The remains of John Delmar Anderson were reunited with those of his twin, Delbert “Jake” Anderson, on the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The brothers were sailors on the U.S.S. Arizona on that terrible day. Jake, 24, was killed, while John survived. He lived to age 98. His widow said she honored his wishes and his memory by having Navy divers place an urn with his ashes inside the ship’s No. 4 turret on Dec. 7, 2016.
The brothers were born Aug. 26, 1917 in Verona, North Dakota, to Edwin Anderson, a railroad brakeman, and Laura Stokes Anderson, a homemaker. The family moved to Dilworth, Minnesota, where the boys graduated from high school. Dilworth’s 1940 population was 1,068 — less than the headcount of the battleship.
John enlisted in the Navy on March, 16, 1937, and Jake followed on May 18. John served on other vessels before he was transferred to his brother’s ship, the Arizona. They held the rating of boatswain’s mate and petty officer second class.
The brothers were together the night before the attack — on liberty in Honolulu to do a bit of Christmas shopping for their parents. They returned before 10 p.m. and went to their separate quarters — never to see each other again.
Both were gunners — Jake anti-aircraft and John on a 14-inch turret gun. When the air attack began, John said he realized that his big gun — designed to fire at ships — was useless. He went in search of his brother, hoping to help.
The explosions and fires kept them apart, and eventually Lt. Commander Samuel Fuqua ordered that the Arizona be abandoned. When a barge pulled alongside the ship, Fuqua, who was Anderson’s division officer, ordered him to get in. “I can’t go, my brother’s up there,” Anderson recalled years later. “And he looked up there and he said, ‘He’s gone. He couldn’t have made it. It’s just, it’s too bad.” And then Fuqua shoved Anderson onto the barge.
Anderson was taken to Ford Island, but still determined to return to the ship, he and a friend swam out to a small, empty boat. They couldn’t find Jake, but they took on board three wounded men. As they started for shore, the boat blew up. Anderson was the only survivor. He was burned and concussed but continued to serve in the Navy for the rest of the war, surviving other harrowing battles. He eventually became a TV meteorologist in Roswell, New Mexico.
His widow, Karolyn, said her husband “always carried a guilt burden that he couldn’t get Jake.”
A memorial service for Jake Anderson was held at Dilworth Presbyterian Church in February 1942. There is a cenotaph for him at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Fargo. His parents are buried there.
Brother John Delmar Anderson at the USS Arizona Memorial