“Information is Lacking” was a headline article in the December 14th edition of the Adams County Record in 1941. A week after the infamous Pearl Harbor attack, little was known about the fates of the five Hettingerites deployed in Oahu.
“Little information has as yet been received about the location or experiences of former Hettinger people who are now in the zones of combat,” said the 1941 paper.
Erick Bjorum was stationed in Pearl Harbor on the U.S.S. Dolphin Submarine. On December 4th, three days prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, Bjorum mailed a letter back to his parents in Hettinger, informing them that he was soon to be on his way back home to Hettinger from Pearl Harbor just in time for Christmas. Bjorum’s parents did not receive the letter until December 13th, six days after the attack.
Similarly, the Adams County Record also had no information about lieutenant Robert Shapland and his wife, Jean Shapland, from Crosby and Hettinger respectively. Mr. and Mrs. Shapland were stationed with the army in Honolulu during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Along with the Shaplands and Bjorum, two Hettinger cousins, Jacob and Edward Ihle were also stationed in Oahu. The two cousins “were said to be aboard ships bound for the Hawaiian Islands when the attacks were started at Pearl Harbor.”
The Adams County Record continued, “Mr. and Mrs. Ihle received a letter Saturday from Jacob which he stated that he had sailed on November 27th on board the U.S.S. Ellet and that the ship was scheduled to dock on Sunday, December 7th… No further word has been received from either of the boys.”
A week after the Pearl Harbor attacks, the parents and community still had no idea about the fates of the young men and woman. So what happened to these brave Hettingerites?
Jacob Ihle survived Pearl Harbor and moved back to Hettinger. Eventually Jacob moved to California and passed away in 2010.
Bjorum also survived Pearl Harbor and went on to fight in the Korean War, eventually achieving the title Chief Warrant Officer.
Both Robert and Jean Shapland were separated for two weeks during the bombing and neither knew if the other was alive. According to Loren Luckow, the couple survived and eventually returned to Hettinger. In town, Robert ran the Fitch Motor Company until he retired. After years of traveling around the U.S. and Europe, Jean passed away in 2003 and Robert passed away in 2005.
The information about these old heroes is scattered and hard to find. Thank you to the Dakota Buttes Museum for offering their materials and resources to research this day in history. These are just a few of the many stories detailing Hettinger’s involvement in World War II. Although the information can be hard to find, it’s important to not only remember the history of Pearl Harbor and World War II, but also the individuals who risked their lives. On this December 7th, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the Adams County Record would like to acknowledge the importance of this infamous day.