MISSION, Kan. - Jesse Dunnagan heard the words "air raid" followed by "This is no drill." He soon realized his ship and the rest of Pearl Harbor was under attack.
Dunnagan, 92, remembers the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 like it was yesterday. The Prairie Village, Kan., resident experienced it up close on board the USS California. He'll never forget how it felt to get hit by a torpedo on a large battleship.
"Forty-four thousand tons shook like a guitar string," he said.
Dunnagan commemorated the 71st anniversary of the attack by joining three other World War II veterans and fellow Pearl Harbor survivors to share with middle schoolers what it was like. Dunnagan, 90-year-old Dorwin Lamkin, 89-year-old Jack Carson, and 95-year-old Edmund Russell spoke to seventh and eighth graders from Indian Hills and Indian Woods Middle Schools at the Sylvester Powell Community Center.
The four men each told their story of survival on a day that claimed the lives of over 2,000 Americans. For Dunnagan, it meant swimming across a burning harbor after abandoning ship. He had to stay mostly under water to avoid the flames.
He served in the Navy for the duration of World War II, taking part in nine major battles in the Pacific.