Joseph Bader was 24, a student at Rochester Institute of Technology — with the girlfriend who would later become his bride — on the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Bader was driving over the Clarissa Street Bridge in Rochester, Estelle Doyle by his side, on Dec. 7, 1941. They were returning home after a house party on Conesus Lake, listening to the radio. A sudden interruption broke the news. Bader doesn’t remember the exact words, but he remembers clearly how that carefree mood during a December Sunday drive went dark.
“I knew right away I was destined,” recalled Bader, who was on a train headed for Alaska just five months later. One of 16 million Americans who went on to serve in World War II, Bader would spend 44 months in the Army, in combat and experiencing horrors he doesn’t want to recall.
World War II veteran David Van Gelder was just 16 when the Japanese attacked the U.S. Navy base on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on this day 76 years ago. Like Bader, also now living in Canandaigua, Van Gelder was quickly drawn into the war that became the focus for every American.