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Dec. 7, 1941: Forever etched in history

Local ties to an historic attack

December 7, 2012
By MIKE DONAHEY - Staff Writer (mdonahey@timesrepublican.com) , Times-Republican

Three men with Marshalltown ties would play a role in an historic event that propelled the United States, then at peace, into a country dramatically immersed in war.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941, was fittingly, called a "day that would live in infamy" by the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Flags were being raised and the National Anthem was being played at sunrise as the attack commenced.

Article Photos

Contributed PHOTO BY MSGT. RICKIE BICKEL, USAF, (RET.)
The grave marker of William W. Henderson is shown recently in Newton’s Union Cemetery. S2C denotes Henderson was a seamen, second class. Henderson was killed on the USS Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. “In Memory Of” means the remains are not in the cemetery. They are likely interred on the USS Arizona, according to military researcher Bickel. The markers of World War II pilots, aircrews, soldiers and seamen whose remains were never found are also “In Memory Of.”

William W. Henderson and John "Jack" Jones both of Marshalltown, did not know each other, but were serving on ships anchored nearby.

Henderson, 21, a seaman second class, and a ship bugler, was stationed on the battleship USS Arizona. He was born in Newton and lived there before moving to Marshalltown. He enlisted Oct. 11, 1940, according to records obtained by Marshalltown historian Jay Carollo.

Jones, 17, was on the battleship USS Tennessee. He operated searchlights among other jobs. Like many men and women, he had enlisted in the armed services in the early months of 1941 due to the sluggish, pre-war economy. He and four other Marshalltown men joined the Navy the same day.

Ed Welter, formerly a resident of the Iowa Veterans Home and a Waterloo native, was a seaman second class on the USS Arizona.

Welter was a "site cleaner," responsible for keeping the ship painted and rust removed.

He described the attack.

"Japanese airplanes used special 18" projectiles ... they had wings, which flew straight after release and did incredible damage," he said.

Welter was able to find his way to shore as the USS Arizona sank, using ropes and planks to get to land.

"I saw the Arizona explode," he said. "It was so powerful it opened the ship up like a clam."

He had vivid memories of seeing a Japanese pilot deliver a strike.

"A torpedo plane torpedoed something behind us," Welter said. "If I knew the guy I could recognize him. I was that close."

Welter was among the 223 crewmen who survived, some who were on shore during the attack.

"It was kind of a shock when the attack began," Jones said. "It was on a Sunday, we were in a holiday routine."

The USS Tennessee took three bomb hits, but escaped major damage because it was tied up on Ford Island.

"We were on the inside and the USS West Virginia was on the outside of us," he said. "We were in a position the torpedo planes could not get at us. We were fortunate."

Jones and fellow crewmen helped injured sailors from his ship, then worked to pull others seamen out of the water.

"We were out in life rafts, pulling men in," he said. "There was oil all around us, with smoke and fire. It was nasty, but we had a job to do."

Henderson was killed on the USS Arizona, and it is believed his body is interred there with hundreds of fellow crewmen.

The 1,177 crewmen who died on the ship represent the greatest loss of life on any U.S. warship in American history, according to U.S. Navy historian Bill Hendrix.

Henderson's mother, Mrs. John Fettkether of Marshalltown, was told on Dec. 21 that her son had been missing since the attack. He was later declared dead and was recognized as the first Marshalltown casualty of the war, as he had lived in town a short time before moving to Bondurant and enlisting.

He was awarded the Purple Heart, and his name is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial.

Welter and Jones would go on to be part of the "greatest generation," the moniker given to World War II-era adults by former NBC-TV broadcaster Tom Brokaw in his noted book of the same name.

On the attack's 70th anniversary last year, Welter was honored with a special medal at IVH.

Presenting the President's award medal was World War II and Navy veteran Laurel Phipps of Marshalltown's Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter. The medal was sent to the VFW by the USS Arizona Reunion Association.

At war's end Jones left the Navy and joined his parents, who had moved to South Bend, Ind. There, he found employment at Studebaker Co. for 10 years.

He returned to Marshalltown and began a 29-year career at then Iowa Electric Light & Power's (currently Alliant) power plant on East Main Street.

In retirement, Jones, now of State Center, attended the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

"It was an inspirational and moving experience ... especially visiting the USS Arizona Memorial," he said.

 
 

 

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