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Veterans In Pittsburgh Area And At Pearl Harbor Remember The First Casualty Of WWII, A Man From Beaver County

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Wednesday is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War II.

For one local family, that date brought special grief and sorrow.

"December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy," President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Congress after the attack.

Eighty years ago here in Pittsburgh, it was unusually warm, says historian and Veterans Breakfast Club founder Todd DePastino.

"It was somewhat sunny. If you were young, a teenager or in your early 20s, you were outside, out and about. A lot of boys were playing football," DePastino told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.

But on that day, 23-year-old 2nd Lt. Louis Moslener of Monaca was nearly 5,000 miles away at Hickam Field in Honolulu.

Louis Moslener
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"He had graduated from Monaca High in 1935 and gone on to Carnegie Tech, so he was a very bright young man," DePastino said. "He dropped out in 1940 from Carnegie Tech in order to join the Army Air Corps because he wanted to be a navigator."

Moslener and his crew received secret orders to fly over the Japanese captured islands in the South Pacific for a photo reconnaissance mission and land in the Philippines.

He was supposed to leave Hawaii on Dec. 5.

"When they landed at Hickam Field, they discovered that their B-24 was under-armed. They needed more machine guns. They needed more ammunition, and it took them a while to get armed," said DePastino.

That delay put Moslener on the field prepping his B-24 aircraft when the Japanese made their surprise attack.

"The first bomb dropped in the Japanese attack was at Hickam Field, and it hit that B-24, and Moslener was killed," DePastino said.

Local veterans in Beaver County do not want Moslener to be forgotten.

On this cold Dec. 7 at Beaver Cemetery in Beaver, a small group gathered to remember the local veterans and casualties of the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.

"I've been coming out to read the names of Beaver County veterans who were there during Pearl Harbor for about three years now. It's definitely a special day for me because my grandfather was actually there," Senior Airman Josef Batvinskas of the 911th Airlift Wing said.

Some at Pearl Harbor never made it home. A wreath was placed at the gravesite of Moslener, who many believe was the first to die in World War II.

"Over 400,000 Americans were killed in World War II, and the first one killed may have been from Monaca. Certainly, he was within the first five or six killed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941," DePastino said.

On this 80th anniversary, Beaver County veteran Jerry Fisher organized a group of Pittsburghers to travel to Pearl Harbor to remember Moslener and his comrades.

"Pretty soon we had 34 of us or so lined up to go," Fisher said.

The group wore a special cap to honor the local lieutenant from this area.

"Getting here for this, just because it is what it is, I'll never see 80 again, obviously. I just felt I had to be here," Fisher told KDKA's Jon Delano.

"Of course, the Moslener connection is like – who else but those of us from Beaver County would have that connection," Fisher said.

Sixteen million Americans served in World War II but just 240,000 are still alive.

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