Bob Kronberger and Mark Ferris commented on the start of our organization as being more or less conceived by accident; however, it could easily be traced to the 1954 USS West Virginia reunion held at the VFW Hall in Gardena, California.
Mark Ferris, editor of the Gardena Tribune, while covering the USS West Virginia reunion, made it known to the gathering that he also was a victim of the tragedy of the "Day of Infamy", as a member of the 72nd Bomb Squadron at Hickam Field December 7th 1941. Mark Ferris invited Ed Steffa, Louis P. Smith, Eddy and Bob Kronberger, Sam Kronberger the father of Eddy and Bob, to a remembrance dinner party at the Del Camino Room he was hosting for a few of his friends to commemorate the Attack on Pearl Harbor December 7th 1954.
Present at that dinner party in addition to the host Mark Ferris were Ed Steffa, Sam, Eddy and Bob Kronberger from the USS West Virginia; George Haines Jr., VP23; Raymond LeBer, Navy Yard; James C. Taneyhill, USS Neosho; Clarence Bonn, Wheeler Field; George Schafer, Fort Kam and Louis P. Smith, Shore Patrol. As the party progressed the participating survivors swore to make this an annual event to be held on December 7th each succeeding year.
Of those attending that first dinner at the Del Camino Room in Gardena California, Mark Ferris, Smiley Bond, Eddy and Bob Kronberger are the only ones that have not been called to rest.
The following years they diligently honored their pledge and invited other Pearl Harbor Survivors to join a common cause of "Remembrance Of Pearl Harbor".
By 1958 the dinner sessions grew to include Mike Kotsmith, Chippie Woods and Ray Brown, USS West Virginia; Frank Shilling, USS St Louis; Marion Bradley, USS New Orleans and Frank Gilliand, Sub Base. It was there that the decision was made to search for other military survivors of the Pearl Harbor Attack and invite them to join a worthwhile venture to organize and promote our accepted thoughts of "Remembering Pearl Harbor".
The gathering assembled at the evening dinner came to the conclusion that all in attendance at that get together would be known as the original founders of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association; however, this decision was later changed by the by-laws committee when they decided to limit the number of the official Founding Fathers to the original participating eleven.
The leaders chosen to guide them through the formation period were Mark Ferris as President, Ed Steffa as Vice President, Sam Kronberger as Treasurer and George Schafer as Secretary. During the next two years over a thousand responses were received from across the nation. It was decided at the December 7th 1960 dinner to hold a framework for organization caucus in 1961.
The first organizational convention was held at the Disneyland Hotel December 7th 1961 in Anaheim California. In spite of the dense fog over 300 survivors came forward to join together affirming that our comrades in arms would not be forgotten and the silent watch they keep would not be in vain. Survivor Dan McCarthy donated the newly designed Pearl Harbor Survivors Flag. The elected officers for the new association were Mark Ferris as President, James Daw as 1st VP, Clarence "Smiley" Bond 2nd VP.
Over 1,000 Pearl Harbor Survivors attended the convention held at the Lafayette Hotel in Long Beach California December 7th 1962. It was at this meeting that the PEARL HARBOR SURVIVORS ASSOCIATION was officially instituted and our fine organization finally came to life. For the first time in its existence state contingents with their state flags flying arrived and made their presence known.
As soon as the association was instituted our first permanent slate of national officers was elected and again Mark Ferris was unanimously elected National President, along with Joseph T. Toker 1st VP, James Daw 2nd VP, Ted Nicolai Treasurer and Robert Farnham as Secretary. The highlight of the convention was when our new National Constitution was presented and accepted by the now organized membership. It was announced the organization had been incorporated under the laws of the State of California and the PHSA National Insignia was registered in Washington DC.
