CM3c Albert Joseph Konnick,
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CM3c Albert Joseph Konnick
Albert Joseph Konnick and his older brother Andrew played together on the U.S.S. Arizona baseball team in 1937.
Andrew completed his Navy hitch in August of that year, but Albert remained aboard. He was a carpenter’s mate and petty officer second class when the Arizona was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941. He was due to finish his enlistment the next week.
The brothers from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, were the sons of Czech immigrants. Their father, George, was a coal miner and their mother, Pauline, a homemaker. The 1930 census said two older siblings, Emily and George, also worked – in a lace mill and at a shoe factory.
Andrew, born Nov. 25, 1913, graduated from Coughlin High School and enlisted in the Navy in October 1933. Albert, born Sept. 14, 1916, enlisted on Jan. 14, 1936, not long after his graduation from Coughlin, where he played baseball, basketball, and football. He went aboard the Arizona that December.
The brothers were standouts on the ship’s baseball team that winter and spring. An undated account in the Arizona’s newspaper said the team, nicknamed the Wildcats, had won four games in a row. In one game, a 5-1 victory over the U.S.S. Colorado, “the Konnick brothers again led the hitting parade, Andy getting three out of five, Al a home run and a single,” the paper said.
Albert was playing first base for the team by the spring of 1940 when the ship’s newspaper reported that he was batting .400. He sometimes pitched that spring. In a game against sailors from the U.S.S. West Virginia, “Konnick’s walk to first, steals of second and third and scoring on an error showed him to be the speed demon we thought he could be,” the newsletter said.
Andrew Konnick was an electrician’s mate and petty officer third class on the Arizona, and he made the trade his career after he left the Navy. He died at age 89 in 2003.
Albert, in keeping with his shipboard skill as a carpenter, built a one-sixteenth-inch scale model of the Arizona in his free time. “It is made of 2,437 pieces and no exterior detail was too small to escape his notice,” the Wilkes-Barre newspaper reported. “It’s the work, not only of a craftsman, but of an artist.” He brought the model home with him on a furlough less than one month before his death. The model was displayed later in a local store.
Mr. Konnick was one of three men from the Wilkes-Barre area killed on the Arizona. There is no evidence they knew one another before they were assigned to the battleship, but all three were high school athletes and it is possible they competed against one another on youth teams.
The other two were Brinley Varchol and Keith Jeffries. Mr. Varchol, who also played on the ship’s baseball team, was a year older than Albert Konnick and grew up in Hanover Green — less than five miles west of Wilkes-Barre. Their brothers said both men were good enough players that they were scouted as potential pros after their Navy enlistments. Newport Township High, which Mr. Jeffries attended, was about seven miles west of Hanover Green. Mr. Jeffries was on the 1936 state championship basketball team and on the baseball team that won the Wyoming Valley Scholastic League title.
Sources: Special thanks to Mark Konnick, grandson of the oldest Konnick brother, George, for sharing photographs and many newspaper clippings. Other sources include: Wilkes-Barre Times Leader; The Wilkes-Barre Record; Pennsylvania World War II Veterans’ Compensation Bureau; US Census; U.S. Veterans Administration; Coughlin High yearbook; At ‘Em Arizona for Jan. 27, 1940, Feb. 24, 1940 and April 6, 1940. The photograph shows Albert on the right and Andrew in the middle. The man on the left is unidentified. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.