Navy Memorial

Originally published in the Clear Lake Courier — November 1, 1995

Did you serve in the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard or wartime Merchant Marine, either in the reserves or on active duty? If so, you’re eligible to have your photograph displayed in the Navy Memorial Log at the U.S. Navy Memorial and Heritage Center in Washington D.C.

You would join the likes of LT John F. Kennedy, LTJG George Bush, Commodore John Paul Jones, Fleet Admirals Chester Nimitz and William Halsey, the five Sullivan brothers form Waterloo, Iowa, and the three Diekman women from Clear Lake, South Dakota.

The Navy Memorial, located on Pennsylvania Avenue midway between the White House and the Capitol, is a living tribute to all who have served or are currently in the sea services. It features an outdoor amphitheater and a statue of the Lone Sailor. A granite world map, 100 feet in diameter, covers the deck of the amphitheater and emphasizes the vastness of the oceans.

The adjacent visitors’ center houses a theater, conference room and store. Its specialized feature is the computerized Memorial Log, a “ship’s company” of 221,000 present and former naval service members. Of those enrolled, 56 percent served in World War II, 31 percent during the Korean War era and 30 percent during the Vietnam era. The Log contains the names of 2800 World War I veterans and 300 who served before this century.

The Navy makes up 95 percent of the Log. There are 5700 Marines, 2400 Coast Guardsmen, 162 Merchant Mariners, and 218 Army/Air Force (eligible if they also served in the Navy). 77,000 served four years or less; almost 22,000 records show more than 30 years service.

A current display at the Navy Memorial showcases underage World War II veterans. The display includes Calvin Graham, the youngest combat veteran of the war. He became know in 1988 when Ricky Schroder portrayed him in the TV movie, Too Young the Hero.

I was so touched by the movie I contacted Mr. Graham in Fort Worth, Texas. We talked several times before his death in 1992, and I registered him in the Navy Memorial Log.

Calvin was in a gun crew on the USS SOUTH DAKOTA (BB 57) during the battle of Guadalcanal in 1942. He earned a Bronze Star for heroism and a Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds. Shortly thereafter, his mother notified the Navy of his true age. He was thrown in the brig for three months (where he spent his thirteenth birthday), stripped of his medals, and discharged without benefits.

Although later Marine Corps service qualified him as a veteran, he spent the rest of his life fighting for medical benefits and a clean record. In 1978 he was awarded an honorable discharge; all medals but his Purple Heart were reinstated. He received disability and back pay in 1988. His Purple Heart was restored after his death.

Another underage Texan was Bobbie Lee Pettit, who enlisted in 1942 at age 13, and was a first class petty officer by war’s end. He participated in six cruises to the Pacific theater and five major campaigns. Because of his age he also was denied an honorable discharge and GI benefits after the war. His Congressman intervened and convinced the Navy to give him an honorable discharge, enabling him to fulfill his high school and college dreams.

Jackson Hoffler from North Carolina was the youngest combat sailor in the Normandy invasion. At age 15 he was a gunner on a landing craft (LCVP), which carried troops and supplies to the beach all day June 6, and carried the wounded back to the ship. When his LCVP was sunk the next day, Jackson joined the Beach Battalion. For the next month he helped move supplies across the beach, and was wounded twice during that time.

As part of the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, the Navy Memorial Foundation is conduction a nationwide search for naval service veterans. Individuals can enter themselves in the Log or be sponsored by friends or relatives.

Visitors to the Navy Memorial can type names into the computers in the Log Room to search for individual records. If a person is in the Log, the record will be displayed on an overhead video screen. Log prints are also available for purchase. Enrolling your favorite naval service veteran in the Navy Memorial Log could be a much appreciated birthday or Christmas present.

The Lone Sailor and LCDR Diekman in 1988
Diane and the Lone Sailor

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