(Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series on Kalona Pearl Harbor survivor Keith Southtwick, Sunnyvale, California, who returned to Iowa recently to view his name engraved in the Iowa …
(Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series on Kalona Pearl Harbor survivor Keith Southtwick, Sunnyvale, California, who returned to Iowa recently to view his name engraved in the Iowa War Memorial on the State Capitol Grounds in Des Moines.)
Keith Southwick, 78, enjoyed having the opportunity to visit with two of his four brothers who served their country during World War II. Each teased the other that their division of the armed services was responsible for winning the war.
Keith served in the Pacific as a cook in the U. S. Navy. Don, 75, Hayward, Wisconsin, was a gunner and cook in B Battery, 754th Battalion of the 3rd Army under General Montgomery in the European Front. Bob, Kalona, joined the Army but was assigned to the Air Force as a mechanic and served most in Guam. Burt, 80, St. Carlos, California, served in the Army and Dale, deceased, formerly of Riverside, also served in the Army. Leon, who moved back to Kalona from New Orleans, Louisiana just last week, was drafted but got a deferment at the family’s (Katheryn Kos and her husband) request so he could help their mother and with the family business. The Southwicks owned and operated the bowling alley, skating rink and movie theater in the area where Gambles is now located.
Don now owns a fishing resort in Wisconsin. Bob was a mechanic on a B-29 bomber. Burt was also stationed in Saipan. He and Bob were able to see each other several times during the war.
In 1991, Keith and his wife, Vickie, returned to Honolulu, Hawaii for the 50th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. “I have no desire to return there ,” Keith said. “It is far too commercialized.” In addition, there are too many Japanese owning the island. The memory of the attack is still far too vivid to accept the domination of the former enemy in majority ownership of businesses in Hawaii.
Keith can still visualize the Japanese bombers flying just 20 feet overhead. “I could see their grins,” he remarked. “They were close enough that I could have hit them with a potato.”
Keith did fire his machine gun at the attackers, but he isn’t sure if he downed any planes.
Keith had the luck of being at the right place at the right time during his tour of duty. Japanese weren’t bombing the smaller mine-sweepers-tug boats.
Keith also thinks he visited with the Japanese spy who had infiltrated the American sailors in Hawaii and who so accurately detailed every move to allow the Japanese to make their surprise attack. He noted his uncle, Burt, owned the Black Cat Cafe in Honolulu. “The spy (who played himself in a movie) really looked familiar in the film,” he noted.
Keith’s luck continued when the three mine sweepers-tug boats were ordered to Guadalcanal. The first two ships were sunk by the Japanese. “We got through and were able to make 21 trips between islands to supply fuel to the planes on Henderson field. Japanese would fire flares at night to light the entire harbor, but they were never attacked.
“Marines were taking bets on whether or not we could make it across the harbor three times without getting sunk,” he noted.
On March 6, 1943 (his birthday), Keith was sent back to the states for leave. He was reassigned to the Destroyer Beale in April with a tour in Alaska and then to assist with the invasion of the Philippines.
When he returned to the West Coast in December of 1944, his father introduced him to Vickie who was working at the same defense plant where he was.
Keith made a career of the Navy, getting a medical discharge after 20 years . He worked at Moffett Field for 17 years before retiring.
Today Keith is involved in the Pearl Harbor Survivors groups. On November 11 he will drive his restored Model A in the San Jose Armed Forces parade. Three other survivors will ride with him. He noted that quite often Californians question what a Pearl Harbor survivor is.
Keith and Vickie have two daughters, Diane Amviska and Karen Dettner, Lincoln City, and five grandchildren.