS Wasp – it cut a destroyer in half during night maneuvers.”

Tuesday’s presentation is scheduled for a heavy bomber from the Creighton section of East Deer that spent time in a German POW camp after being shot down.

There will also be stories of a woman from Taranto who served in the Navy during Pearl Harbor and later became a real estate agent. She noticed that her first client in the 1960s was a Japanese.

Bailey, an Arnold native, previously worked in radio and video. It documents the locals and their inspiring stories wherever possible, he said.

Bailey said he was lucky to have interviewed Adrian Cronauer, the Pittsburgh native whose experiences as a military radio DJ in Vietnam became the basis of the movie “Good Morning, Vietnam”, starring Robin Williams.

More recently, he handed over footage of deceased veterans to two families who were unaware of the existence of the videos.

“The subjects did not say anything to their families and thus, they were presented with images of a loved one that they had no idea they existed,” he said.

The 75-minute Tuesday program is limited to 30 people. Masks are compulsory.

For more information, call 724-224-7666.

Tawnya Panizzi is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected] or via Twitter .


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