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Local Pearl Harbor Survivor Becomes Inspiration for New American Girl Doll

It's been 76 years since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but one Missouri woman remembers the attack like it was yesterday.

Posted: Nov. 13, 2017 12:18 AM
Updated: Nov. 13, 2017 10:23 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) It's been 76 years since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but one Missouri woman remembers the attack like it was yesterday.

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Dorinda Nicholson now lives in Kansas City, but her story of surviving Pearl Harbor has led her to becoming the inspiration for the newest American Girl Doll, Nanea Mitchell.

“This is kind of a platform for me because Nanea will reach way more kids and girls than I ever could," Nicholson said.

Nicholson grew up in Hawaii near the U.S. Navy fleet at Pearl Harbor. She was just six years old when the bombs hit.

“We saw the airplanes come right over our house because it was just barely above the tree tops, so we could see them," Nicholson said. "Then we could see the smoke, and you could smell the smoke.”

Nicholson said she remembers feeling surprised and shocked when the planes flew over their home. Her family grew up next to the naval base, so Nicholson said they first thought the planes were part of a military practice drill.

“My dad put myself and my baby brother in the back seat, and we went to drive up to the sugar cane fields, which are in the hills above the harbor, to hide and figure out what was going on," Nicholson said.

In 1993, Nicholson wrote the book 'Pearl Harbor Child' which outlines her story of surviving the bombing. 

"I'm one of the living survivors," Nicholson said. "Those of us who were kids in the harbor, there's maybe 20 or 30 of us, but we're in our 80's now. So, while there’s still a primary resource, I think there’s an obligation to tell.”

Nicholson was asked to come to St. Joseph and speak to over 20 kids on Sunday at an American Girl Doll meeting hosted by the St. Joseph Museums.

“To have someone who actually worked with American Girl Doll Company and was a character the doll was based on is really phenomenal," Sara Wilson, Ex. Dir., St. Joe Museums, said.

One kid who attended the American Girl Doll meeting said she was happy to hear the story of Pearl Harbor from someone who actually lived through it.

“Getting to be here [meeting] is really fun, and I’m glad that we could learn a lot about Pearl Harbor and just getting to see the first-hand account of America’s past," Ivy Goldsmith, 11, said.

Nicholson now lives in kansas City, but travels to different areas to share her story.

The St. Joseph Museum holds an American Girl Doll meeting on the second Sunday of every month. Anyone is welcome to join.

For more information, visit the St. Joseph Museums website.

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