On the Town: Zephyrhills Museum of Military History commemorates Pearl Harbor

By Virginia Johnson, Entertainment Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, December 01, 2017, 6:16 PM EST

The Zephyrhills Museum of Military History is a place where you can learn about the part that this area played in preparing pilots to fight in World War II. On Saturday, December 2, they are commemorating the attack that brought the United States into that war.

  • Museum will host 2 Pearl Harbor survivors
  • Event runs from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • More information? Visit museum's Facebook page

Charles William “Bill” McClelland was on duty on the U.S.S. Helena in Pearl Harbor.

Just before 8 a.m. in Dec. 7, 1941, he was watched as the torpedo headed for his ship made a wake in the water.

“I was dumbfounded,” said McClelland. “You could see the planes coming in dropping their bombs."

And then that torpedo hit the light cruiser ship.

“The flash through the explosion went all through the compartments and that's when my brother got burned because he was below deck,” said McClelland. “I was top side and I got thrown up in the air."

McClelland's leg was badly injured -- he could not move.

"I can remember laying there on the deck shaking my fists and cussing at them," he said with a wry sort of chuckle. “That's all I could do."

The 94-year-old veteran is one of two Bay area Pearl Harbor survivors the Zephyrhills Museum will host during their popular commemoration event.

"You can ask them questions and they can tell you exactly what went on and what they did,” said Ted Johnson, the museum’s Vice President. “It kinds of draws people in. People will stand here amazed at these guys."

McClelland says her appreciates the gratitude he encounters in the younger generations.

He and his brother and shipmate James survived the attack and the war, and were later reunited with their army brother, John. Before the war ended, McClelland married his hometown sweetheart Agnes while on a 5-day shore leave stateside.

William "Bill" McClelland and his wife of seven decades, Agnes, on their wedding day. (Photo courtesy: Bill McClellan)

He recalled hitchhiking from the east coast to Toledo to take a train to Detroit to get home for the nuptials. They remained married for seven decades until Agnes passed away in June at the age of 92.

"I've been lucky,” said McClelland.

The event in Zephyrhills is Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

In addition to the Pearl Harbor survivors, there will be military re-enactors, special displays and docents on hand as well.

Also this weekend, a remembrance event in Tampa.

The 1945 merchant marine ship SS American Victory will set sail from her Channelside docks for a two-hour trip.

Registration for the "Victory at Sea Celebration and Cruise" starts at noon.

Ceremonies begin at 1 p.m.