Pearl Harbour bombing photos donated to Interior B.C. museum

The Cariboo Chilcotin Museum in Williams Lake features small but powerful photographs of the December 7, 1941 bombing of a U.S. Navy battleship at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

One of the six photos showed dozens of people jumping off the battleship after it was bombed, while another showed a group of people standing outside the barracks watching the bombing, including a man in underwear.

These photos and photo enlarger belong to the late Joe Fetters Sr., who in 1955 with his wife Louise, son Joseph Ernest Jr. and daughter Marla Marla Anne moved to Cariboo together.

Fetters Sr. passed away in December 2010 at the age of 95 and Louise passed away on July 11, 2011 at the age of 93.

Joe Fetters Jr. and his wife Kathy discovered the photos over the past few years and decided to donate their enlargers and reprints to the museum.

“Dad mostly shoots flowers and landscapes, so we were surprised to find pictures of Pearl Harbor,” said Fetts Jr., who lived with Kathy in his parents’ last home in Russet Bluff.

Laura Zimmerman, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, said the museum appreciates donations and is always grateful when community members donate items of historical value.

“We respect all the veterans who served then and now,” Zimmeran said.

Joe Fetts Sr. was stationed at Naval Base Pearl Harbor as a civilian from 1941 until his return to the United States in 1944.

He was a welder, but also took pictures and enlarged them for servicemen to send home.

Joe Fitters Jr. of Williams Lake recently discovered a photo taken by his father Joe Fitters on December 7, 1941, of a battleship being bombed at Pearl Harbor. (Photo by Joe Fitters)

In a 1994 interview with the Tribune, he said that on the morning of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack, they initially thought the low-altitude planes were conducting friendly aircraft maneuvers.

After a long night shift, he went to breakfast.

“At the first explosion, he and everyone else realized that the plane overhead was not American. They all panicked,” the 1994 article noted. “He particularly remembers a huge eruption when a nearby destroyer was hit directly and the magazine exploded.”

Fetters Sr. told reporters that only one of the nine battleships escaped intact.

Fetters Sr. was born and raised near Ellensburg, Washington. He and Louise met in high school and married on January 1, 1944, while he was taking a month off at Pearl Harbor.

After the war, he and his brother went into the lumber business. Eventually, they moved operations to the Horsefly area of ​​Cariboo.

When his brother moved back to Washington, Fetters Sr. and his family stayed.

The men ran out of the barracks to witness the bombardment of battleships near Pearl Harbor.  (Photo by Joe Fitters)

The men ran out of the barracks to witness the bombardment of battleships near Pearl Harbor. (Photo by Joe Fitters)

Eventually, they moved into Williams Lake in 1960 and purchased land called Russet Bluff to develop a market segment.

In a 2003 interview, Louise said her husband built all the roads and installed the water system in Russet Bluff.

Fetters Jr. spent many years as an engineer abroad and returned to Williams Lake with Kathy in 1995, where they helped his parents develop and eventually complete it.

His sister Mara lives in Arizona.

When they lived in Horsefly, he recalled, the photo enlarger was running on the Fetters’ generator. As for the Pearl Harbor photo, Fetters Jr. said he wished he’d asked his father more about his life during that time.

“He didn’t really talk about it.”

Fetters also donated copies of these photos to the Horsefly Museum.

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