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I am well. Letter follows at first opportunity: Pearl Harbor Survivor Postcard

NHF Executive Director CAPT Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) recalls an interesting vignette about the upcoming Pearl Harbor anniversary from one of our members.

The story begins back in 2000.  Ms. June Ferren got in touch with Captain Creekman to ask for help in tracking down the story of her close friend who died during World War II.  The young naval officer was killed aboard his ship off the beaches of Normandy in 1944.  Ms. Ferren knew he died, but not the ultimate whereabouts of his remains.  With Captain Creekman’s help, they were able to discover that his body was recovered from the ship and buried in an American cemetery at Normandy.  His family disinterred the remains several years after the war, reburying them at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Francisco.

June Staley 1943Captain Creekman informed Ms. Ferren (her maiden name was June Staley – see above photo) of his resting place, just a few hours away from her hometown of Burbank, California.  She never knew he was buried so close all these years!

Ms. Ferren, a longtime NHF member, recently sent NHF a postcard from her WWII-era scrapbook that featured another friend, Robert Willis.  Unfortunately, little is known about their relationship, but it is believed that he was a high school friend stationed in Hawaii with the Navy at the time of the 7 December attack.

Willis Postcard to June Staley, 1941

Willis Postcard to June Staley, 1941

The postcard sent by Willis is postmarked 13 December at the Submarine Base post office, less than a week after the Sunday morning attack.  These postcards were an effort by military authorities at Pearl to permit soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen to notify their friends and loved ones of their statuses following the attack. With Japanese intentions for its Navy and armed forces unknown, authorities guarded what servicemen were allowed to divulge about each branch’s readiness to go to war.  According to the postcard, Willis survived the attack without major injury.

Sailors scratched off items that were not appropriate to their condition.  Many of these postcards took an agonizing three to six weeks to reach the mainland.  “It’s a reminder of a time when Hawaii was a remote, hardship duty station and the immediate communications media we enjoy today were a half century or more away in the future,”  Creekman says.

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  1. Mari Stanley

    I will be using this in future Letters to the Troops writing events that I help with locally in Malibu, CA schools. It often helps to encourage the kids by offering that many forward deployed do not receive much hand written correspondence with the internet and cell phone technology of today. This will help immensely in trying to get them to put themselves in another person’s place for a moment, going back in history to relate to today’s situations seems to really spark their interest. Often we hear that the kids speak to their Grandparents and that veterans will open up to the kids for the first time, speaking about their own experiences. You help make that possible with your continued posts of Naval history and I very much appreciate and respect your work. It helps us immensely in what we do!

  2. Pingback: Disaster strikes in Pearl Harbor. How did you hear of your loved ones whereabouts? By postcard weeks later. Read about its connection to NHF in today’s blog post HERE. | jkmhoffman

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