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WWII veteran remembers Roosevelt’s ‘Day of Infamy’ speech

Reports from the Department of Veterans Affairs say about 240,300 World War II veterans are still alive in 2021. They’re generally in their 90s, and about 245 die each day, according to the VA.

At 95, Army veteran Lincoln “Linc” Harner still remembers the war.

Linc Harner poses for a photo during World War II. (Courtesy photograph)

Harner was born in Pottstown, Penn., but he now lives in Landsdowne, Va., about 175 miles from Washington, D.C.

He entered the Army at Fort Dix, N.J., on April 7, 1943; he was a technician, fifth grade. Harner remembers while in high school hearing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech on Dec. 8, 1941, before a joint session of Congress on the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the day before.

“I can remember the spot where I was walking when I heard that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,” he recalled in a Defense Media Activity interview earlier this year. “We all listened on the radio to the president’s speech and discussed it. All the guys who were 18 were ready to sign up and join [the military]. I had just turned 17 and I had an extra year of postgraduate school to go, so I knew I wouldn’t be going in right away.”

But when his time came, he was ready to enlist, he said.

Harner would find himself storming Gold Beach on D-Day. He went on to serve in the liberation of Paris, Battle of the Bulge, and supported Patton’s 3rdArmy. Three and a half years after he heard the president’s “Infamy” speech, he ended his wartime service with the liberation of Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, May 7, 1945.

Harner has some advice for the youth of today.

First, he suggests embracing American history in school. “When I was young, I was not interested in history,” he said. “It was boring to me. Of course, the textbooks back when I was young weren’t told in a narrative [manner]. I would tell [young people] to learn all they can about our country, how it was formed, why it was formed, who helped found it, and who were the leaders and the top ones and what was their thinking. They will appreciate America more.”

Linc Harner, 95, served during World War II and entered the Army at Fort Dix, N.J. on April 7, 1943. He served as a technician, fifth grade and saw combat at Gold Beach on D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Paris. He supported Army Gen. George C. Patton’s Third Army. Harner is seen during a visit to the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2020. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

Also, Harner continued, “Serve your country. I still believe that. At 18 years of age, every youth coming out of high school should be required [to serve] two years in some kind of federal service, either the military or other federal service. It’s time that we really do that. We’d make our country better, we’d make our youth better, and by the time they went to college and did other things, they’d be a lot more mature,” he said.

“The wars are worth fighting,” Harner said, “to make sure that nothing really happens to our country, or somebody tries to take it over. When you think of all the invasions and what happened with Hitler and Germany, and then the Japanese and way back into history, people were always trying to put other people down and conquer them. America is not like that. But we have to keep our defenses.”

Reflecting on his Army service, he said, “In America, we can be what we want to be, we can do what we want to do within the law. And not only is America one of the first to respond to world disasters like earthquakes, America is ready to send its armed forces to help other nations that are trying to get a democratic government, or they have other problems. And our willingness to do that has been very costly for us. But it’s been something that America is famous for. And sometimes I think maybe we brag too much about America being the best. But by golly, it is. There’s no question about it.”

Today, when Harner sees the American flag, it brings up a lot of emotion for him. “I tear up,” he said. “I’m so proud. I try to stand as erect as I can at 95 years old. I sing the National Anthem as loud as I can and salute the flag, and then wipe away the tears.”

Linc Harner, 95, served during World War II and entered the Army at Fort Dix, N.J. on April 7, 1943. He served as a technician, fifth grade and saw combat at Gold Beach on D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Paris. He supported Army Gen. George C. Patton’s Third Army. Harner is seen during a visit to the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2020. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

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