Because we are rapidly approaching Veterans’ Day on November 11, 2013, it is appropriate that we honor a local business owner who was serving aboard the USS Chew DD-106 when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. That business man was Dale Elifrits who owned and operated Elifrits Radiator Shop in Perry.
Dale who was born and raised in Spirit Lake, Iowa entered the United States Navy in the fall of 1939. Shortly after his boot camp training he was stationed aboard the USS Chew DD-106. The USS Chew was one of 111 Wickes-class destroyers built by the United States Navy from 1917 thru 1919. There were 113 officers and enlisted personnel on the USS Chew at the time she was anchored at Pearl Harbor. Members of the crew opened fire on the Japanese planes with 50 caliber machine guns. Dale related that he was able to see the faces of the Japanese pilots as they flew over the ships anchored in the harbor. The crew of the USS Chew kept firing during all three waves of attack by the Japanese pilots. During the ensuing battle the crew of the USS Chew is credited with hitting a Japanese plane, disintegrating the plane in mid-air. They were also able to hit a plane demolishing the tail assembly of the plane. During the battle and rescue efforts of the Battle of Pearl Harbor there were one casualty and one missing in action from the crew of the USS Chew. In retrospect, Dale felt that he was lucky to have been assigned to the USS Chew as it was the larger ships like the Arizona that the targets of the Japanese pilots.
From 1941 through the end of World War II, the USS Chew operated out of Pearl Harbor on patrol. She took on periodic duties among the Hawaiian Islands and made occasional trips to San Francisco. With only six months of his enlistment left, on one of the trips to the mainland, Dale left the ship and was stationed in San Diego, California. During his duty in San Diego Dale worked at a naval salvage yard where he worked with sheet metal. He was told by a senior officer at the naval salvage yard that he should look into the radiator shop business as it would be an exploding business as the car industry was rapidly growing.
Two important life events occurred during his last six months in the military. He met his wife, who was from Woodward, Iowa and learned the trade of radiator repair.