#52Ancestors: Great Uncle Jose Robledo, Jr., WWII Vet, Interred at Los Angeles National Cemetery

Joe Robledo, Jr. - Headstone - Find a Grave
Headstone for Joe Robledo, Jr. Los Angeles National Cemetery. Section 56a Row K Site 5. Find A Grave photo by judy lakkis.

My 21st entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for week 21 is – Military: This week, the United States will be observing Memorial Day [as you can tell, I am quite late with this post]. Do you have any military ancestors? Were any ancestors affected by the military or by war?

I am five weeks behind on this blog challenge, hence the late Memorial Day post.

Joe Robledo, Jr. and Refugio Raphael Robledo
Joe is on the left, his older brother Refugio is on the right.

My 21st ancestor or relative is my great uncle Jose “Joe” Robledo, Jr. (1924-1972).

I have not written previously about Great Uncle Joe, except when mentioning him in posts about my great grandparents (his parents), Jose Robledo (1875-1937) and Maria Hermalinda Nieto (1887-1974). Jose, Jr.–named after his father, I assume– was the sixth of eight siblings, the third son, and the fourth child born in the United States after the family immigrated here in 1915. If I ever met Great Uncle Joe the first few years of my life, I do not remember him.

Joe was born 20 May 1924 in Los Angeles County, California.1 He married and was later divorced from Aurora Flores in 1946, six months after being released from the Army.2 Joe Robledo had four children, none whom Dad thinks are still living. I only remember meeting his now-deceased daughter Maria, a nun, about fifteen years ago when she came down to southern California to visit the family. Dad thinks his uncle still has one grandson alive.

Joe Robledo, Jr. and Refugio Raphael Robledo
Great Uncle Joe is on the far right, with his leg propped up. His older brother Refugio is bending down over Joe’s right shoulder. I will have to ask their sole living sibling the story behind this obviously staged photo.

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Why Great Uncle Joe?

This is a very brief post, since I have not done much research at all on Great Uncle Joe. It is simply a belated Memorial Day tribute to one of the veterans in my family history. I have not yet identified any family who ever died in service to our country (thankfully), so instead I try to honor those who made this ultimate sacrifice by paying tribute to my ancestors and relatives who were fortunate enough to live to come home.

After the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree conference wrapped up two Sundays ago, two of my out-of-state genealogy friends rented a car to go cemetery hopping. The Los Angeles National Cemetery was one of the locations on their itinerary. I have visited this nearby cemetery before, but could not remember if I had any family buried there. So the next day, I looked through my research notes and confirmed that I do indeed have a veteran family member buried at this cemetery–my great uncle Joe Robledo, Jr.3

The Second to Serve

Joe Robledo, Jr. was the second member of his immigrant family to serve in the military, on behalf of his family’s new home. My grandfather Benjamin Robledo (1919-1990), Joe’s first U.S.-born sibling, was the first to serve. Unlike his older brother, Great Uncle Joe opted for the Army over the Navy.

Joe enlisted in the U.S. Army on 28 June 1944 as a Private at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, Los Angeles County, California, shortly after his 20th birthday.4 He was released on 18 April 1946–less than two years later.5 I know nothing else about Uncle Joe’s service, nor do I have a photo of him in uniform. Dad says his uncle served in the European theater during World War II, thinks his uncle was at Omaha Beach, and says his uncle was injured in the war. D-Day took place on 6 June 1944, which occurred before Joe joined the Army. So Great Uncle Joe could not have been a part of D-Day, but perhaps news of the Normandy landings is what inspired him to enlist shortly after.

Joe’s older brother–my grandfather Benjamin–enlisted in the Navy nine months prior to Joe’s own enlistment, and interestingly joined the U.S.S. Waterford ARD-5 at Receiving Station Noumea, New Caledonia, the very same day that Joe enlisted. My immigrant great-grandparents, like so many other new families here, now had multiple sons in the war, just 19 years after making the U.S. their home.

