John Anderson and Clarendon Hetrick survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor but never forgot their 1,177 shipmates who died on USS Arizona. Both men went on to fulfill lengthy and honorable service, raise families and regularly return to the memorial to honor those killed Dec. 7, 1941.
On the 75th anniversary of the attack, the remains of Anderson and Hetrick were returned to the ship in a double interment ceremony – the first and likely last such event. There are only five living survivors.
“The interment service was very powerful,” says Bob Hetrick, Clarendon’s son. “All the power and warmth of the Navy was there. Dad was going back to his ship and back to where he wanted to be and back to where he belonged. I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but that’s a very sacred place.”
The National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Navy have jointly organized and coordinated 39 of 40 interment ceremonies over the years. (The Marine Corps participated in one involving a Marine.)
Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at the USS Arizona Memorial, works with the families and officiates the ceremonies.
“The one thing that is so amazing about this is the silence that is present as we execute the interment,” he says. “It’s part of the ambience of how special and how dignified this is. This sailor is going back to rejoin his shipmates and that’s his last wish.”
Long before the ceremony, Martinez starts the process by helping families complete the necessary paperwork. Once the interment request is approved, the family makes a series of decisions about the ceremony: How many family members will be present? Who will receive the U.S. flag? Who will accompany the urn? Who will present the urn to the dive team? What music will be playing?
The Dec. 7 double interment ceremony was more complicated than others because it involved two families amid worldwide attention on the 75th anniversary of the attack. It was crowded, too, with 225 people packing the Arizona memorial to observe.
NPS representatives, Navy leaders and others opened the event with brief remarks. After a prayer and presentation of a U.S. flag, designated family members accompanied Navy personnel and Martinez to the dock. In back-to-back ceremonies, each family handed an urn to a member of the NPS dive team.
“There are five divers, and the center diver holds the urn straight up in the air, like a trophy, and then the others pull him along and they go toward the sunken Arizona, which is about 25 yards away,” Martinez explains. “At the barbette of Turret 3, and in between the barbette of 3 and the well of Turret 4, they all display at the same time. The diver who is holding the urn is the last to disappear with the urn up above him, down below the water. Then the divers are underwater, and as a group they move toward the well of Turret 4. They go down about 30 feet and there’s a place where they put the urn into the ship.”
As the divers disappear, a gun salute is fired and taps is played. “That completes an interment,” Martinez says. “And it’s hard to have a dry eye when that happens.”
Both families praised the NPS and Navy for the precise, reverent ceremony.
“It was somber but it was respectful,” says Terry Anderson, John’s son. “Everything was immaculately done. It was such an emotional time for our whole family. It was literally like the ocean stood still. I just felt a great deal of gratitude for the respect that was paid to our families and our dads, to my dad and to Mr. Hetrick. It was unbelievable.”
For the Hetricks, the Arizona as final resting place has special meaning.
“It’s really kind of cool because I pieced together the spot where he exited the ship, and it’s probably within 15 or 20 feet of where they interred him into the crack in Turret 4,” Bob said. “He had his shore leave and now he’s returning to duty.”
TWINS REUNITED John Delmar Anderson and Delbert Jake Anderson were the only set of identical twins on board Arizona.
“They grew up together, went to high school together, played football together,” Terry says. “They did everything together. They hunted together, they joined the military together. Their lives were so intertwined as young men.”
John survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, but Jake did not.
John went on to serve 36 years on active duty and as a reservist. “It was a sad thing when I looked at Dad’s service record,” Terry says, noting that the National Archives provided a set of Jake’s as well. “It really hits home when you look at how long Dad’s was and how short Jake’s was.”
On the morning of Dec. 7, the brothers were in different locations, with John setting up for church services on the ship’s stern. He heard the explosions and recognized the red circle on one of the planes flying overhead.
“He ran into Lt. (Samuel) Fuqua and Dad told him, ‘This is an air attack. These are not ships coming into the harbor,’” Terry says. “He asked permission to report to port side anti-aircraft gun.”
Fuqua, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions that day, agreed and sent Anderson on his way. Moments later, an 1,800-pound bomb went through the bow of the ship and exploded, taking Arizona down.
The bomb blew John off the ship. “At some point, he managed to get back on, even though it was on fire and burning,” Terry says. “He ran into Lt. Fuqua again, who said, ‘You got to get off the ship.’ Dad says, ‘I got to find my brother.’”
Fuqua didn’t agree this time, telling him again, “You’re getting off ship,” and pushing him off.
Upon reaching Ford Island, John made a bizarre discovery.
“He found a Marine Corps dress uniform there on the beach,” Terry says, noting that his father wore it for a little while. “The only thing we could ever surmise was that somebody threw their uniform down and ran. His clothes had been burned off because of the flash fires all over Arizona.”
