Victims of 1941 Pearl Harbor attack remembered

2011-12-07T09:00:00Z 2011-12-29T03:27:46Z Victims of 1941 Pearl Harbor attack rememberedBy PAT KINNEY, Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
December 07, 2011 9:00 am  • 

WATERLOO, Iowa --- The Cashens were, literally, one big happy family. One had a rendezvous with destiny, though.

Eleven kids in all, they all had farm chores. They worked together. They played together. Their world was their family farm near Lamont.

They were typical of Midwestern farm families in the early 20th century.

Dorothy Cashen Wiley, 94, recalls playing tag and hide-and-seek with her big brother, Malachi, and their brothers and sisters.

They would go to fairs, she said, but not much else.

"Living on the farm, my dad was never one to get out very much. But we had fun on our own. We played all kinds of games. We had swings and a merry-go round."

Malachi Cashen, though much older, joined in the games.

"He was just a plain, ordinary guy," Wiley said. "He liked to have fun. He loved going out and dancing."

Eventually, Dorothy and her brother made their way to Waterloo. Dorothy eventually would work at Johnson's Bakery. Malachi clerked at Rex Shoe Store on East Fourth Street.

Then, in 1940, Malachi received a higher calling --- from Uncle Sam. He joined the U.S. Army, using his business talents to land a job as a supply clerk. He received what many might consider a plum duty assignment in Hawaii.

"I like it very much in Hawaii, land of beauty and sunshine," he wrote in a letter home. "Flowers year round, palm trees and acres of palms and pineapples."

It turned out to be a fateful assignment.

Air raid

Malachi was attached to the U.S. Army Air Force 18th Fighter Wing at Wheeler Field on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.

On Dec. 7, 1941, a Japanese imperial task force rained death and destruction on a major portion of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and plunged America into World War II.

It also was the day, Dorothy found out in a phone call from her sister, Malachi lost his life.

Attacking Japanese imperial planes strafed and bombed Wheeler, Hickam and Bellows fields, destroying the American planes on the ground, allowing an attack on American ships in the harbor virtually unopposed in the air.

Malachi Cashen's uncle, John Fitzsimmons of Waterloo, received a letter that his nephew died of gunshot wounds inflicted by the Japanese aircraft.

Wheeler was one of the first installations hit in the Pearl Harbor raid. News accounts in Iowa papers reported Cashen was the first Iowan to die in World War II.

He would not be the last Cashen to serve his country, according to a nephew, Rick Cashen of Lincoln, Neb.

"When he was killed, that was when my dad (Richard) and my other uncle (Francis) joined the service," Rick said. "Dad went in the Army and Francis went into the Navy."

Like Malachi, both served in the Pacific.

Rick said his dad would occasionally talk about Malachi from the prewar years, but never shared much about the war.

A number of Malachi Cashen's extended family gathered at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum on Tuesday. His sacrifice was recognized as part of the 70th anniversary commemoration of Pearl Harbor.

Malachi Cashen is buried in Hawaii, near where he made the supreme sacrifice.

Rick, and his family, are grateful for the recognition given Malachi here at home.

"It's just, knowing he was the first Iowan killed, it kind of puts him in history, and recognizes him for his service," said Rick Cashen, himself a U.S. Navy veteran of Vietnam. "I wish it wouldn't have happened, so I got to know him."

Native son

Also recognized was another killed at Pearl Harbor, Bill Ball of Fredericksburg, a talented baseball player serving on a battleship. He and 1,100 shipmates died when the USS Arizona sank.

"He was a good ballplayer," said his kid brother, Wylie Ball of Fredericksburg,.

He and his wife, Mary, spoke to the Courier in 2001.

Bill signed a professional baseball contract with the minor league Seattle Cubs, where he would head after his Navy hitch.

He served on the Arizona with an older brother, Masten, a chief petty officer and career Navy man. Masten "was on deck and he was blown off in the water," and survived, Wylie's wife, Mary Ball, said.

"But Bill had gone down below. It was Masten who said that Bill had gone down below after the raid started, to get a buddy," Mary Ball added.

Bill Ball's death prompted his friends --- George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert Sullivan of Waterloo --- to enlist in the Navy. They had one condition: They be allowed to serve together.

Eleven months later, the five Sullivans died after their ship, the USS Juneau, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sank.

The museum, dedicated in 2008, was named for the five brothers, and several of Ball's relatives attended Tuesday's observances.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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