ASHVILLE - Nearly every resident of this borough knows the story behind the naming of the Veterans of Foreign Wars John Lipple Post at the center of town.
Lipple, an Ashville native, was killed when the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
To commemorate Lipple and honor his memory, the VFW decided to create a short documentary focused on Lipple's life and naval service, Ashville VFW chairman Bob Eyer said.
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Ashville VFW John Lipple Post 4315 Commander Bill Myers shows off a memorial inside the post for John Lipple, an Ashville native who was killed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The VFW is hosting a special screening of the film at 6 p.m. today as part of its Pearl Harbor Day remembrances.
The short documentary is a way for residents to honor Lipple as well as all Ashville veterans and members of the armed forces who served during World War II, Eyer said.
"I think that the documentary served its purpose," Eyer said. "It was to highlight the life of John Lipple, and also tell the story of the impact that [World War II] has had on the entire region of Ashville. Lipple, plus the rest of the WWII generation - the greatest generation - what they accomplished with the war in Europe, the Pacific and what they accomplished when they came home inspired future generations."
Stationed aboard the USS Arizona, a Pennsylvania-class battleship, Lipple was attending Mass on the ship when Japanese military forces struck the naval base shortly before 8 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941.
The Arizona was sunk after four bombs struck the ship. The fourth bomb penetrated the ship's armored deck and detonated the ship's ammunition magazines, resulting in a catastrophic explosion.
A total of 1,177 men stationed aboard the ship, including Lipple, were killed.
While working with Eyer and the Lipple family to create the film, film crews examined numerous pieces of 16 mm film and primary documents, including Lipple's handwritten letters, said Beck Wicks, co-owner of Wix Pix Productions, the company behind the film.
"In every turn of this story, there are things that are so interesting," Wicks said.
The film chronicles Lipple's life growing up and attending school in Ashville and later joining the Navy.
Lipple's two younger brothers followed in his footsteps and enlisted in the Navy, Wicks said. Paul Lipple was also stationed at the naval base the day of the attack, Wicks said, and the youngest Lipple brother, Joe - now 88 years old - arrived at Pearl Harbor a month later.
Both brothers survived the war. In a "heart-wrenching" handwritten letter to his mother, Paul told his family he was unsure if John had survived the attack.
"Paul saw what happened to the Arizona and he had this terrible feeling," Wicks said.
Chad King, a film student who interned with Wix Pix over the summer and helped to film the documentary, described the experience as "humbling."
"This really put a personal touch on it," King, a Johnstown native, said. "It really made it feel real just sitting there, listening to all their stories."
Eyer said he spent about 18 months working with the film crew, collecting photographs and other memorabilia. After catching an early screening, he said he was proud of the way in which Lipple and members of the "greatest generation" were honored.
"It was extremely well done and tells the story just not about John Lipple, but the impact of the generation," he said.
Bill Myers took over the position of post commander at the John Lipple post in June. An Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War, Myers said the Ashville VFW has always received the support of the community and is "special" among other VFWs.
"We're looking forward to it," Myers said of the film.
Turnout at the VFW's annual Memorial Day services is unique because hundreds of residents and veterans turn out each year to honor their veterans, Myers said. And the Lipple film is an extension of that honor and tradition.
"It's not only for John Lipple, it's for all WWII veterans," Myers said.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.