Arthur Joseph DuPree wanted to buy 20 acres in northwest Missouri and become a farmer. But at 22, one of 10 children from a poor family, he did not have the $2,000.
He decided to enlist in the Navy to earn the money. He joined up on Oct. 10, 1940, and started sending small amounts home each month to a bank in St. Joseph, Missouri.
The account had $239.44 when Mr. DuPree was killed on Dec. 7, 1941, in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a fireman second class on the U.S.S. Arizona.
Mr. DuPree was born May 7, 1918, to Joseph DuPree, a farmer, and Mabel Sanders DuPree, a homemaker on land north of today’s Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph. He graduated in 1937 from nearby Lafayette High, where he played football. The 1940 Census, conducted in the spring, said he had worked 12 weeks in 1939 and earned $48 as a caretaker in a private home. He and another brother also harvested wheat for others. The family reported total income of $424 in 1939 — the equivalent of $7,645 in 2018.
Four other brothers also served in World War II and survived — Alfred, Frank, Raymond, and Orville.
When his brother Orville died in 2010, his obituary said the family’s water came from the Missouri River, a half-mile walk from their home. “There was food, at least a potato or two a day,” it said.
Orville became a successful businessman and donated parkland in his brother’s name to the state of Missouri. The Arthur DuPree Memorial Conservation Area west of St. Joseph covers 236 acres, including 1¾ miles of river frontage. The area had been farmland but has been allowed to re-vegetate as a riparian corridor.
Sources: The St. Joseph (Missouri) News-Press; Census; Navy muster roll; Missouri state government; Orville John DuPree obituary. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona. Picture and newspaper clipping courtesy of nephew Keith Dupree.