Victor Delano, Wichita philanthropist, Pearl Harbor survivor, dies

08/28/2014 7:30 AM

08/28/2014 7:30 AM

A link to one of Wichita’s earliest and most prominent families died this week.

Capt. Victor Delano was a grandson of Victor Murdock and great-grandson of Marshall Murdock, founding editor of The Wichita Eagle. Capt. Delano, a Pearl Harbor survivor, died Monday in Washington, D.C. He was 94.

He established the Victor Murdock Foundation, now overseen by the Wichita Community Foundation, which has donated millions of dollars to Wichita, funding the arts, music, college scholarships and other enterprises, said Carol Nazar, director of Donor & Grant Making Services at the Wichita Community Foundation.

Capt. Delano was an honorary trustee of the William Allen White Foundation in Lawrence.

“Victor read The Wichita Eagle every day,” Nazar said. “He knew what was going on here.

“He was very engaged in Wichita and how it was faring because his grandfather meant so much to the fabric of this town.”

Capt. Delano was born Dec. 20, 1919, in Washington, D.C. His mother was Marcia Murdock. His father, Harvey Delano, was a U.S. Navy captain and a cousin to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Capt. Delano attended public schools in Wichita, Washington, D.C., and Newport, R.I. After graduating from a prep school in Maryland in 1937, he entered the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated with distinction and was commissioned an ensign on Feb. 7, 1941.

He was a junior officer in the gunnery department aboard the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The June 4, 2001, issue of Time magazine featured Capt. Delano because he was the one who showed a cook on the West Virginia named Dorie Miller how to operate the ship’s machine guns. When the movie “Pearl Harbor” came out that year, Miller’s part in the movie was played by Cuba Gooding Jr..

According to a Time-Life book, “Our Call to Arms: The Attack on Pearl Harbor,” Capt. Delano was on board the USS West Virginia when the boat was torpedoed. Miller, a cook, had just served the officers breakfast. “Our Call to Arms” reports Capt. Delano got two machine guns operating on deck, then taught some enlisted men, including Miller, how to operate them.

After the guns jammed and the ship began sinking, Capt. Delano escaped by swimming to shore.

He served the remainder of World War II aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania, the cruiser USS San Juan and the destroyer USS Wedderburn, according to the U.S. Navy’s website.

He attended postgraduate school at the Naval Academy and then Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his master’s degree in physics in 1949. He was then assigned to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory until 1951 for work on atomic weapons testing, the website said.

During the Korean War, Capt. Delano served on the USS Eversole and later as executive officer of the USS Newport News. He also served on the staff of the Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet.

Although his career took him far from home, he always maintained roots in Wichita. He was the owner and director of the Wichita Eagle-Beacon Publishing Co. from 1957 through 1973, serving as treasurer from 1960 to 1970 and president from 1970 to 1971.

Capt. Delano is survived by his daughter, Katherine Delano Jahning, and son, Harvey Delano II.

The Murdock connection

Marshall Murdock (1837-1908) was the founding editor and publisher of The Wichita Eagle. He printed the first issue of The Wichita Eagle on April 12, 1872.

Victor Murdock (1871-1945) served as a U.S. Representative from Kansas from 1903 to 1915 and was editor of The Eagle until his death in 1945.

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