I am torn between trying to track down Great Uncle Joe’s sole living grandchild (which I want to do anyway!) to see if he has his grandfather’s military records, or just sending off to NARA for them myself, and hoping Joe’s records are not among those lost due to the 1973 fire. I do not think Joe’s military records will answer any questions that I need in order to move forward with research on that family line, but I would like to know more about his story.

Great Uncle Joe is not listed yet on the National WWII Registry, so at the very least, I want to add him and honor him in that manner as soon as possible. I am waiting for the Registry site to recover my very old username and password.


#52Ancestors: Grandfather Benjamin Robledo, So Far Away in WWII New Caledonia

Benjamin Robledo US NavyMy 6th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for week 6 is So Far Away — Which ancestor is the farthest from you, either in distance or in time/generations? Which ancestor have you had to go the farthest away to research?

My 6th ancestor is my paternal grandfather, Benjamin Robledo (1919-1990). Grandpa Ben was the first U.S.-born child of Mexican immigrants Jose and Maria (Nieto) Robledo, and he was the first of three sons to proudly serve on behalf of his parents’ new country.

The So Far Away connection? Where I first find him serving during the Second World War — in New Caledonia.

I remember an airline commercial from my childhood that featured flights to New Caledonia. The name New Caledonia mesmerized me, it seemed so exotic, and I loved the way the syllables would rattle off of my tongue when I’d repeat it back. I find it odd that this airline commercial has stuck in my mind all of these years. And it was only a couple years ago that I learned of my grandfather’s tie to this exotic far away location.

Sailors man the rails as USS Blue Ridge arrives in Noumea, New Caledonia
Sailors man the rails as USS Blue Ridge arrives in Noumea, New Caledonia, 2011. Source: US Navy photograph.

Joining WWII

Benamin Robledo enlisted in the U.S. Navy on 8 September 1943 in Los Angeles County, California at 24 years of age. He married my grandmother Rosie Salas 10-1/2 months prior, and the couple gave birth to their first child just 4 months prior to Ben’s enlistment. At the time, Benjamin was working as a welder, and the young couple lived in Los Angeles.

The first muster (attendance) rolls I have been able to locate for Ben are the regular 30 June 1944 Quarterly Muster and the supplemental Report of Change. This leaves a 9-month void at the beginning of his military service, during and immediately after what I assume was basic training. At some point during this 9 month void, Benjamin was allowed to see his wife, because they became pregnant with their second son by the time of this first identified muster roll.

Seaman 1st class (SC1) Benjamin Robledo joined the U.S. S. Waterford ARD-5 on 28 June 1944. The 30 June 1944 Muster Roll Report of Change notes that Benjamin transferred to the U.S.S. ARD-5 at Receiving Station Noumea, New Caledonia “for duty” on a “special assignment”. Since I am missing military records prior to this date, I do not know how or when Benjamin arrived in New Caledonia.

The Archipelago

New Caledonia, now a special collectivity of France, is an archipelago located in the South Pacific, 750 miles east of Australia, across the Coral Sea. According to Wikipedia, it has a land area of 7,172 square miles and a population of 268,767. Captain James Cook gave the archipelago (which reminded him of Scotland) its name in 1774, when he became the first European to sight the islands. New Caledonia became a French dependency in 1853, and declared in favor of the Free French government after the Fall of France in 1940.

Noumea, 2006
Nouméa centre et la cathédrale, 2009. Wikimedia Commons.

Nouméa is the capital city of New Caledonia, situated on the southern end of the main island of Grand Terre. The city sits on a protected deep water harbor, which made it an ideal location to serve as the U.S. military headquarters in the South Pacific during World War II.


From the the U.S. 7th Fleet, United States Navy:

U.S. forces landed on New Caledonia in 1942 when the United States entered World War II. New Caledonia became an important outpost in the battle for the Pacific during World War II. With its central Pacific location, New Caledonia provided a strategic air base as well as personnel and logistics support for the war. The memorial on New Caledonia honors the U.S. commitment to New Caledonia during World War II, deterring Japanese forces from taking the island. Over the course of World War II, over 40,000 U.S. troops were stationed on the small Pacific island nation.

