The Vikings will honor a Minnesota native and survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor with their Soldier Salute during Sunday's game against the New York Jets at TCF Bank Stadium.
SC1 Richard Thill, of St. Paul, joined the U.S. Naval Reserves in 1940 and was called to active duty in January 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a national emergency. He was assigned to the 80th Destroyer Division on board the USS Ward in the Territory of Hawaii.
Ward was on the ship the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when it fired the first American shots of World War II that sunk a Japanese submarine that was trying to enter the harbor and an hour later when aircraft began the attack. A gun from the USS Ward is on the Capitol grounds in St. Paul.
"Two planes flew over us lengthwise and dropped their bombs, but they had to keep enough distance away from banging into each other that one bomb landed on one side of us, and one landed on the other side of us and kind of raised the ship a little bit but didn't do any damage," Thill recently recalled.
Thill served a total of five years, two months and 16 days, spending four-and-a-half years on duty at sea. He earned eight battle stars for operations across the South Pacific before returning to his native Minnesota, where he still lives with his wife Gloria.
"I loved the Navy," Thill said. "I loved going to sea and I loved going to port because it was a big deal out there."
The Vikings are proud to salute Thill's service and honor more than 3,500 Americans who died during the attack through their observance of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.