Two Kansas City-area Pearl Harbor survivors met for lunch Monday.
Edmund Russell of Lenexa, who 74 years ago was an Army Air Corps butcher planning breakfast at Wheeler Field in Hawaii, wore a floral print shirt.
Dorwin Lamkin of Shawnee, who 74 years was a corpsman on the U.S.S. Nevada, wore a blue windbreaker bearing the name of that battleship. Seated next to Russell on Monday, Lamkin reached out and grabbed his arm.
“You’re a good egg, Russ,” said Lamkin, 93.
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“I’m about ready to hatch,” Russell, 98, replied.
For about 15 years Kansas City area Pearl Harbor survivors have observed anniversaries of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack at programs held at the Sylvester Powell Community Center in Mission.
But the survivors’ numbers have dwindled and, on Monday, only Russell and Lamkin could attend.
So organizers decided to gather at the Big Biscuit in Prairie Village, where survivors meet occasionally with friends and family members. On Monday the survivors described the surprise of the Japanese attack, the war that followed and the need for vigilance since.
Missing for the first time was Jack Carson.
The Overland Park air corps veteran, who died on Nov. 23, had been a regular at the Powell Center gatherings. He especially enjoyed visiting with the students who attended, said Lydia Carson, Carson’s daughter-in-law.
“It was his way of saying, ‘Be vigilant, don’t stop looking out for America,’ ” Lydia Carson said.
Lamkin described how, when a sailor had poked his head through a door to announce the Japanese were attacking, he had been greeted with vulgarities.
“Then we all heard the sound of general quarters, which was the voice of doom,” Lamkin said. The U.S. Navy signal for immediate combat readiness proved “galvanizing,” Lamkin said.
Russell doesn’t mind telling and retelling the story.
“Our main objective is to touch the younger generation,” he said.
Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson of Raytown told her own version of the story. In 1941 Nicholson, now 80, witnessed the Pearl Harbor attack from her family’s nearby home.
In 1993 she published “Pearl Harbor Child,” a memoir of her family and the attack written for young readers. The book since has gained an international readership. On Monday Nicholson told of her recent trip to a Czech Republic community whose leaders are planning a Pearl Harbor museum.
The American response to the attack, she said, had served as a symbol of hope to the Czech citizens who endured Nazi occupation during World War II. Nicholson attended Monday’s gathering to record greetings from Lamkin and Russell to the museum planners.
“You are the faces of hope in the Czech Republic,” she told them.
Lamkin, however, said such talk makes him uncomfortable.
“I have this feeling that I’m posing as a hero,” he said.
“I’m not. I’m a survivor. … I was where I was because I’d been sent there. I didn’t elect to be a participant. So, I’m reluctant to be sailing under false colors.”