Vet killed in Osage County wreck

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

A 98-year-old Bartlesville man who had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor was pronounced dead at the scene of a March 30 single-vehicle crash in Osage County.

Dominic Baldrachi apparently became ill as he was driving on U.S. Highway 60, approximately 5 miles west of the Bartlesville Airport, at around 10:35 a.m., said the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The westbound vehicle, a 2001-model Ford, departed the left side of the roadway and struck a metal gate, a tree and a steel post before crossing a creek and coming to rest against the far bank, the OHP reported. Baldrachi, who was not wearing a seatbelt, sustained internal trunk injuries, the report said. Cause of the crash was listed as “an improper turn from direct course.”

Baldrachi had been a 23-year-old Army private on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attack occurred. Although stationed approximately 15 miles away at the Schofield Barracks on Oahu, he was visiting a friend at the Pearl Harbor submarine base.

“We heard something and we looked up and over Kolekole Pass came a big wave of planes,” historian Joe Todd quoted Baldrachi as saying. “As they got over the pass, one group went to the right, one went to the left, and one came straight on. We wondered what in the hell was going on.”

The New York native said he watched as the first bombs were dropped on the Wheeler Field Naval Air Station.

“We could see the smoke and didn’t know what was going on,” Baldrachi added. “I said, ‘Hey look at those planes,’ and some guy looked at them and yelled, “H—- those are Japanese planes, we’re at war!’”

At that point, they could see the bombs dropping on Battleship Row — the grouping of eight U.S. battleships in the Pearl Harbor port, Baldrachi added. He said that week’s Honolulu newspaper ran a front-page photograph of him firing at the attacking planes.

Baldrachi served a total of five years in the Army and saw action in four major World War II battles, including the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was wounded in the Solomon Islands. His unit — the 25th Division Combat Engineers — established a record of 165 consecutive days in active combat.

A year after his discharge in February 1945, Baldrachi moved to Oklahoma. He is survived by a daughter, Donna, and a son, Michael, as well as two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.