The North Bend Eagle


North Bend's Pearl Harbor hero
Fred Eernisse is shown here in about 1940 while on active duty in the United States Navy. He went down with his ship, the USS Arzona, on Dec. 7, 1941, and remains entombed there.

Local roots for Pearl Harbor victim found, probably

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 5/20/15

Who doesn’t like a good historical mystery? Call it the Curious Case of the War Hero and the North Bend Scholarship.

In 2000 Col. Barney Oldfield started the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Scholarship in memory of the 22 Nebraskans entombed in the U.S.S. Arizona, and only goes to graduates in the hometowns of these 22 sailors.

North Bend Central students have been eligible to apply for the scholarship because a sailor by the name of William Fredrick Eernisse died on the Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941, is listed as being from North Bend.

Except no one around here had ever heard of him or the Eernisse name.
Initial research did not show any Eernisses in the area. So how did North Bend get to claim Eernisse as one of its own?

Collecting for memorial brick

Let us claim Fred Eernisse as a part of North Bend with a brick at the North Bend-Morse Bluff Veteran’s Memorial Park. Bring donations to the Eagle to help give him a permanent home in our community.

An internet search reveals a Eernisse family in Fairhope, Alabama. In 2009 a marker (between his parents and grandparents markers) was put in the Fairhope Cemetery commemorating Fred, as his family called him. Doris Allegri, a board member at the Daphne Heritage Museum in Fairhope, knew of the family and got this reporter in touch with his niece, Patsy Miller.

Patsy, the daughter of Fred’s youngest sister, Mae, was 11 when her uncle Fred was killed. They were living in Fairhope on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Eernisse, 32 at the time, was a Painter First Class in the U.S. Navy stationed aboard the Arizona. He died with 1,177 of his shipmates, 941 of them still entombed on the Arizona.

Eernisse’s wife lived in California and the Navy notified her. Originally California was listed as his home state. His family thought some form of recognition needed to be given to him in Fairhope since he grew up in Alabama, which led to the headstone between his parents and grandparents.

But what about North Bend?

It was first thought that his wife was from this area, but she was from the West Coast.

The first three numbers of Eernisse’s service number reveal that he enlisted in Omaha. These numbers were used by the National Pearl Harbor Survivors Association to complete a list titled “Nebraskan’s Who died at Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941 Nebraska Home Town.” The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation used this list to create a roll of sailors who died on the U.S.S. Arizona as the basis for The Pearl Harbor Remembrance Scholarship.

William Fredrick Eernisse was born July 27, 1909, in Dayton, Iowa, to John and Maude (Stott) Eernisse. Maude was born in 1879 near Marshalltown, Iowa. Maude grew up in a large family, moving frequently around Iowa and Nebraska and lived for a time in Stanton County. She had at least two sisters and three brothers: Arthur, Herman and Walter. The brothers eventually came to live in the North Bend area where they spent most of their lives.

Fred’s parents, Maude and John Eernisse, married in the mid 1890s. The Eernisse family moved frequently, finally settling in Fairhope, Alabama, in 1920. Fred would have been 11 years old that year. According to the 1930 Census, Eernisse was not living with his family in Alabama at the time.

Patsy Miller said that her Uncle Fred had been in the Navy 15 years by 1941, making him 17 when he enlisted in late summer or fall of 1926. It may have been possible that he was staying with his uncles in North Bend before enlisting and he put them down as next of kin. This is just an educated conclusion of this reporter and Nebraska State Historical Society librarian Cindy Drake. Family has been contacted and they can’t find any written items to contradict this conclusion.

Drake said NSHSF, the organization that administers the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Scholarships, says Eernisse’s amount of time lived in North Bend does not mean that any students from NBC, past, present or future will lose their scholarships. This scholarship was not given out this year because there were no applicants. There were NBC recipients from 2001 to 2009, and 2011. There are no special connections to the military needed to apply. Information can be found at or from the NBC guidance counselor.

<<Back to the front page