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Jon T.
Democrat MT

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  • Tribute to Arthur A. Klein

    by Senator Jon Tester

    Posted on 2013-02-26

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    TESTER. Mr. President, today I wish to honor Arthur A. Klein, a veteran of World War II and resident of Billings, MT.

    It is my honor to share the story of Art's service in World War II, because no story of bravery--and especially not one from our ``greatest generation''--should ever be forgotten.

    Art was born October 17, 1921, in Killam, Canada, to a large and hard-working prairie family. Hard times forced Art to move to Spokane, WA, to find work, but he soon enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1939 for a chance to proudly serve the Nation he would eventually adopt as his own.

    In August 1941, the Marine Corps assigned Art to the First Marine Defense Battalion on Wake Island: a remote atoll 2,300 miles west of Hawaii where the U.S. Navy was building a military base. Four hundred and forty-nine U.S. marines, 68 U.S. Navy personnel, 6 Army Air Corps soldiers, and 1,221 civilian workers occupied the three islands comprising Wake Atoll.

    Because of the International Date Line, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was December 8, 1941, at Wake Island. Wake Islands naval commander received radio reports of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and ordered the island to full alert. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese planes attacked Wake Island. While defending the island, Mr. Klein was shot in the leg.

    U.S. forces on Wake Island fought for many days without reinforcements or support, but they couldnt hold against overwhelming Japanese forces. To save civilians and military forces, the islands U.S. naval commander was forced to surrender the garrison.

    On January 12, 1942, Mr. Klein was placed aboard the Japanese ship Nitta Maru and crowded into the ships cargo hold. In the ships cargo hold, Mr. Klein endured 7 days before docking in Japan.

    For the next 4 years, Mr. Klein worked in Japanese coal mines and crude steel mills. Once, a guard clubbed Mr. Klein into unconsciousness for simply picking a small onion to eat.

    Losing weight and in declining health, Mr. Klein never gave up hope. In September 1945, when Allied forces victoriously liberated Mr. Klein and other prisoners in Japan, Mr. Klein weighed 85 pounds.

    Returning in triumph to America and freedom, Mr. Klein, now a sergeant in the Marine Corps, spent weeks in a military hospital to recover from his captivity. Art eventually left the Marine Corps, became an American citizen, and began a successful business career.

    Art settled in Billings, MT, and has been active in veterans organizations where he continues being a source of inspiration, courage, and patriotism for us all. A fellow veteran recently asked Art what kept him going during his WWII captivity. In response, Mr. Klein, now 91 years of age, struggled to raise a now frail right arm as high as he could, and with a clenched fist and inspiring smile, said, ``The USA.'' On behalf of a grateful nation, I commend Mr. Klein and his service to America. ____________________

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