From our formal incorporation December 1962 to the present day, the scope of the PEARL HARBOR SURVIVORS ASSOCIATION has steadily thrived. The United States Congress now charters our association and we take an active part and interest in our national affairs, while our own history is still being written. AS LONG AS ONE OF US IS STILL ALIVE, IT IS THE HOPE OF MOST OF US THAT THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A PEARL HARBOR SURVIVORS ASSOCIATION EXTOLLING THE ATTRIBUTES OF OUR BELOVED AMERICA.
A Little About Myself:
I was knocked out of bed by the concussions of exploding bombs! On December 7,1941 I was fast asleep when the Japanese war planes launched their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. I was assigned to the 72nd bombardment squadron stationed with the Army Air Corps at Hickam Field when the rude awakening blew me out of my bunk. America, the sleeping giant, was now thrust into an unwanted war, World War II.
When the news hit the mainland, every American, experienced a rude awakening. The average American, no matter who, felt the shock: the surprise slap in the face was felt by each individual--it was a very personal thing. A good part of America's mighty fleet was sunk-- thousands of American's finest young men were dead or horribly maimed. That carefree, easy-go-lucky American lifestyle, came to a screeching halt. How could anyone do this to us? People were shocked, mad, hurt, and humiliated--no one would ever forget this monumental happening!
Or so we all thought. At the time, we were all so sure that this was one of those moments in history that leaves an everlasting mark. Surely, Americans could never forget what happened on December 7, 1941.
Consequently, the war came to an end, and the years rolled by. A little over 15 years later, in 1957 I found myself in the perfect profession to ask that important question: Do Americans know what happened on December 7, 1941? Since I was the Manager of the Gardena Tribune, a Californian newspaper, I sent the editor out into the streets to ask people if they knew what happened on December 7, 1941. To my dismay I found that pretty much every man, woman or child we asked had no clue to what happened on December 7, 1941.
I decided it was time to try to inform the American public about the significance of the December 7, 1941 date. I wrote an editorial and invited Pearl Harbor survivors to a dinner which I hosted at one of the local restaurants. Thirteen survivors showed up and we decided to form the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
Our first convention was held at the Disneyland hotel in Anaheim, California. 300 Pearl Harbor survivors attended our first convention--President Kennedy sent his personal representative to our convention. I was elected president of the organization and served for three years.
The prominent goal of our organization has been to facilitate the remembrance of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and preserve the December 7, 1941 date in People's memories. Membership in the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association fast grew to over 70,000 members worldwide. However, with the passing of the years and the onset of old age our membership has been steadily declining.
A few years ago, Sen. Bob Dole and actor Tom Hanks began to actively pursue the idea of a building a Memorial for World War II veterans. Since I work at Wal-Mart as a people greeter, Wal-Mart managers ask what I thought about the idea of a World War II Memorial. Our association got behind fund-raising for the Memorial and collected over 40 thousand dollars for the Memorial. With the help of Wal-Mart's WWII Memorial Fund drive the amount raised soon became $14,500,000. I was chosen to go to Washington DC and present the $14,500,000 Wal-Mart check to Sen. Bob Dole.
PHSA FOUNDING FATHER & 1ST NATIONAL PRESIDENT
Even though, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is slowly dying, there were still 25,000 Pearl Harbor survivors alive to see the World War II Memorial erected.
Since the founding of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association we have had one prominent goal: to promote the remembrance of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
We are meeting December 3-8, 2001 in Oahu, Hawaii to mark the 60th anniversary of the attacked on Pearl Harbor. Join us, at the ALA Moana Hotel, and help us remember the attack on Pearl Harbor.
December 7, 1941, remember it. Especially, after the remaining Pearl Harbor survivors have all passed away, remember December 7, 1941--for the lessons learned that day are still valid today. Remember our motto:
"Remember Pearl Harbor--Keep America Alert-- Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty."
Mark in Hawaii during the 60th Reunion
Mark passed away December 28, 2002. He served in the Army Air Corps during WWII, one of the Founding Fathers and the first National President of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, member of VFW and Elks, Crime Reporter for the Los Angles Times, writer for the Sacramento Bee and Union.
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