Friday, December 7, 2007
Recently a very special flag arrived at the North Dakota Heritage Center, one which symbolized a day which changed the lives of a generation of North Dakota’s young men and women forever. This flag had flown over the USS Arizona Memorial and had been presented to the North Dakota Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. On this day, sixty-six years ago, the calm blue waters of Pearl Harbor became a nightmare of explosions, burning oil and the cries of the dying.
Scattered throughout the Hawaiian Islands in 1941 were the men and women who had traveled far from their North Dakota homes and joined the ranks of the Army, Navy and Marines as the winds of war were sweeping Europe and Asia. Some were on the ground as Marines, like Floyd Graff from Stanley, while others were aboard ships, such as Agnes Shurr, onboard the Hospital Ship, the USS Solace or Richard Hauff, stationed on the USS Arizona but all of them witnessed the carnage created by that surprise attack. “It was a long time ago and I have not forgotten,” stated George Mock , serving on a submarine docked at Pearl Harbor, who witnessed the men leaping from the sides of the exploding ships into the burning waters to save themselves only to die later of their burns. Records indicate that there were twelve men from North Dakota on the Arizona at the time it exploded and sank in eleven minutes.
But America was also fortunate on this day, as the cautious Japanese commander, Admiral Yamamoto, refused to press forward on his advantage and although heavily damaged, the US fleet was not destroyed. Pearl Harbor signaled the entry of the United States into World War II and many more of North Dakota’s sons and daughters would witness combat during the next four years as the war raged on.
With little in the way of ceremony, the flag, one of many which has flown over the USS Arizona, but one which carried so much meaning for those who survived this day in 1941, was presented to the State Historical Society of North Dakota for preservation. In May of 2007 there were but four remaining members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association- Agnes Shurr, John Martin, Harold Bruschwein and Clem Lonski and they elected to retire their charter. Time has hurried by and several more generations of men and women from North Dakota have served their county in times of conflict but there are still those few who can vividly recall this day, “December 7th, a day which will live in infamy,” but they may rest assured, America has not forgotten.
By Jim Davis
North Dakota Veterans History Project Interviews- Floyd Graff Interview
North Dakota Veterans History Project Interviews- Agnes Shurr Interview
Bismarck Tribune- February 22, 2007
Bismarck Tribune- May 6, 2007
Emmons County Record- December 7, 2006