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Survivors remember day of infamy

Karl Horeis
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Bill McAdams, left, sits with his wife Sue, during the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association's annual breakfast at Grandma Hattie's Restaurant in Carson Sunday morning.
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At 9:55 a.m. Sunday morning in the back room of Grandma Hattie’s Restaurant in south Carson City, 36 mostly gray heads bowed in reverence.

“It’s 7:55 a.m. in Honolulu,” said Erick H. Bjourn, president of the Silver State Chapter No. 1 of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. “Please join me in observing a moment of silence.”

It was 62 years to the minute before waves of Japanese planes attacked the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, a day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said would “live in infamy.”

In attendance Sunday were veterans who dodged Japanese machine gun fire in Hawaii that day, widows whose husbands survived the attack and a fifth-grader who wrote an award-winning essay.

Retired Nevada Sen. Lawrence “Jake” Jacobsen, who served on the heavy cruiser USS Astoria and the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, recalled the attack.

“One of the most vivid things that I remember – and sometimes dream about – is all the bodies floating around. The destruction that occurred within just a few minutes was unbelievable,” said Jacobsen, the longest-serving legislator in Nevada history.

He gave a progress report on the Fernley cemetery, where 3,000 veterans are buried.

“It’s finally getting to be something the veterans of Nevada can be proud of,” he said.

Former state Sen. Ernie Adler, who helped sponsor the veterans’ license plate bill, was also there.

Forrest Brown attended with his wife of 58 years, Alice. The Carson resident was stationed with the 251st coast artillery at Camp Malakole when the Japanese attacked.

“We immediately boarded our transportation in order to get to the harbor,” he recalled. “We had to dismount and head for the bushes because of imminent strafing attack.”

He pulled the bodies of U.S. sailors from the water across the channel from where the USS Nevada was run aground.

The group’s chaplain, Charles Bonham, had been trying to sleep when the Japanese attacked. He had played the drums with a 21-member fleet band at a dance the night before. The native Nevadan attended with his wife of 33 years, Dorothy.

Dottie Kelleher of Dayton came to honor her late husband, John, who was stationed at the Ford Island Naval Air Station in the middle of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 62 years ago. She keeps his gold, lifetime membership card for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association in her wallet.

“It will be 16 years (since he died) on the 15th of December,” she said. “He was buried on the 18th, and his birthday would have been the 19th.”

Fritsch fifth-grader Natalie Stevens attended with her family. The veterans group awarded her with a $100 U.S. savings bond after she wrote an essay about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I’m very grateful and thankful for them,” Natalie said of the survivors. “I think they were very brave for going to the war.” She said might save the money for college.

Barbara Ford is a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors. Her father, Dock Campbell, was on the USS Dewey during the attack.

“I used to go to all the conventions with him,” she said. “Now I go with my grandson.”

The next meeting of the Silver State Chapter No. 1 of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is in March. For information, call Howie Spreeman at 883-1842.

Contact Karl Horeis at khoreis@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.