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BLOOMINGTON — After Pearl Harbor, Donald Siebert's family lived half a year not knowing if he were alive or dead.

His sister, Marion Rierson, now 83, never knew where he was serving those six months. It was a military secret.

"It wasn't the business of civilians," she said, explaining her brother was likely at or near Pearl Harbor aboard a ship on the day Japan bombed the American base.

"It could have been him," said Rierson, recalling the events of Dec. 7, 1941. ""We worried a great deal that day. … Pearl Harbor was very much on my mind."

She wasnít alone. Rosemary (Weed) Hall, 82, of Bloomington, remembers hearing President Franklin Roosevelt on the radio.

"We were in a state of shock," she said. ""I was only 18. It was scary."

More than 2,300 servicemen — almost half of those on the Arizona — and 68 civilians died that day. Eight battleships were damaged; five were sunk. Three light cruisers, three destroyers and three smaller vessels were lost along with 188 aircraft.

Days, weeks and months went by before the Siebert family heard anything.

On the day of the attack, Siebert had been traveling from Angel Island to Pearl Harbor. His previous ship was destroyed in the attack.

Both women joined up

Rierson joined the U.S. Navy when she was laid off from her job at West Clock in Peru/LaSalle. She became a WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and served from 1944 to 1946 at Terminal Island, off the California coast, where she calibrated airspeeds for pilots.

"I was happy," said Reirson, who was part of a military family. Her father, brother, half brother, brother-in-law, husband and nephew all served.

She saved several items from her service and brought them to Bloomington to show other veterans when she recently registered with the Illinois Womenís Military and Civilian Memorial groupís Illinois' Own, a registry of women who served in the military or as civilians.

Hall, who joined the Navy in 1944, had her memories captured in a Chicago newspaper headline.

"I was the shortest WAVE in the history of the Navy," she said.

She went with her twin sister, Patricia Weed, to sign up. Her sister was accepted, but Rosemary was turned down because she was a quarter-inch too short to meet Navy requirements at 4 feet 11 inches.

She was sent home and told to stretch. So she did, with the help of a doctor. When she returned a few days later and was measured, she was 4 feet 11 inches.

""Rosemary wins in the stretch," read the Chicago Tribune.

She was a cable censor in San Francisco at a time when teletype messages were sent overseas. She and others censored radio programs and telephone calls so enemies didnít intercept any vital information.

The day the war was over, there was no longer a need for censoring, she said. Then she had the happy job of discharging people returning from overseas so they could go home to their families.

"It was a wonderful experience," she said of her service.

The Pantagraph/STEVE SMEDLEY

Marion Rierson, 83, Marion Rierson, 83, holds a photograph from when she was in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in 1944. Rierson, who lives on West Market Street in Bloomington, was in the WAVES from 1944 to 1946, and worked on calibrating Navy aircraft airspeed instrumentation.


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