Local Pearl Harbor survivors remember the ‘date which will live in infamy’

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- Monday marks 74 years ago today that the attack on Pearl Harbor threw the United States into World War II.

Memories of that fateful day in 1941 were hard to miss at a Monday get-together in Johnson County. Retired U.S. Army Air Corps officer Edmund Russell is now 98 years old. He was working on that naval base in Hawaii, and vividly remembers Sunday, Dec. 7th, 1941 and the moment the first bomb fell.

Russell, who lives in Lenexa, recalls working in the base mess hall, when he began to run from the Japanese attack.

“I thought it was one of our (airplanes). When the first bomb went off, I thought he had crashed,” Russell said. "When the second bomb went off, I thought, 'well, we didn't have two planes to crash.'"

That attack was, until the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C., the deadliest scene ever on American soil, as bomber pilots took more than 2,400 American lives.

"(The Japanese pilots) had their canopies open and you could see the grin on their face. They were that low."

Military figures weren't the only survivors. Independence resident Dorinda Nicholson, now 80 years young, was six at the time of the attack. The Hawaiian native and her father watched the attack unfold from the family's backyard on Oahu.

“As an American child, you carried a gas mask. You had wartime money. You had no school for two months because we had to dig wartime bomb shelters,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson chronicled her account of that day in "Pearl Harbor Child," a book that gives a child’s account of the attacks. Nicholson says she wants today's children to know the terror she felt.

Nicholson and the other survivors say it's important, now more than ever, to keep this history alive. Next Dec. 7th will mark 75 years since that attack. That's why they fear being forgotten, as the years continue to slip away.

Retired naval officer Dorwin Lamkin, 93, who lives in Mission, also attended that ceremony. He's one of only a handful of Pearl Harbor survivors still living in the metro.

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