As part of events marking the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the city of Mission, Kansas, hosted a memorial at the Sylvester Powell Junior Community Center. About 70 local residents, including a number of veterans and current servicemen and women, attended. Among them, one of the last survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Dorwin Lamkin, a 94-year-old Shawnee resident, was a hospital corpsman in the USS Nevada’s sickbay when the battleship was hit by a Japanese torpedo and started to sink.
“You know, I was 18 years old. I was scared to death," says Lamkin. "I’d never been in any circumstances like this before in my life, and all I could think of was that I was going to do what I was told and I wasn’t told to do anything. We were all scrambling around taking care of ourselves as best we could.”
The USS Nevada sank and more than 50 crew died. However the ship was salvaged, repaired and served out the war.
One feature of the event was the sounding of a 1900s fire truck bell, borrowed from the Shawnee Mission Fire Department. The bell was rung eight times by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Cole Kankey. The effect was to simulate the bell ringing for the morning muster on U.S. navy ships at 8 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, just as the Japanese attack started to take place.
Tanya Kernell was among the local residents present. For many years, she brought her son to this annual commemoration to meet local veterans.
“It was a very small event at that time and they told him stories and showed him pictures and he just loved it. I’m just here [this time] to honor the people that served and take in the day,” And, she added, to take a short video to send to her son, now 22, who is away at college.
Another attendee, World War II veteran Robert Laskey, who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, described how he found out about the attack.
“I spent the night before up in Lawrence and with a couple of my buddies went to a KU game, and [we had] an all-night bonfire and on Sunday. I rode home and walked into the house, and my mom was crying and I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ and she said, ‘Didn’t you hear? Japan attacked us, we’re at war now.’"
Laskey said the attack on Pearl Harbor inspired him, together with his two brothers, to enlist in the navy.
“I think we need to keep this in the minds of our young people so it doesn’t happen again,” added the 93-year-old veteran.
Daniel Wood is a freelancer for KCUR.