Local Pearl Harbor survivor shares his story

December 7th is considered a day that will forever live in infamy, and the memories of that day are engraved in the minds of those who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor 71 years ago.

Don Brown, 90, of Grand Junction, was a 19-year-old shopkeeper first class on board the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

"We came into Pearl Harbor on the battleship West Virginia in the evening of December 6th and had no indication of any attack coming," Brown said.

The next day began like any other day but would become a day never to be forgotten. Brown was in the restroom was the first torpedo hit his ship.

"All of a sudden the lights went out and we heard the announcement 'abandon ship,' so then really pandemonium broke loose," he said.

Brown sat on top of a dinner table with a sailor named McKee waiting for the ship to sink. That memory is the last point Brown can trace before waking up in a hospital bed on another ship.

"I've tried to remember for 70 years and I can't remember how I got from a dinner table to the hospital ship," Brown said.

That moment sitting on top of the dinner table would also be the last time he ever heard, or saw, McKee.

106 crew members died on the USS West Virginia. Brown considers himself fortunate.

"It's a miracle that I'm alive," Brown said.

The attack on Pearl Harbor took the lives of more than 2,000 Americans, including three Mesa County residents, two on board the USS Arizona and one on the USS Curtis.


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