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Local vets to remember Pearl Harbor anniversary

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, at 2:25 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, at 7:43 p.m.

For the first time last year, there was little wide-scale recognition of the Pearl Harbor anniversary.

But this year, Jim Denison is hoping things will be a little different.

He is honoring the wish of Wichitan Arthur Dunn, one of the few living links in Kansas to that “date which will live in infamy” — Dec. 7, 1941.

Dunn, 90, is the former president of the Wichita chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

“The national organization left it up to individual chapters if they wanted to carry on,” Denison said. “I told Arthur, ‘I am only an honorary member, it’s not up to me.’ I figured it was over.

“But Arthur wants to perpetuate it. He says it has to be remembered for the next generation’s kids… ”

Denison, a Vietnam veteran who helped organize the local Pearl Harbor observance for many years, has organized an observation Saturday in Haysville. The event will be from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6957, 7504 S. Broadway in Haysville.

Ceremonies will include a color guard from the Wichita West High School Pioneer Battalion, and the featured speaker is Lewie Cooper, past VFW state commander.

But the featured guests will be Dunn and, weather permitting, Earl Schaeffer Jr., of Hays, another Pearl Harbor survivor. Other guests will include family members of now deceased Kansas Pearl Harbor veterans.

In December 2002, Schaeffer told The Eagle he remembered all too well when Japanese airplanes bombed and strafed Pearl Harbor. He was a 19-year-old working the switchboard in the communications shack on the hangar line of Hickam Field.

"I was scared. . . . I couldn't comprehend it,” he said at the time. “I recognized those planes, and I couldn't understand how the Japanese could be bombing us when Japan was 4,000 miles from us."

Dunn was serving on the USS Oklahoma when the attack began. He was 18 and a turret gunner. He said he was scrambling to get to his post when the first torpedo hit. The blast lifted the ship out of the water; it rolled over eight minutes later.

For years the Wichita observance was held on Dec. 7 at the moment Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. In less than two hours, 2,402 Americans were killed and more than 1,000 others were wounded.

Denison is hoping people will remember the slogan Pearl Harbor survivors carried after that day:

“Remember Pearl Harbor. Keep America Alert.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

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