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

The photos were found in a box in the basement, and are now at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin

A small but powerful collection of photographs depicting the Dec. 7, 1941 bombing of U.S. Navy battleships at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, is on display at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin in Williams Lake.

One of the six photographs shows dozens of people jumping off a battleship after it is bombed and another one shows a group of men standing outside the barracks watching the bombing, including a man in his underwear.

The photographs and a photo enlarger belonged to the late Joe Fetters Sr. who moved to the Cariboo with his wife Louise, son Joseph Ernest Jr. and daughter Marla Anne in 1955.

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

Joe Fetters Jr. and his wife Kathy discovered the photographs in the last couple of years and decided to donate the enlarger and reprints of the photographs to the museum.

“Dad mostly photographed flowers and landscapes so we were surprised to find the Pearl Harbour photos,” said Fetters Jr. who lives with Kathy in the last home his parents owned in Russet Bluff.

Museum board president Laura Zimmerman said the museum is thankful for the donation and is always grateful when community members donate items of historical value.

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

Joe Fetters Sr. was stationed as a civilian at the Pearl Harbour Naval Base from 1941 until his return home to the U.S. in 1944.

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

In an interview with the Tribune in 1994, he said on the morning of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack at first they thought the low-lying aircraft were doing friendly plane manoeuvre.

He proceeded to go get breakfast after finishing a long night shift.

“At the first detonations he, and everyone else, realized the planes overhead were not American. They all panicked,” noted the 1994 article. “He particularly remembers one enormous eruption as a nearby destroyer took a direct hit and its magazine exploded.”

Only one of the nine battleships escaped undamaged, Fetters Sr. told the reporter.

Fetters Sr. was born and raised near Ellensberg, WA. He and Louise met in high school and were married on Jan. 1, 1944 while he was on a month-leave from Pearl Harbour.

After the war, he went into a lumber business with his brother. Eventually they moved their business to the Horsefly area in the Cariboo.

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

Eventually they moved into Williams Lake in 1960 and purchased the land known as Russet Bluff to develop a subdivision.

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

Fetters Jr. worked abroad as an engineer for many years and returned to Williams Lake with Kathy in 1995 and they helped his parents with the development and eventually completed it.

His sister Marla lives in Arizona.

The photograph enlarger was run on a generator at the Fetters’ home when they lived in Horsefly, he recalled. As for the photographs from Pearl Harbour, Fetters Jr. said he wished he’d asked his dad more about that time of his life.

“He did not really talk about it.”

The Fetters also donated copies of the photographs to the Horsefly Museum.

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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