Ja­pan’s sur­prise at­tack on Pearl Har­bor re­mains one of the most wrench­ing events in Amer­i­can his­tory. The hu­man cost was stun­ning, with 2,402 Amer­i­cans killed, in­clud­ing 41 from Colorado.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael E. Ruane

W hen John D. An­der­son reached his bat­tle sta­tion in the USS Ari­zona’s No. 4 tur­ret that morn­ing, he re­al­ized the gi­gan­tic guns could do noth­ing against the swarms of at­tack­ing Ja­panese air­planes. But his twin brother, Del­bert “Jake” An­der­son, was man­ning an anti-air­craft gun out on deck and was in the thick of the ac­tion. “He needs help,” John told his tur­ret com­man­der, and he asked whether could join his brother.

Both men were 24. The sons of a judge, they were born in Verona, N.D., in 1917. Both had joined the Navy in 1936. John was a boatswain’s mate se­cond class; Jake, a boatswain’s mate first class. Both wound up on the Ari­zona, which at that mo­ment on Dec. 7, 1941, was a mael­strom of fire, smoke and ex­plo­sions. They would never meet up that Sun­day morn­ing, and only one would sur­vive the day.

Wed­nes­day, 75 years later, John An­der­son’s ashes are to be in­terred un­der­wa­ter in the rem­nants of his old tur­ret, re­join­ing Jake, whose body was never re­cov­ered from the ship.

Their re­u­nion, on the an­niver­sary of the at­tack, brings to­gether one twin who en­joyed a long and var­ied life and one whose life stopped at Pearl Har­bor.

John lived through the rest of the war. He set­tled in Roswell, N.M., be­came a lo­cal TV per­son­al­ity and died last year at age 98, one of the Ari­zona’s last sur­vivors. Only five of the orig­i­nal 334 are left.

Jake is eter­nally 24, still “aboard” the Ari­zona and one of the first Amer­i­cans killed in World War II.

John’s fam­ily said they be­lieved they should rest to­gether.

“He talked all the time about his brother,” said John’s son, John D. An­der­son Jr. “(They) wrote let­ters back and forth to each other when they were on dif­fer­ent ships. And Jake re­ally wanted him to get on the Ari­zona with him. “They were re­ally close.” Dur­ing the at­tack, while search­ing the in­ferno for his brother, John was or­dered off the bat­tle­ship by an of­fi­cer. “I’m not leav­ing,” he told the of­fi­cer, ac­cord­ing to a 2011 oral his­tory recorded by videog­ra­pher Don Smith. “My brother’s here some­place. I’ve got to find him.”

“He couldn’t have made it,” he said the of­fi­cer replied, shov­ing John into a res­cue ves­sel.

But af­ter they reached shore, John grabbed an empty boat and went back to the Ari­zona in the midst of the at­tack, nearly los­ing his life in the process.

“He just kept say­ing, ‘I’ve got to find my brother, I’ve got to find my brother,’ ” his son re­called.

The Ari­zona in­ter­ment is one of two sched­uled for Wed­nes­day that, along with many other com­mem­o­ra­tions this week, prob­a­bly will mark the last ma­jor an­niver­sary of the at­tack at­tended by sur­vivors.

Seventy-five years later, Ja­pan’s sur­prise at­tack on Pearl Har­bor re­mains one of the most wrench­ing and in­ti­mate events in Amer­i­can his­tory.

As with the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks or the as­sas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, peo­ple re­mem­bered where they were when they heard the news.

The cost of the at­tack was stun­ning: On the Ari­zona alone, 1,177 sailors and Marines were killed. More than 900 of them were never re­cov­ered.

Thir­teen hun­dred more peo­ple died on other ships and around the har­bor.

Many men were blown apart. One sur­vivor re­called that the sky “rained sailors.” An­other re­mem­bered dozens of Navy hats float­ing on the sur­face of the wa­ter.

Eleven hun­dred men were wounded, many hor­ri­bly burned.

“Flames from the in­ferno leapt up the metal steps and barred our es­cape,” Ari­zona sur­vivor Don­ald Strat­ton, now 94, wrote in “All the Gallant Men.”

“My T-shirt had caught fire, burn­ing my arms and my back,” he wrote. “My legs were burned from my an­kles to my thighs. My face was seared. The hair on my head had been singed off, and part of my ear was gone.”

Eigh­teen U.S. war­ships were sunk or crip­pled, along with hun­dreds of planes de­stroyed and dam­aged. The Ari­zona went down, as did the bat­tle­ship USS Ok­la­homa, en­tomb­ing hun­dreds of sailors.