According to the World War 2 Pacific Island Guide, New Caledonia “was code-named CHEEKSTRAP and later IRET. The U.S. Naval operating base at Nouméa was WHITE POPPY initially, LECTERN from February 1943, and then EPIC.”

Originally considered to be of use only as an air refueling station, New Caledonia’s value increased to the U.S. military in preparation for the invasion of Guadalcanal. The archipelago provided the base of operations for Allied troops (and their strategic victory) for and during the Battle of Guadalcanal, which lasted from 7 August 1942 to 9 February 1943. The World War 2 Pacific Island Guide points out that Nouméa “continued to support amphibious operations as the war moved across the Pacific culminating its service as the staging base for the 1945 Okinawa assault.” The base was closed on 27 May 1947.

U.S. Navy admiral looks at a photograph of Noumea, New Caledonia, during World War II
U.S. Navy admiral looks at a photograph of Noumea, New Caledonia, during World War II. Source: US Navy photograph, 2011.

My grandfather is first identified at Nouméa on 28 June 1944, well after the Battle of Guadalcanal. He did continue to serve on the ARD in the Pacific theater until 27 November 1945, however I have not yet reviewed the ARD’s records enough to determine which, if any, Pacific battles my grandfather might have served in.

Future Vacation?

Somehow I doubt my grandfather got to partake in much RnR on New Caledonia during his wartime service there, but he had to have at least appreciated the breathtaking natural scenery. Although stunning ocean views were nothing new to Benjamin, who grew up near the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach, California.

This granddaughter too has spent most of her life living near the beautiful Pacific Ocean, and spent most of her high school and 20s-era weekends sunbathing on nearby home beaches that so many others plan vacations to. But suddenly this exotic South Pacific vacation spot is once again calling to that young girl who loved hearing the name “New Caledonia” from that old TV commercial. To walk where my grandfather walked in 1944. If I do get to visit New Caledonia, I hope to take my father. Although he is not remotely a beach vacation type of person, I know how much it would mean to him to get to see where his own father served.

This video highlights Nouméa and New Caledonia just 22 years after my grandfather’s stay.

Here is a 2013 look at exotic Nouméa.

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#52Ancestors: Who are the Parents of Grand Uncle Harry Flanagan?

My 45th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

I am still playing catch up, due to being sick so much of this year.

Michael Flanagan Patrick Flanagan Harry Flanagan
My grandfather Michael John Flanagan (center) with two of his brothers. Uncle Pat is on the left. Mom and I think that is Harry on the right. This photo was most likely taken shortly before Grandpa joined the Navy at 17.

My 45th ancestor is my grand uncle Harry J. Flanagan (b. 1920). Harry was my grandfather Michael John Flanagan’s (1927-1997) third oldest brother…or at least from among the brothers that Grandpa knew about (more later on the siblings he never knew).

I never met Harry, and I don’t think my mom or her siblings ever met Uncle Harry. Like Grandpa’s second oldest brother Leonard Ward (b. 1917), I did not even know Harry existed until I found that very first lead about my grandfather’s family history, the 1930 U.S. Census record for their orphanage. Harry too was placed in the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home in Buffalo, New York when the boys’ parents were stricken with tuberculosis and died. Harry was 10 years old when mother Sarah Kennedy (1898- 1930) died from TB and 8 years old when father Patrick Thomas Flanagan (1897-1928) died of it.


Uncle Harry was born 22 April 1920, supposedly in Bellaire (Belmont County), Ohio, where all siblings except baby brother Michael were born. I say supposedly because this is the birth location listed in his orphan records from the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home (GRCOH), and the birth county he identified in his marriage record and his Army enlistment record. Yet Harry is the only one of the Bellaire-born siblings for whom I have no official birth documentation, which means no official documentation telling me the names of his parents.

1930 US Census Flanagan Boys Buffalo
1930 U.S. Census Record, German Roman Catholic Orphan Home. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.
Bellaire Birth Records V1 1909-1920
I found birth records for all of Sarah and Frank Ward’s children when I visited the Family History Library in February…for everyone except Harry. Nor is there a record for a Harry born to Sarah and Patrick Flanagan in 1920.

Although the older boys — Joseph and Leonard — were recorded under the surname Flanagan and as the children of Patrick and Sarah Flanagan on the 1930 US Census and in the GRCOH records, I have confirmed that these two boys (along with older sister Catherine) are the children of Sarah and her first husband Frank J. Ward. I also know that my grandfather Michael and his older brother Patrick Joseph are the children of Sarah and second husband Patrick Thomas Flanagan. Yet, I have no real proof about Harry’s birth or parentage. Although Harry consistently identifies himself as a Flanagan, and the child of Patrick Flanagan and Sarah Kennedy in documentation throughout his life.

To complicate matters, when Harry was born (in 1920), Sarah and Patrick Thomas Flanagan were not yet married. They married five years later in 1925, when Sarah was already 8 months pregnant with their son Patrick Joseph. And a 1920 Bellaire city directory records Sarah still living with her first husband Frank Ward.  I believe Patrick Thomas Flanagan was still married to his first wife at this time too.

So Harry could be the biological child of either of these two sets of first marriages, or the love child of my great grandparents Patrick and Sarah.


Harry J. Flanagan enlisted in the U.S. Army on 12 November 1941 at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio (Army serial number 35037563). He joined as a private, under the warrant officers branch code. Harry had only completed two years of high school (Grandpa never completed high school either), and had worked in civilian life as a semi-skilled miner and mining machine operator. He was described as single with no dependents, 5 feel 9 inches tall, and 152 pounds.

From what I can tell, Harry served in World War II. He was released from service on 28 September 1945.


Harry married Anna M. Sabatino on 15 December 1944, in Belmont County, Ohio. It was a first marriage for both, and Harry was still employed in the U.S. Army. He identified his place of birth as Bellaire, Ohio, and his parents as Patrick Flanagan and Sarah Kennedy. I find no later record of children born to Harry and Anna.

Harry Sabatine Anne - Marriage - 1944 - close up
Marriage record for Harry Flanagan and Anne Sabatine. Source: FamilySearch.org. Click to view a larger image.


I do not yet have proof that this is the same Harry J. Flanagan, but I find several references to an 8 October 1981 death date for him.

It appears he is buried at All Saints Braddock Catholic Cemetery in Pittsburgh (Allegheny County), Pennsylvania. His wife Anne, who died 30 September 1988, is buried there too.

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#52Ancestors: 17 Years Old Orphaned Michael John Flanagan Enlists 9 Days After D-Day

Michael Flanagan US NavyMy 18th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

I’m closing the gap at just 4 weeks behind in this series (the challenge is on week 22). I initially blamed my tardiness on being super busy at home, work, and with my volunteer work. However, the extended lapse can be blamed on the recent diagnosis of some critical health issues that had wiped me out for a while (you can read about that on my food blog).

My 18th ancestor is my grandfather Michael John FLANAGAN (1927-1997). I have written about Grandpa quite a bit, but not as part of the 52 Ancestors series. What inspired me to choose and write about him today is today’s marking of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, which has (rightly so!) been all over the news the last couple days. This anniversary got me wondering what my grandfathers were doing on D-Day.

I knew both served in WWII, and in the Pacific theater rather than the European one, but where were they serving on June 6th 1944? According to his Navy records, my Robledo grandpa (more on him later) enlisted 9 months prior to D-Day and was serving somewhere in the Pacific. But my Flanagan grandpa had not yet joined the service.

Michael’s Certification of Military Service shows he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 15, 1944 — nine days after D-Day. At the age of 17. Just one month into his 17th year.

What made him join as a minor? Why didn’t he wait until he turned 18? Was he afraid he might miss out on the war after hearing about the D-Day invasion and turning of the tide towards victory? Had he been wanting to join for a while, but just finally jumped all of the legal hurdles to enlist as a minor (with the date being just a coincidence)?

Our family always knew that Michael enlisted as a minor. But, I’ve blogged in the past that Michael was an orphan who lived in an orphanage before growing up as a foster child on a farm in upstate New York. He was never adopted — not even by his longtime foster parents.

The story Mom says Grandpa always told his kids is that he had to get his priest to sign and vouch (lying) that Grandpa, the orphan, was 18 years old, not 17 years old. Who knows if a priest would be willing to lie and do this — it’s possible, if the priest felt this was Grandpa’s best opportunity to get good job skills and make a career and life for himself. Particularly since he had such a rough life as a foster child. But Grandpa was the stereotypical Irish B.S.er who spun all kinds of tales, many of which his kids and grand kids believed into adulthood.

Last November, one of my cousins emailed me a copy of the following document, which was stored at his mother’s house. It’s a Letter of Guardianship from the Surrogate Court of Erie County, New York, dated May 31, 1944. It grants legal guardianship of my 17 year old grandfather to his longtime foster father Thomas Buckley. This made no sense to us. Hadn’t Buckley already been appointed legal guardianship?… I guess not. So why bother when Michael was 17 years old?…Michael would be a legal emancipated adult in a year.

The next month at my family’s annual Tamale Day Christmas party, my Uncle Flanagan brought me what military documents he received when Grandpa died back in 1997. In that packet of documents, we found a photocopy of the above, as well as additional documentation, making it clear that this legal guardianship was pursued so that Buckley could sign to allow Michael to enlist in the Navy as a minor.

The priest story was another tall tale from Grandpa. Not really a surprise.

This whole legal guardianship matter makes me quite sad. At 17 years old! Did Buckley think Grandpa was not worth establishing a legal relationship with until it provided a way to get him out of the house earlier than at 18 years old? Why not adopt him? Or did Grandpa not want Thomas and Ma Buckley to become his legal guardians or parents, preferring to remain a ward of the court?

I will never know the answers to these questions. Or for my initial question of why Grandpa decided to enlist at this time, instead of waiting until he reached 18 years of age.

To learn more about Michael’s military service, please read:

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#52Ancestors: Lt. Colonel William Wallace Greene, M.D.

Lt. Colonel, William Wallace Greene.
Lt. Colonel William Wallace Greene, M.D. U.S. Army, World War II.

My 5th week in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

This week’s ancestor is my husband’s grandfather, William Wallace “Wallace” Greene (1908-2003), who my husband’s family believes shares a common ancestor with Revolutionary War Hero Major General Nathanael Greene (although I have not proven or disproven that yet through evidence). In preparing for my visit to the Family History Library this week during RootsTech, I have been going through family files passed down by my father-in-law, and came across this biography written by my father-in-law before Wallace died in 2003.

So, I am cheating a bit here since I do not have to write a history myself. I hope my husband, his brother, and his cousins know how lucky they are to have this type of history compiled while their grandfather was still alive. I wish I had this gift for any of my grandparents.

William Wallace Greene Jr.

Dr. William Wallace Greene was born on August 26, 1908, in Phoenix, Arizona, son of William Wallace Greene (1869-1944) and Veronica (Dorris) Greene (1883-1982). He attended McKinley Grammar School through 3rd grade, and Monroe Grammar School through 8th grade. He took a college prep program at Phoenix Union High School, during which time he worked as a stockboy at S.H. Kress. In his junior and senior year summers he worked for Valley Bank in Phoenix, first as a bank runner, then as a book-keeper running a posting machine. He said he almost went into banking because he enjoyed this job.

Willieam Wallace Greene 1929 Stanford
The Stanford Quad yearbook, Stanford University, 1929. Image courtesy of Ancestry.com.

In 1925, at the age of 16, he went to the University of Redlands as a pre-medical student. At Redlands he was on the track team (ran the half-mile against UCLA), and was on the Freshman and Varsity Debating team. He won entrance into Phi Kappa Delta, the national debating fraternity. He also was admitted to Theta Alpha Phi, the national drama fraternity, for his efforts doing scenery and so on. He joined Alpha Gamma Nu, a local social fraternity and the Pre-medical fraternity while at Redlands as well. To support himself he waited tables at the men’s dining room in the dormitory. He attended Redlands through 1927.

William Wallace Greene Jean Alice Harless Honeymoon
Honeymooning in Arizona, after their quick weekend wedding.

In Fall 1927, he matriculated at Stanford University as a premedical student. For the first six months he lived at Encina Hall, and then pledged Phi Sigma Kappa. He also belonged to Phi Rho Sigma (medical fraternity) and played the baritone horn in the Stanford Marching Band. He entered medical school (at Stanford)in 1928 and received his A.B. in Pre-Clinical Sciences in 1929. His internship was spent 1932-33 at Lane-Stanford Hospital in San Francisco where he also met Jean Alice Harless (1912-2011) who was in nursing school. She became his wife on May 18, 1933, the same year he was awarded the M.D. degree. They went to Baltimore during 1933-34, where he was an intern in surgery at Johns Hopkins. 1934-35, he was back at Lane-Stanford as assistant resident in surgery. 1935-36, he was senior house officer in surgery at San Francisco Hospital (Stanford Service), and 1936-37, he served as resident in surgery at the same hospital.

Stanford Lane Hospital
Stanford-Lane Hospital in San Francisco. Courtesy of Stanford Medical History Center.

Wallace (he preferred to go by this name) began his private medical practice in San Francisco in 1937, with a specialization in abdominal surgery. The same year he joined the part-time faculty of Stanford Service as Instructor of Surgery, a position he held until 1941. Then life changed. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he knew that his country would be needing medical personnel. On April 6, 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was given a commission as Major, assigned as a surgeon in the Medical Corps with the 59th Evacuation Hospital. Most of his time in the Army was spent in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Germany. He was discharged with the cessation of action in the european part of World War II, in September 1945. He had attained the ran of Lt. Colonel. He returned to San Francisco and resumed his medical career in private practice. Prior to leaving for the service Wallace and Jean had two children [names, dates, location omitted for privacy reasons].

59th Evacuation Hospital
59th Evacuation Hospital. Courtesy of Stanford Medical History Center.

Wallace’s son recently told me that his father said many of the doctors in the 59th Evac came from Stanford. They all  joined up together.

With his return to private practice, he also resumed teaching part-time with the Stanford Service as Assistant Clinical Professor or Surgery from 1946-49. From 1949-61, he was Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery, again at Stanford Service. When Stanford moved its medical school to Palo Alto, he became Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery for the medical school at University of California at San Francisco, where he served through 1971.

William Wallace Greene and Jean Alice Harless
Wallace and his wife Jean, in practice together.

Wallace and Jean moved from San Francisco to Tiburon (Marin County, California) in 1961, but Wally kept his practice in San Francisco. In 1971, they moved to Kauai (Hawaii) where he took the position as Medical Director and Surgeon at G.N. Wilcox Hospital in Lihue. He went into semi-retirement in 1976, and finally retired in December 1981, whereupon he and Jean returned to California and bought a home in Oakmont near Santa Rosa.

William Wallace Greene and Jeff Greene
Wallace with two of his grandsons, my husband (middle) and brother-in-law. I just love this photo! The boys are obviously pestering their grandfather while he tries to read the paper.
William Wallace Greene Jean Alice Harless
Wallace and his bride Jean, late in life.

