S1c Joseph Schdowski

Unknown Sailor

S1c Joseph Schdowski

Joseph Schdowski and George Vernon Rasmusson grew up a few miles apart in Otter Tail County in west-central Minnesota near Fargo, North Dakota.

“George was a big guy, played trombone in the school band. Joey, he was a little guy. He’d always be starting fights, and George had to come along and bail him out,” Perham High School classmate Paul Ceynowa told a reporter years later.

The two men enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 8, 1940, and were assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona.

Rasmusson was a fireman third class and Schdowski was a seaman first class when they were killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Perham, whose 1940 population was 1,534, was named in their memory.

Mr. Schdowski was born March 16, 1917 to Polish immigrants Michael Schdowski, a farmer, and Pauline Dulski Schdowski, a homemaker. Navy records use that spelling of the family’s last name, though other sources show multiple versions. The son was about 14 when his mother died in 1931 and about 21 when his father died in 1938. 

The 1940 Census identified Joseph as a piece cutter of lumber who earned $300 for 30 weeks of work the previous year. His highest level of education was the 7th grade, it said.

Mr. Rasmusson was born Sept. 23, 1915 to Adolph Rasmusson, a farmer, and Maria Johnson Rasmusson, a homemaker. In some records, their last name is spelled Rasmussen.

The son graduated from Perham High, where he played on its 1934 state champion football team. He and the 10 other starters all served in the armed forces during World War II.

Soon after Mr. Rasmusson enlisted in the Navy he married Signe Maki from nearby New York Mills, Minnesota.

She moved to Long Beach, California, to be near the U.S.S. Arizona’s home port. Within a month of her husband’s death, Mrs. Rasmusson, a medical secretary, joined about 60 other widows in applying for jobs at the Lockheed-Vega plants building war planes.

As the companies’ industrial relations manager, R. Randall Irwin, explained, it “established a policy of giving preference to anyone who needs employment as a result of the war emergency. The unfortunate widows of Pearl Harbor dead are the first on this list.”


Sources: the Perham (Minnesota) Focus; the Minneapolis (Minnesota) Star; the Oakland (California) Tribune; Fergus Falls (Minnesota) Daily Journal; Census; Navy muster rolls; Minnesota death records; grave markers; “Historical Album and Centennial book, Perham, Minnesota, 1871-1971.” 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