The Ja­panese, gam­bling that they could crip­ple U.S. forces as they ex­panded their Asian em­pire, launched the dar­ing at­tack with 31 ships, in­clud­ing six air­craft car­ri­ers, and more than 350 air­planes.

Their ar­mada sailed in se­cret across the Pa­cific Ocean to Hawaii. The ef­fect was elec­tri­fy­ing. “Pearl Har­bor ab­so­lutely shat­tered Amer­i­cans’ im­age of them­selves,” said his­to­rian Steve Twomey, au­thor of “Count­down to Pearl Har­bor.”

The coun­try saw it­self as hav­ing a fine Army and Navy, and the pro­tec­tion of two oceans. “The wars were al­ways ‘over there,’ ” he said.

But within hours that Sun­day, “mil­lions of fam­i­lies knew ... that their sons and their brothers and their fa­thers were go­ing to go to war ... and many of them were not go­ing to come back,” he said.

The at­tack would bring 9 mil­lion Amer­i­cans into the war and cre­ate the powerhouse United States of the 21st cen­tury, said his­to­rian Craig Nelson, au­thor of “Pearl Har­bor: From In­famy to Great­ness.”

Many of the sailors, sol­diers and Marines at Pearl Har­bor were chil­dren of the De­pres­sion and the Dust Bowl who had joined the ser­vice to es­cape poverty and star­va­tion.

The 1,500-man crew on the Ari­zona was sim­i­lar in size to the pop­u­la­tion of some of the small towns the sailors had come from. Now they had hot meals, a ham­mock to sleep in and a steady pay­check.

John An­der­son had just gone to the mess hall to get some break­fast. Sud­denly, he heard a loud ex­plo­sion.

“I thought, ‘What in the dick­ens is that?’ ” he said in his video ac­count. He went out on the deck, “looked up and saw this plane dip­ping ... and it had red balls on its wings,” he said.

“I said a cuss word and said, ‘The Ja­panese are here,’ ” he re­mem­bered.

He hur­ried to sound the alarm, but be­fore he could, a bomb fell nearby. “I was a gun­ner,” he said. “I’d like to get out there and get on a gun with my brother,” he said. The tur­ret cap­tain gave him the OK.

An­der­son started up a lad­der to the anti-air­craft guns. “I got to the top of the lad­der and an enor­mous ex­plo­sion oc­curred,” he said. “Peo­ple were blown all over the place, all kinds of body parts ... and tremen­dous fires broke out.”

Mean­while, of­fi­cers were or­der­ing sur­vivors off the doomed ship, as more bombs struck. An­der­son re­fused to go un­til he was forced. Reach­ing Ford Is­land, in the mid­dle of the har­bor, he looked back at the Ari­zona.

It was still on fire, but his brother and oth­ers were out there. He spot­ted a small boat float­ing by with no­body in it. He and a buddy swam out, got in and headed back to the ship.

There, he gath­ered three wounded men into the boat. There was no sign of Jake. “We had to take what we could get,” he said, and they headed for shore. As they did, the boat was hit and blown apart.

An­der­son said his buddy and the three wounded sailors were lost. “I was the only one left alive,” he said. He made it to shore and col­lapsed on the beach.

Af­ter the at­tack ended, he was as­signed to an­other ship, be­came part of Navy raid­ing par­ties and fought his way across the Pa­cific — “in so many scrapes and fights that I for­got the names of the places.”

At first, he heard noth­ing of Jake, but he was told later that some­one had seen him felled at his post by gunfire.

“That was the last any­body ever had on my brother,” he said.

Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, about 40 mem­bers of his fam­ily are sched­uled to gather at the USS Ari­zona me­mo­rial in Pearl Har­bor as they re­turn An­der­son to what is left of tur­ret No. 4, and to his ship­mates and his brother.

Mark Comon, USS Ari­zona Me­mo­rial Foun­da­tion

Lauren Bruner, cen­ter, one of five re­main­ing sur­vivors of the USS Ari­zona, is joined in June 2013 by Capt. Jef­frey W. James, right, then-com­man­der of Joint Base Pearl Har­bor-Hickam, and Daniel Martinez, chief his­to­rian for the Na­tional Park Ser­vice. They were look­ing at the USS Ari­zona Me­mo­rial’s Shrine Wall.

Kent Nishimura, for The Washington Post

From left, Terry An­der­son, Karolyn An­der­son, Travis An­der­son and John D. An­der­son Jr. trav­eled to Oahu in Hawaii, where John D. An­der­son’s ashes are to be in­terred un­der­wa­ter in the rem­nants of his old tur­ret aboard the USS Ari­zona. He will re­join his twin, Del­bert “Jake” An­der­son, whose body was never re­cov­ered from the ship.

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