Unknown Sailor

COX Albert Charles Berkanski

Albert Charles Berkanski was one of many men plus some women who left a Pennsylvania coal town for jobs in the armed forces.

“You couldn’t buy a job in Mount Carmel, so a lot of guys joined the service,” a friend, Joseph Shamansky, recalled years later.

Twenty or 30 men and a few women from the town of 17,000 were stationed in Hawaii. They often gathered at a home in Honolulu, Shamansky said. On Saturday night Dec. 6, 1941, several housemates piled in a car to give the visiting Mr. Berkanski a ride. He needed to make it back to his ship, the U.S.S. Arizona, to start a midnight shift.

“Seggie,” as he was nicknamed, was killed the next morning in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a coxswain and petty officer third class.

Mr. Berkanski was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 29, 1920, but soon moved with his parents, Michael and Anna, to Mount Carmel. They had five other children.

The son worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era jobs program, before joining the Navy on Jan. 22, 1940.

A memorial service was held for Mr. Berkanski on Dec. 7, 1942, at Holy Cross Church in Mount Carmel. “Prayers were offered up for peace and victory,” the local newspaper reported.

American Legion Post 91 was renamed in 1946 to include his name in its title.

The friend, Mr. Shamansky, survived the war but never would share with family details of what he witnessed on that terrible December morning. He died in 2013 at the age of 93.

Sources: Reporter Rob Wheary of the News-Item in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, reported Mr. Shamansky’s story in 2011. Other sources include: the Mount Carmel Item, the Shamokin News-Dispatch, Census, Navy muster rolls, grave markers; Pennsylvania application for WWII compensation. Naval History and Heritage Command photo. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.
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