Delar “Dane” vanSand of Gloucester, now 95, was serving as a Navy ensign aboard a battleship 72 years ago today.
The ship? The U.S.S. Nevada.
The port? Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where vanSand was about to live through one of the longest and most trying days in U.S. History.
The surprise Sunday morning attack by Japanese aircraft left 2,390 people dead and wounded more than 1,000 others, and propelled a nation that wanted to stay out of European affairs into what – a day later — would become the second World War. A day after the Pearl Harbor attack, the United States declared war on Dec. 8, 1941.
Although the assault lasted less than two hours, the trauma of its aftermath lasts a lifetime. While VanSand escaped without injury, he said those memories never fade, like all who face combat and who witness death so close and in such numbers.
“You don’t ever get over it, and that will be true of the guys fighting now,” said VanSand, who was born in Manhattan six days before the end of World War I on Nov. 5, 1918.
His daughter, Sigrid Olsen, a noted artist, knows the story well, about how her father was on the only ship that got underway that fateful morning.
“It always seemed a miracle to me that he was there and survived, because the thought of Pearl Harbor always conjures up the massive losses and to think he survived was amazing to us,” she said. “We were all grateful because if he hadn’t survived, we wouldn’t be here -- me, my siblings and my kids!”
In recent years, VanSand has started to put those stories from pen to paper for his children and grandchildren, “so they know who their ancestor was,” he said.
Passing it on
“Even my family doesn’t know some of the stories, and they have a right to know the details,” he added.