Pleasanton's new and majestic Veterans Memorial atop the hill at Pioneer Cemetery was dedicated last month in time to be a symbol of remembrance as we observe the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor Wednesday.
Although most in Pleasanton aren't old enough to remember that Dec. 7, 1941 morning when just before 8 a.m. hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, the impact of that attack changed our city forever.
The attack especially sent chills through those in the small senior class at Amador Valley High, then the city's only high school. Seven months later, the senior boys quickly enlisted or were drafted into the armed services. Most of the co-eds went to college or took jobs in the defense industry. When the war ended in 1945, none in the class had been a war casualty and most came back to Pleasanton where their families had weathered the war and the Great Depression before that, and settled down.
Unlike other Amador classes that now number in the 500s and find they have too many widely scattered alumni to meet regularly, the Class of '42 stayed together, often holding reunions at the home of Shirley and Bob Butler on Valley Avenue, directly across from Harvest Park Middle School. With so few left from that class, those reunions have now mostly ended.
"It was always great to see old classmates, especially when you realize it's been 60 years since we graduated," Joe Wolfenberger told the Weekly in an interview in 2002.
Wolfenberger, who died in 2008, recalled: "When we graduated, a lot of us went into the service. When we came back three years later, we wanted to stay home and we were content to stay right here in Pleasanton. After seeing a lot of the Pacific and Europe in the war, this was a pretty good place to be, to get married and to start raising our families."
He served in the Navy, at one of the most eastern islands (and closest to Japan) in the war, where he was responsible for replacing airplanes on carriers to make up for those that had been shot down.
Wolfenberger was one of six classmates who served during World War II who found their future spouses in the Class of '42, marrying classmate Barbara Lanini. Besides the Butlers and Wolfenbergers, Verna and George Garibaldi were the other classmates who married.
Four of the 34 members of the Class of 1942 were shipped off to internment camps the April before graduation. One of the teenagers, Tom Sakata (now deceased), enlisted in the famous all-Japanese-American battalion. That battalion was sent on harrowing missions and suffered many casualties.
Pleasanton was invaded after Pearl Harbor, but not by enemy agents. The government took over farmland just north of Pleasanton (now Dublin) for the site of Camp Parks and Camp Shoemaker. McNeil Construction Company of Southern California won the bid for the job, and they moved 4,000 construction workers to the site for the sped-up project.
That's when the town changed, when they built Camp Parks for Seabees (CB for Construction Battalions) and Camp Shoemaker for the Navy. Almost everyone in town worked out there at one time or another. The military hospital at Camp Shoemaker served 45,960 military patients between October 1943 and January 1946.
Also changing Pleasanton after Pearl Harbor were the 60,000 military personnel that were housed in 60 barracks and 1,000 Quonset huts. This led to a tremendous local housing shortage as wives of sailors came to say farewell before their husbands were deployed or later, to visit husbands recovering in the hospital, awaiting discharge.
Many ended up staying in Pleasanton whose families can now observe the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack without fear.