Pearl Harbor Survivor Humanizes WWII Novel for Mayfield Students
“It was a sparkling, beautiful morning” that fateful December 7, 1941, “and in the blink of an eye we went from peaceful existence to having somebody overhead in bombers trying to kill us!” said 92-year old Pearl Harbor
survivor and former U.S. Army Sergeant Stephen Krawczyk to 6th grade students at Mayfield Intermediate School in Manassas.
“I had just left the barracks for chow. Suddenly, barreling
over the field toward us were planes with the large red Japanese ball insignia on the fuselage and wings. We were not so much afraid as stunned!” he said.
Krawczyk, a Manassas resident, recently presented to
students in teacher Sandra Reynolds’ reading class as an extension of the novel they are studying, I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941 by Lauren Tarshis. Krawczyk is one of few U.S. military survivors of the
attack remaining and “the students probably don’t realize how special and rare his visit is,” said Reynolds.
Students found it most amazing that Krawczyk had never fired a gun until that day.
As mechanics for the Army Air Corps, he and his unit “weren’t trained as soldiers! But that morning we ran to the supply room for rifles and started shooting at the low-flying planes” from inside the building, he said.
“Before I could fire, I had to pause and ask an airman, how
do you load this gun? I learned in a hurry!” he added. Eventually Krawczyk was “forced to leave the barracks and make a break for it” near the airfields, the bombers’ main target.
“I got on Hangar Avenue and sprinted down to get away from the airfields and saw a Zero bomber headed my way with machine guns rattling. I was not only scared, I was terrified. I hit the ground.”
That close call with death “was something I’ll never forget,” he said.
Krawczyk’s message resonated with the students, whose rapt attention rendered the classroom quiet enough to distinguish the emotion and dignity behind his parting words: “What you should remember is that our most precious aspect of America—freedom—is not
free. At Pearl Harbor, our freedom was tested at the cost of many, many lives.”
Mayfield Intermediate School serves the approximately 1,000 5th and 6th grade students of Manassas City Public Schools.