Kelly, then 16, was listening to a program with his family on their Coopersville farm. President Franklin D. Roosevelt interrupted the program to inform the nation that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.
“At the time, we had no realization how it would affect our lives,” said Kelly, now 87 and a Spring Lake resident.
About 2,000 miles away, George Thomas was also listening to the radio that day in San Diego, Calif. Thomas, then 17, had skipped church to go rabbit hunting when the car’s radio broke the news of the attack. He said he thought they were talking about a play.
Thomas, now 88, said he thinks about that Sunday morning every year.
The Grand Haven Township resident said his classmates were angry about the bombing, and it was all they talked about.
“They wanted to attack,” Thomas recalled.
For Kelly and Thomas, serving their country was something they never doubted.
Kelly enlisted in the Navy's Seabee (construction battalion) unit. Thomas joined the Army Air Corps and became a B-17 bomber pilot.
Men from all military branches were after the same thing, Kelly said.
“We all had the same goal — win the war,” said Kelly, who retired as a lieutenant commander.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.
To see a timeline graphic of the attack on Pearl Harbor, click on the image next to the photo of the Thomases, or click here.