World War II tribute to vets
Historical footage from D-Day & Pearl Harbor.
70TH ANNIVERSARY OF WW II AND PEARL HARBOR
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NAPLES — Chester Slider wasn't stationed on the USS Arizona or even at the naval base in Pearl Harbor.
He was just supposed to be there for a few days, but was there when the attack took place and became one of the American casualties, Martha Mahon said.
Mahon, a 92-year-old North Naples resident, was married to Slider for about six months in 1941. Slider, who was in the Navy, was on the USS Arizona when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Mahon and Slider "ran off and got married" in Goshen, Ky., on April 15, 1941, with one of Mahon's cousins presiding at the service.
Mahon said her new father-in-law bought a boat and the couple spent their honeymoon on a trans-Atlantic trip, leaving England and eventually arriving in Chicago, where Slider was scheduled to go through Naval training.
"I think about that ... very few people would have done that," she said.
Mahon said Slider decided to join the Navy because of his background with boating and being on the water.
Slider was stationed in California, and Mahon said he was sent to Hawaii for two days to "help out on the ship." That's how he ended up there when the attack occurred.
She had spoken to Slider on Dec. 6 and he told her they were getting ready to move the ship. He couldn't tell her where they were going. It was the last time they spoke.
Japanese forces attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor by air on the morning of Dec. 7, and about 2,400 Americans were killed during the attack. Twelve ships sank or were beached, nine were damaged and the United States lost 164 aircraft during the attack.
Sixty-four Japanese died, while five Japanese ships and 29 planes were destroyed.
"That day changed our lives," said Peter Thomas, a World War II veteran and historian from Naples. "We knew we were in a war."
Mahon was working at her family's grocery store in Louisville, Ky., in the days surrounding the attacks, and was there the day Naval officers came to inform her that her husband had died.
"I could see the Navy men coming to the store, and two Naval officers came in and said they had sad news," Mahon said recently. "They said my husband was on the ship."
The USS Arizona still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and entombs about 900 crew members. Mahon has been to the site five times over the years, and said it's always a difficult visit.
While Mahon said she occasionally thinks what her life would have been like had Slider survived the attacks — she believes they would have had children and lived a happy life — she said she tried not to dwell on the tragedy and lived life to the fullest.
She was married again in 1943 and had two children. She ultimately married three more times, and said she outlived all of her husbands.
Joe Seay, Mahon's son, said his mother doesn't let things stand in her way.
Today concludes four days of reports from Scripps Howard News Service and the Daily News of the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II.
"Mother had her own agenda, she always had her own agenda. But I knew ... the No. 1 priority in her life was her two kids," Seay said. "She made sure we were well taken care of."
Seay said he didn't learn about his mother's prior marriage until he was about 15. They were at a department store when his mother ran into Slider's parents.
Mahon said she has few regrets in life. She's traveled where she's wanted to go in the world, except for Australia and New Zealand. She said she would have liked to have gone to college longer and maybe kept up with her music — she studied music in college and played the drums, piano and violin.
"She likes her life and what she did, and when it came to when she wanted to do something, she did it," Seay said.
_ The Associated Press and Scripps Howard News Service contributed to this report.
_ Connect with reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna-buzzacco.