Skip to main content

On the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, the story of 2 MN brothers

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Seventy-four years ago today, John and Delbert Anderson were on the USS Arizona, serving their country in the U.S Navy, when bombs from Japanese war planes thundered down.

There were 38 sets of brothers on the ship at the time – but the Andersons, who grew up in Dilworth, Minnesota, were the only twins, the National Park Service says.

Delbert was Petty Officer Second Class, a turret gunner – John held the same duty but was stationed at a different turret, the Pioneer Press reports.

Then the bombs fell, including a 1,760-pound explosive that "shattered" the ship, instantly killing many of the servicemen on board and sinking the vessel, the USS Arizona's website says.

John was eating breakfast at the time, and when he heard the explosions he began looking for his brother, his fellow crew members injured and dying around him, the Pioneer Press says.

Writes the Parks Service:

"As the Arizona tilted and sank, John Anderson was ordered onto a barge taking wounded men to safety. 'I can't go, my brother's up there,' refused Anderson as he was shoved onto the barge and taken to Ford Island. He muscled his way back to the barge, ignoring the calls of 'You'll get killed out there' and set out toward the sinking, smoking, flaming Arizona."

Delbert was killed in the attack, one of 1,177 Arizona crew members who lost their lives. More than 900 of those bodies are still in the ship, which sits below the water and as part of a memorial.

John Anderson would go on to join the destroyer McDonough, and served across the Pacific Theater until he left the service in 1945, the Arizona Republic reported. A friend convinced him to rejoin shortly after as a reservist.

He also worked as radio DJ "Cactus Jack" in New Mexico, and became a local TV meteorologist, the Republic says.

John Anderson died in November of this year, at the age of 98 in Roswell, New Mexico. He was the oldest living survivor of the USS Arizona at the time.

Don Smith, who runs, uploaded to YouTube a snippet of a lengthy interview with John Anderson in 2011. The full 93-minute conversation is available on Vimeo.

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

More than 2,000 American service members were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack, which happened just before 8 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, writes. The attack lasted about two hours. More than 1,000 service men were wounded. Eighteen U.S. military vessels were destroyed or crippled from the bombing.

The next day, U.S. Congress declared war on Japan following a request from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Gov. Mark Dayton ordered all flags at state and federal buildings to be flown at half-staff Monday, Dec. 7. He also signed a proclamation recognizing this as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

MPR spoke with Richard Thill, a Minnesota survivor from the attack. Now 92, he was 18 and one of 140 crew members aboard the USS Ward when Pearl Harbor was bombed.

He's a guest speaker at Minnesota's Remembrance Day ceremony Monday at the Cedar Street Armory in St. Paul.

The U.S. Navy and National Parks Service will host a memorial event Monday at Kilo Pier, the Associated Press reports. More than 3,000 people are expected to attend.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-08-05 at 7.55.41 AM

Minneapolis police trying to ID pair in connection to fatal shooting

Police say the two people pictured are connected to the fatal shooting of Ivan Redday last month.


17-year-old girl killed in southern Minnesota crash

The crash happened early Thursday morning near Lake Crystal.

Tim Gannon

Ex-Brooklyn Center police chief sues city over resignation

Tim Gannon alleges he was forced to resign following the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright.

boat, boating, lake

Men injured after boat crash sends propeller spinning onto craft

The motor reportedly flew out of the water and severely injured two men on the boat.


Officials investigating possible spill near Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin

It comes as another water spill is being reported at Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota.


Lightning strike outside White House kills Wisconsin couple

The bolt of lightning was captured on video by a local TV camera.


NASCAR star Kyle Busch flees Mall of America after shooting

Busch was at the megamall with his wife and son when a gunman opened fire Thursday.


Triple-fatal crash involving car full of Missourians in Minnesota

Four people from Missouri were in a vehicle that collided with a semi.

Screen Shot 2022-08-03 at 7.58.19 AM

Teen charged with murder of 15-year-old at light rail station

The victim died from a gunshot wound to the chest following the shooting Tuesday.

Depressaria depressana

Invasive moth flying around Minnesota for first time

The little bugger was confirmed in Wisconsin in 2018 and Iowa in 2020.


Screen Shot 2021-06-06 at 10.11.22 AM

Remains of Minnesota soldier killed in Pearl Harbor attack identified

The remains of Neal K. Todd will be buried in Akeley next month.

Minnesotans mark 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack

The surprise attack killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178 others.

Minnesota survivor returning to Pearl Harbor to mark 70th anniversary

December 7, 1941, is a day that lives in infamy but it's also the day that made a man out of Ernie Mattson. That's what the 96-year-old Bloomington man says of the day he took cover aboard the USS Nevada and waited out a half-hour barrage of bombs.