ENS Edward Kern Olsen

Unknown Sailor

ENS Edward Kern Olsen

Edward Kern Olsen graduated from the University of Kansas in 1937 with a degree in business. He worked as a clothing salesman until he joined the Naval Reserve two years later.

Mr. Olsen qualified for an accelerated training program at Northwestern University’s Chicago campus and was commissioned as an ensign on Dec. 12, 1940 by a then little-known rear admiral named Chester Nimitz. The new officer was serving on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. His battle station was an anti-aircraft battery.

A few days later, the newspaper in Council Grove, Kansas, published a remembrance signed with the initials R.W.N. that said Mr. Olsen “was our fraternity roommate during a semester in college. Buoyant, enthusiastic, audacious, he epitomized every characteristic of the ideal American youth. The fraternity paddle, wielded more generously then than now, never marred Eddie’s spirit nor dimmed his ready smile. Somehow you could never picture Eddie getting old. He was made of that pioneer American stuff.” Mr. Olsen lived at Delta Tau Delta fraternity.

An only son, Mr. Olsen was born Sept. 2, 1913 to Edward Olsen, manager of a mercantile store at Bonner Springs, population about 1,800, west of Kansas City, and Flora Kern Olsen, a homemaker. He attended the local schools.

He and another ensign were in charge of the Arizona’s swim team, which won the division championship in 1940.

VFW Post 6401 in Bonner Springs was named in his honor. There is a cenotaph in his memory at Bonner Springs Cemetery.


Sources: At ‘Em Arizona, the ship’s newspaper; Council Grove Republican; Kansas University history by John H. McCool; Lawrence Daily Journal World; Kansas City (Missouri) Star; the Bonner Springs Chieftain; cenotaph. Navy photograph. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM