Monday, December 8, 2014

Pausing to Remember Pearl Harbor

Dear Grandparents,

Last year I wrote about the radio announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor had interrupted a day late birthday lunch celebration for my grandfather Charles Newton Cone, following church that first Sunday in December 1941. I've often wondered if the family understood at the time, that they would never forget where they had been when they heard the news.

A large portion of the world was already at war. Japan had attacked China, Germany had attacked Poland. Did my family understand that the world had been altered irreparably that day. My grandmother Hazel Allen Cone's nephew Phelps Wilson Long was killed little more than two years later at Bougainville, My father Charles Newton Cone, Jr. enlisted in the Navy at age 16, immediately after graduating from Grant High School in 1944. My mother worked as a welder in the Willamette Shipyard in Portland during the summer and high school vacations. Her step-father Kenneth Branchflower enlisted in the Army at age 37 and served in the European Theater of Operations.

It was not until, my daughter Amanda and I made the pilgrimage to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor a couple of years ago that I realized the we had a probable cousin who had perished at Pearl Harbor, Captain Franklin Van Valkenburg, U. S. Navy.

A 1909 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Franklin was a native of Minneapolis, and a career Naval Officer. He had assumed command of the USS Arizona in February 1941. He died on the bridge of his ship, desperately trying to get her underway.

USS Arizona in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor
from the Library of Congress  Collection
I am traveling without my cousin determination chart, but it seems that Captain Van Valkenburg and our family are both descended from Lambert Van Valkenburgh, an early Dutch settler in Manhattan.

We will always remember the sacrifices made at Pearl Harbor and during the rest of World War II.


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