HONOLULU – Sixty-five years ago, Takeshi Maeda and John Rauschkolb tried to kill each other at Pearl Harbor. This week, now both 85, they met face-to-face for the first time and shook hands.
The Japanese veteran gripped Rauschkolb’s arm with his left hand and briefly hesitated, as if he was searching for the right words. Then he said, “I’m sorry.”
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese Imperial Navy navigator Maeda guided his Kate bomber to Pearl Harbor and fired a torpedo that helped sink the USS West Virginia.
Rauschkolb, a Navy signalman, stood on the West Virginia’s port side as a series of Japanese planes pummeled the battleship with torpedoes and bombs. The West Virginia lost 106 men in the assault.
“He may have been shooting at me,” Rauschkolb said as he shook Maeda’s hand.
Overcoming the legacy of the attack, the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor and the Americans who survived the attack are coming together during a five-day series of Pearl Harbor attack anniversary observations in Hawaii.