How Two Sailors Saved Each Other’s Lives

Two young men from the Chicago, Illinois area entered the US Navy before the start of WWII creating an Amazing World War II story. They were on different ships in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked “A Day that Shall Live in Infamy.” Jim Oberto had been on one of the ships that was sunk. In the mayhem he was swimming trying to survive.

The crew of a vessel was pulling sailors out of the water, when Jim was rescued by Jim Reimer.  Reimer treated Oberto really well, giving him clothes and money. (Oberto told me he used the money to buy milk shakes and that’s when he started getting fat.) Oberto was assigned to another ship as the war progressed.

Another Warship Sunk

About 18 months later, his ship was cruising the Pacific Ocean. They received an alert that a US ship had been sunk by the Japanese. All ships in the area were ordered to the rescue. His ship responded quickly to the spot and started picking up sailors from the ocean. Oberto was pulling sailors out of the sea, when he happened to grab a familiar hand. It was Jim Reimer’s! Oberto returned the favor to Reimer giving him money and clothes.

Post World War II

Again the two young men lost contact with each other as Reimer was transferred to another ship. World War II finally ended and the young men returned home. Oberto, a trombonist, wanted to become a band director, so enrolled at Vandercook College of Music in Chicago to become a band director.

After graduating Oberto received a job interview at a school district in Southern Illinois. He packed up his wife and headed down for the interview. After he got the job the superintendent said, “Would you like to meet the band director whose position you are replacing?” To his shock the band director was – Jim Reimer!

One More Surprise

Reimer said, “Why don’t you come over to my house where we can share our experiences from the war? We can also introduce our wives.”

Upon arriving, Reimer’s and Oberto’s wives immediately recognized each other. They had been best friends in high school, but lost contact because of the war.

Author’s note

This amazing World War II story is wild and difficult to believe. However, I knew both men while in my teaching career.

After teaching at Lombard Junior High School for 6 years, I received my Master’s Degree and got a job at Evergreen Park High School in 1971 as a Choir Director and Assistant Band Director to Jim Oberto, where I learned this remarkable story.

After one-year teaching at Evergreen Park High School, I became a professional musician. York high school (Elmhurst, Illinois) called upon me to substitute teach for several weeks getting their choir ready for a concert. Their choir director was recovering from an operation. Jim Reimer called Jim Oberto who recommended me for the position.


Photo by Paul M Walsh