John found another younger seaman named Rose, who he implored to get back in the water to help rescue efforts. “Rose didn’t want to go,” Terry says. “He was scared. But Dad convinced him, saying, ‘You got to go, I can’t do it without you.’”
Both men started pulling survivors out of the water when a Japanese plane fired on their boat, which went down. “Dad was the only survivor,” Terry says. “They lost those four men they pulled out, and they lost Rose. We found out about that story when we were much, much older. Dad never shared that with us.”
John told the story during a meeting with NPS and Navy officials talking about Arizona. Afterward, he contacted Rose’s family and told them what had happened. “They were thankful because they knew he had died at Pearl Harbor, but they had never known exactly what happened,” Terry says. “That gave them some closure.”
John sought his own peace by visiting Jake, Rose and the other men every five years.
“Dad was a patriot,” Terry says. “That’s something that he instilled in all of us. It was always important for him to go and pay his respects. It was out of respect and out of the fact that we were tied to Arizona, our family, by the blood of his brother, Jake.”
At the memorial, John remained quiet but always made a point to run his fingers over the etching of his brother’s name on the wall.
The Anderson family found John’s name on the wall the day before his interment ceremony. “It was incredibly emotional,” Terry remembers. “It was profound sadness and profound pride at the same time.”
ESCAPING THE DARKNESS On Dec. 7, Clarendon Robert Hetrick woke up at 5:30 a.m., as he usually did, to prepare breakfast for his dozen crewmates on Arizona. A couple of hours later, the Japanese attack sent him scurrying – wearing only his underwear – to his battle station. Amid the chaos, Hetrick and others loaded several rounds into a 5-inch magazine.
Then everything went dark.
“All of a sudden the whole ship rattles and somebody hollers, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here,’” his son, Bob, says. “The room is pitch black. Then they smell smoke and don’t really know which way is up. To find the way out of this room is a maze, and to do it in seconds is completely amazing. It’s below the water level, and it’s an eerie place down there.”
Clarendon made it topside safely and found a sailor whose legs were caught in a ladder.
“My dad ended up pushing him up and putting him on the deck, and going across the deck and taking off his new shoes he bought the day before, hoping to return to get them someday,” Bob says. “He then steps off the deck into the water and dog paddles to Ford Island. He didn’t get burned, didn’t get a scratch on him. It’s just amazing.”
Clarendon served 10 more years in the Navy, and another decade in the Air Force. But his heart remained with his Arizona crewmates who never escaped the darkness of that Sunday morning.
The Hetrick family made regular pilgrimages to the memorial to honor and remember the lost. They proudly display memorabilia from their visits and Clarendon’s military days, believing it’s important to pass on his legacy from generation to generation – including 6-month-old Clarabell Rose, named for her great-grandfather.
During his visits to the memorial, Clarendon always paused at the wall that displays the names of his shipmates.
“He didn’t remember a lot of the names of the people he served with,” says Bob, who lives in Las Vegas. “He could only remember the boatswain. Boots was his name. He would check his name out, read it every time he went, and take his time and pay his respects. He shed a tear or two. It was a solemn time.”
Now visitors from around the world will see the name Clarendon Robert Hetrick etched into the memorial alongside those of his shipmates.
“There is nobody in the world who is going to take better care of my dad, for all eternity, than the USS Arizona Memorial,” Bob said immediately after the ceremony. “He is going to be safe, guarded over and looked after for all eternity right here. And there is no place I would rather have him.”
‘BACK HOME’ Frankly, there is no other place John or Clarendon wanted to be. There is an unbreakable bond that unites the Arizona survivors with the men who went down with the ship, even 75 years after the attack.
“They feel they should have been there,” Bob says. “That ‘why them?’ feeling. Why did they survive? I was talking to Terry – his dad always wanted to go back because he wanted to save his brother. Why was it his brother and not him? Well, they’re all brothers. Why is it one and not the other? I think all of them have wondered that, and that’s why they want to go back.”
Only a handful of USS Arizona survivors remain. Another survivor was scheduled to be reunited with his shipmates in mid-April. He will be the 42nd crew member to be interred there.
John wavered about whether he wanted to spend eternity with his USS Arizona crewmates. Ultimately, his heart led him back to the ship, and his family granted his wishes without hesitation.
“John was always very patriotic and very proud,” says his widow, Karolyn. “He would be very proud to be recognized like that and very humbled by it. When he first passed away, that’s one of the first things we talked about – that he would be joining Jake. And that gives us comfort to know that he is with Jake now.”
As for Clarendon, he knew much earlier where he wanted to be laid to rest. The late Myrtle Jean Hetrick began planning for her husband’s interment back in the 1980s. Bob and his siblings oversaw the final paperwork and arrangements.
“I guess you could say I made my dad’s dying wish come true,” Bob says. “It’s what he wanted. All of us were committed to making it happen. It wasn’t just me. He’s back in his ship with his shipmates. He’s back home.”
Henry Howard is deputy director of media and communications for The American Legion.