Burgum orders flags flown at half-staff in honor of Fessenden man who died at Pearl Harbor

Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 9:00am

BISMARCK, N.D. (June 22, 2017) – Gov. Doug Burgum today directed all government agencies to fly the United States and North Dakota flags at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, June 24, in observance of the interment of fallen Gunners Mate 1st Class Arthur C. Neuenschwander.

Neuenschwander, who joined the Navy in February 1927, will be buried next to his parents in his hometown of Fessenden, N.D. He died 75 years ago in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Neuenschwander was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. The Oklahoma was one of the first ships in Battleship Row to be hit by Japanese torpedoes. The damage was so extensive that the Oklahoma capsized at its berth in less than 15 minutes, trapping many of the sailors inside. A rescue party worked for nearly 40 hours to free 32 trapped sailors, but Neuenschwander, who was 33 years old, was one of 429 casualties on the ship. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, no single vessel at Pearl Harbor, with the exception of the USS Arizona, suffered as many fatalities. From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently buried in mass graves on the island.

Efforts by the Navy in 1947 to recover and identify fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater resulted in identification of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma; however, it was not until recent months that military specialists were able to identify Neuenschwander’s remains through DNA testing from surviving family members.

Neuenschwander was the eldest of seven children born to Otto and Lillian Neuenschwander of Fessenden. His nephew, Ross Johnson, who was originally contacted by the Navy in 2010 or 2011 in their efforts to locate family members of unidentified service members, served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army and in 1969 was decorated with the Silver Star for gallantry in action on the battlefield.

“We are filled with gratitude for all those who serve and who have made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our freedoms,” Burgum said. “We join the family of Gunners Mate 1st Class Arthur C. Neuenschwander, and the community of Fessenden, in honoring his memory and welcoming home our hero.”