- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 November 2015 23:13
- Published: Thursday, 22 May 2003 00:00
Christiansen was born in Jewell County in western Kansas, but he grew up in Columbus.
"I had a good childhood," he said, speaking about working as a curb hop boy at an all-night cafe at the age of 12 and learning about being a short-order cook.
He didn't finish high school, and after a year at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Nebraska, he found himself back home working with his father.
He hadn't seen his older brother, Edward, in three years. His mother was upset because her father had told her that she would never see Sonny again.
Christiansen went to work the next day and told his father he was quitting. And then he drove to Joplin and enlisted in the Navy on the USS Arizona.
He wanted to see his brother again.
Christiansen doesn't remember exactly when he arrived at Pearl Harbor, but the 79-year-old remembered that boot camp was hell.
He tends to have a mouth on him, he said. That can get you in trouble in boot camp.
His brother was a baker on the Arizona.
"He was waiting for me," Christiansen said. "When I got aboard the ship, he was there."
Those first few days weren't easy for the younger brother. A wave nearly washed him off the ship, and he ran afoul of a bosun's mate.
Sitting at the head of the table, the bosun's mate said he would sure like another piece of that cherry pie. There were never seconds on dessert on the Arizona, but Christiansen piped up like he always did and said, "I'll go get you another piece."
The bosun's mate didn't yell at Christiansen. The bosun's mate was persuaded to give Christiansen a chance. He hadn't mentioned to the bosun's mate that his brother was a baker on the ship.
When he found Sonny, his brother wouldn't let him have a piece of pie, and the brothers got into an argument. An officer intervened, and Buddy Christiansen returned to table with an entire cherry pie.
There are other good memories of the couple of days Christiansen was on the Arizona. Like the cards he and Sonny sent home to their mother for Thanksgiving. When his mother died years later, Christiansen found the cards still tucked together in the envelope.
He found the telegram that told his parents he was injured, and the one telling them that his brother was dead.