The special annual remembrance for all who perished in wake of the Dec.7, 1941 Day of Infamy attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii will soon take place in Atchison, but with some modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Billy Edwin Gibson, of Atchison County is one of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps servicemen entombed aboard USS Arizona, as indicated by a narration embossed onto a bronze plaque near the USS Arizona relic in Veterans Memorial Park along the riverfront. As a result of the Japanese attack 1,177 U.S. Service men were killed aboard the ship that had arrived one day earlier at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. More than 10 percent of the casualties aboard the ship were from four Midwestern states of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska that includes 11 sets of brothers. Another 26 sets of brothers were also assigned to the ship.
The remembrance program is scheduled for noon Monday, Dec. 7 near the encased USS Arizona relic in Veterans Memorial Park located along Atchison Riverfront Park area near River Road and Commercial Street intersection. U.S. Navy veterans from Atchison area communities organize the event with support from VFW Post 1175, Pershing Chapter of the Military Officer Association of America and Benedictine College ROTC Unit. All veterans in the community are urged to attend the tribute that not only honors the veterans of Pearl Harbor, but all U.S. veterans and active duty service men and women.
Organizers encourage the public to attend the tribute in honor of all lost on the U.S.S. Arizona on Pearl Harbor Day and all veterans. Even though some seating for attendees will be available it will be limited. Due to the pandemic there is a face mask requirement.
The upcoming remembrance will mark the 10th year since the USS Arizona Memorial in Veteran’s Memorial Park was dedicated. The actual dedication was May, 31, 2010 and annually since then on what is known as Pearl Harbor Day a special remembrance event takes place to remember the crew of the USS Arizona.
Jim Madden and Fred Gage are two U.S. Navy veterans who not only serve as the annual event organizers, but also maintain the display enclosure that encases the relic that was brought to Atchison by the U.S. Navy’s USS Arizona Relic Program that Boy Scout Lawton Paul Huffman of Troop 351 secured as his Eagle Scout Project with cooperation from City of Atchison, Riverfront Development Foundation, Inc. and Pershing Chapter of the MOAA.
Madden and Gage dismantle the encasement two to three times a year and conduct a thorough cleaning inside and out, Gage said. The veterans recognized there would be a need for the attentive care and upkeep to display the relic.
Throughout the years, Gage cleans the Memorials in the Veterans Park area from the Lewis and Clark kiosks, the pillars and the field crosses. All are showing signs of weathering and have begun to deteriorate from the exposure to the elements.
Gage said the remembrance ceremony is about 30 minutes and is traditionally a rain or shine event that includes a BC ROTC Rifle salute. In the past years there have been 50 chairs to seat dignitaries and guests. This year chairs will be a social distance apart from one another, Gage said.