Allouez, WI -- Think of the Pearl Harbor attack and visions of the ships is probably what comes to mind. But before that, Japanese planes attacked a small airfield to the north which is where a former Oconto lumber mill worker was on his way to breakfast.
On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Robert Mineau was a 24-year-old army firefighter at Wheeler Air Base on the island of Oahu. Moments after leaving church, he became one of the very first eyewitnesses to the Japanese attack on American forces.
"They swung around and headed down towards Pearl Harbor. One echelon peeled off and came towards us," explains Mineau.
Wheeler, located approximately 15 miles from Pearl Harbor, was home to a fleet of U.S. fighter planes.
"They had to knock us out first, because we were the biggest deterrent to them you know."
Planes on the ground and aircraft hangars were the primary targets. Robert wasn't far from the very first bombs dropped in the attack.
"I didn't see it drop but I heard it, and then after I heard that one there, that's when I saw it come down and hit in front of me. They bombed there a couple hours, but there was so much smoke there that they couldn't pick us out you know."
His job was to ignore the carnage around him and do his job.
"Oh I didn't give it a thought. I just did my job, didn't give it another thought. I didn't scare easy."
Once the attack was over and the fires were out, Robert did a little exploring and picked up a piece of the second bomb dropped on this day of infamy.
"This one particular one there," he said pointing to a piece of metal, "fell about a hundred yards. I kind of got shook up by the concussion, and it hit these tankers and caught them on fire, and then later on I picked them up. You know in those days, all this stuff you were supposed to turn it in, but I always thought finders keepers," he said with a chuckle.