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Michael John Flanagan’s Missing WWII Navy Years

My grandfather, Michael John Flanagan (1927 – 1997) served in the US Navy from June 15, 1944 to March 18, 1948.

Grandpa never talked about the war, or his military service, in general with us grandkids. I only remember hearing him lecture us against tattoos anytime, as little kids, we would ask about the blue ink he got on his arms while in the Navy. Not interviewing my grandfather about his Navy memories is one of the many regrets I have.

In 2003, I received a copy of Grandpa’s separation form from the National Archives. I was so excited when I saw the NARA addressed manila envelope show up in my mailbox. But I remember being disappointed when I opened it…aside from his years of service and his service member ID number, the NARA documents gave me very little information about his actual service. Not even any mention of the ships or bases on which he served. Or any indication if he received any medals or commendations.

I would have to try to discover and reconstruct this information for myself; a venture I am still pursuing a decade later.

I recently wrote about the ship on which my grandfather served between October 14, 1945 and February 20, 1948, and also the ship on which he served during his final month in the Navy when discharge in March 1948. The US Navy Muster Rolls helped me plot that timeline.

But I cannot find any records identifying where my grandfather served between joining the Navy on June 15, 1944 (at the age of 17), and when he joined the USS Mervine on October 14, 1945. That is a sixteen month gap in history! Since he joined the Mervine in Okinawa, at some point during the first sixteen months of service the Navy transported him from Buffalo, New York (where he enlisted) to Okinawa (where he joined the Mervine).

The only photos I have from Grandpa’s service days. I have no idea  which ship/s these are….the Mervine, the Thompson, or an earlier duty assignment.

If you have suggestions on where I might find records of those missing years, I greatly appreciate it.

Michael John Flanagan’s Final US Navy Duty Assignment, The USS Thompson

USS Thompson refuels from USS Arkansas, April 1944. Department of Defense photo.

When my grandfather, Ship’s Cook 3rd Class Michael John Flanagan (1927 – 1997) left the USS Mervine on February 20, 1948, he transferred to the USS Thompson for his final month of service in the Navy.

The USS Thompson (DD-627) was a Navy destroyer commissioned July 10, 1943. Prior to Michael’s assignment on the ship, the Thompson had seen action in the East Coast, North Africa, Europe (including the 1944 Invasion of Normandy), and the Pacific. The Thompson became based out of San Diego, California on October 2, 1947, operating first as a destroyer, and then conducting west coast training operations through the rest of 1948. The Thompson continued to see Pacific activity throughout the Korean War, and was eventually decommissioned on May 18, 1954.

February 20, 1948 muster roll showing Mike’s transfer from the Mervine to Thompson.
Click on the image for a larger view.

Although the Mervine had been stationed out of San Francisco for two years, and the Thompson out of San Diego, both ships must have ended up in the same port sometime during February 1948 when when my grandfather transferred duty between ships. I assume San Diego was the mutual port since it was the official home base of both ships, and since Michael and Elsie’s first child was born in San Diego in 1947 (which would mean Elsie had already moved from the Bay Area to San Diego after they married).

March 15, 1948 muster roll showing Mike’s transfer off the USS Thompson for discharge from the Navy.
Click on the image for a larger view.

Michael’s last appearance on the US Navy muster rolls is dated March 15 1948, when he transferred to the Naval Receiving Station “for processing and separation from the Naval service”. SC3 Michael John Flanagan received an honorable discharge on March 18, 1948, in San Diego, California, at 20 years of age.


Ancestry.com. U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011.

Department of Defense. (n.d.). USS Thompson, DD-627. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USS_Thompson_(DD-627).jpg

United States of America. (2003, October 16). Certification of Military Service: Michael J. Flanagan.

United States Navy. (n.d.). Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships: Thompson. Naval History & Heritage Command. Web. Retrieved May 19, 2013, from http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/t5/thompson-ii.htm

USS Thompson (DD-627). (2013, May 10). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=USS_Thompson_(DD-627)&oldid=543687617