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September 13, 2011 09:26 PM

Group Wants to Send WWII Vets To Hawaii

Sioux Falls, SD

The number of sailors killed on the USS Arizona was corrected.

As World War II Veteran numbers continue to decline across the state, only a few remain who witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It catapulted the United States into the war nearly 70 years ago.

Almost 1,200 sailors on the USS Arizona lost their lives when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Darrel Christopherson had a front row seat to it all.

"It's one of those things that you may get one chance at," Christopherson said. 

Christopherson is one of just five remaining South Dakota Pearl Harbor Veterans. He was on a repair ship called the Vestal. It was badly damaged during the attack, but within a few months the ship was repaired and sent to the South Pacific.

"We went to sea and stopped at several islands on the way to work on ships that needed some work done on 'em," Christopherson said. 

For two years he worked repairing ships in the South Pacific. The Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor was out of his mind, as were the lives of his fellow sailors lost. But now Christopherson can't help but think back. 

"It'll be something that you just can't forget," Christopherson said. 

And a group doesn't want him to. It has begun a fundraising campaign to send all the men back to Pearl Harbor for the 70th anniversary this December. Four have said they would go including Christopherson, who, at age 87, is the youngest remaining.

"To go back again, the five of us are all old enough that we'd never live another 10th anniversary," Christopherson said. 

This group is different from the Honor Flight organization that sends Veterans to Washington D.C. to see the World War II Memorial. That effort is winding down. What makes this one even more difficult is the short time members would have to raise the funds and plan the trip. They are still in the planning phase.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
The number of sailors killed on the USS Arizona was corrected.


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