Roseville vet remembers attacks at Pearl Harbor

By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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Merl Resler was situated 120 feet above the deck of his ship manning an antiaircraft gun when he saw a Japanese fighter plane approaching the USS Arizona.

Firing desperately at the enemy plane, Resler said his gun could not quite angle high enough to reach it.

What he saw next, he said, was horrifying.

“I saw the bomb leave the airplane, hit the Arizona and explode,” Resler said. “I was dead center and I saw every bit of it.”

The explosion and the ensuing attacks to the USS Arizona caused 1,177 sailors to lose their lives aboard the ship that infamous day.

Resler, then a 19-year-old Seaman First Class, was a naval sharpshooter aboard the USS Maryland, a battleship that was positioned close to the Arizona in the shallow harbor — right in the middle of the battle.

“I saw more of Pearl Harbor than any human being, dead or alive,” Resler said.

The 89-year-old Roseville resident has traveled across the country to speak at events and has been featured in several articles regarding the attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the tragic events that served as a catalyst for the United States entering World War II and Resler said it is important to remember those who gave their lives that day.

“It’s really important because it was such a horrible thing,” he said. “You remember Pearl Harbor as something awful and I saw it all. It was terrible.”

Now residing at a quiet retirement community in Roseville, his room is filled with citations, accolades and memorabilia from the war.

He even has an item that he “confiscated” when he left the ship in 1944, a clock that was aboard and kept time during every single naval battle the ship was involved with in World War II.

And the USS Maryland saw plenty of action.

During the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the ship sustained two bomb attacks and lost four crew members.

After undergoing repairs in California, it was among the first of the battleships to rejoin the fleet in February 1942.

The ship then participated in many battles throughout the South Pacific, playing a key support role at the battles of Tarawa, Midway, Saipan and more.

“My ship went from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to Australia,” Resler said. “It took every island from the Japanese, beginning with Tarawa.”

Resler said he has returned to Pearl Harbor several times since the attacks in 1941, but one of the most memorable visits was last year.

“My daughter and I went back there,” he said. “She pushed me around in a wheelchair and every 10 or 20 feet, a young woman wanted to take a picture with me.”

Toby Lewis can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TobyLewis_RsvPT.