“I was inside, writing a letter to my mother,” Chuck Kohler recalls, “when the attack began.”
EJ Chuck Kohler was born in Minnesota on January 27, 1924. Interested in aviation from a young age, he decided to join the Navy and his interest in flight landed him a position aboard a patrol and reconnaissance plane. On watch in a nearby hangar when the Japanese struck, Chuck’s first thought was that he would get in trouble for using the typewriter instead of being on watch. He initially thought the sound of aircrafts diving were U.S. aviators showing off, he realized an attack was underway when bullets began hitting the hangar and the airfield outside. When an explosion ripped through the building, Chuck threw the letter he wrote in the trash and rushed outside.
Told to take cover in a ditch, Chuck refused the order, wanting to fight rather than hide. Joining others rushing to the armory, he took charge of a machine gun and ran with the heavy load to a nearby patrol plane, where he then, with the help of another sailor, hoisted the load inside and mounted it to an observation port. This was the first time he had ever fired that type of weapon, but his childhood training on rifles, necessary for surviving on hunted game, paid off. He was quickly in the fight and sending rounds at Japanese aircraft. Those same childhood instincts sunk in and he began to lead his fire in front of the attackers, scoring multiple hits.
One of his memories from that fateful day is the letter he had been writing and the wish that he still had it today. He now calls California home, where he lives with his wife of many decades.