Louis James Toushla

Louis James Toushla was the first Holt County person to lose their life in WWII with the attack at Pearl Harbor and the attack on his ship the Oklahoma.

Louis James Tushla grew up in Atkinson and at the age of 23 joined the U.S. Navy in 1940. Tushla became a machinist’s mate third class and served aboard the U.S. Battleship Oklahoma which was sunk the morning of Dec. 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, killing 429 crewmen.

Two weeks after the attack at Pearl Harbor, Tushla’s parents received a letter stating that Tushla was “missing following action in the performance of his duty and in the service of this country.”

Tushla’s family and friends anxiously awaited further word, until on Feb. 20, 1942 they received another letter stating, “After exhaustive search it has been found impossible to locate your son, Louis James Tushla, fireman first class U.S. Navy, and he has therefore been officially declared to have lost his life in the service of this country as of Dec. 7, 1941. The department expresses to you its sincere sympathy.” This letter arrived the week after what should have been Tushla’s 26th birthday. He was the first Holt County boy to lose his life on the opening day of World War II.

Atkinson rallied and honored Tushla’s memory by dedicating the high school’s new athletic grounds be built north of the schoolhouse and be named Tushla Field on June 12, 1942. He was honored again on Friday, April 19, 1946 when the local John Farley Post No. 86, named for the first Atkinson service member killed in World War I, changed its name to the Farley-Tushla Post 86.

The story grew cold after that, as nothing new happened until March 27, 2020 when Tushla’s remains were identified four years after they were exhumed from a mass grave in Hawaii.

Now the U.S. Navy, Holt County, the American Legion and Holt County Veteran Service Office are excited to announce the repatriation of F1C Louis Tushla. This Mission started Sept. 30, 1997, by the Service Office’s predecessor Arnold Hall working side by side with TSGT James M. Keating, both who are no longer with us, spearheading the undertaking of bringing Louis home. Coming full circle to fruition, the journey is almost complete in bringing one of America’s finest, back to his final resting place. It will be a great honor to be a part of such a momentous occasion, please reserve the date and plan to be in Atkinson.

The event kicks off on Thursday, July 15 at about noon on that day, when a small group from Post 86, American Legion Riders, Atkinson Funeral Director Leo Seger and family members of Tushla will leave Offutt Air Force Base with Tushla’s remains, they will first travel to the Sapp Bros. truck stop in Fremont where additional participants and other interested parties are invited to line up for the procession in returning the remains to Atkinson. They estimate they will arrive in Atkinson around 6:10 p.m. American Legion Post 86 will hold a free will offering hamburger fry for the escort personnel and community upon arrival of the escort. All proceeds will go to help with the offset of the funeral costs.

Friday, July 16 a visitation will be held at Seger Funeral Home from 1-5 p.m. with a prayer service and a rosary following.

Saturday, July 17 funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Atkinson. Monsignor Jim Gilg will officiate. Following the service, burial will take place at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Atkinson. Full military honors provided by U.S. Navy Honor Guard and a flag presentation and American Legion Post 86 Honor Ceremony. A lunch at the Atkinson Community Center will be held after the graveside services.

American Legion Post 86 is accepting donations to offset the cost of the funeral for the family. Checks can be made out to Atkinson AL Post 86, sent to P.O. Box 674, Atkinson, NE. 68713. (Memo: Tushla)

Questions can be addressed to the Holt County Veteran’s Service Officer Ken Stenka at (402) 336-1200 or vso1@holtcountyne.org.

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