GM2c Brinley Varchol

Unknown Sailor

GM2c Brinley Varchol

By the fall of 1941 Brinley Varchol sensed that war was looming. He sent home to Pennsylvania various belongings, including three albums of photos he had assembled since joining the Navy in 1936.

In his last letter home, four days before the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, he wrote that “It is quiet at the moment but trouble is expected sometime in the near future.”

Mr. Varchol, a gunner’s mate and petty officer second class, died when Japanese missiles sank his ship, the U.S.S. Arizona.

He was born Jan. 5, 1917 in Hanover Green, Pennsylvania 20 miles southwest of Scranton, and graduated from Hanover Township High School in 1936. His parents, John and Helen, are listed in Census records as immigrants from “Austria Poland.” John was a coal miner and Helen a homemaker.

Their son played second base on the Arizona team alongside first baseman Albert Konnick, who was a year younger and grew up in Wilkes-Barre — less than five miles east of the Varchol home. There is no evidence they knew each other before they were on the Arizona, but they became friends. Mr. Konnick also died in the attack. Their brothers said both men were good enough players that they were scouted as potential pros after their Navy enlistments. In the winter of 1940, the Arizona’s newspaper said Varchol “looks hot as a fox on second,” and a few months later reported that he was hitting .292 in 24 at bats.

A third man from the area, Keith Jeffries, also died on the Arizona. He played sports at Newport Township High School about 7 miles west of Hanover Green. The team won the state championship in 1936 as well as the Wyoming Valley Scholastic League baseball title. He was 23 when he was killed, a bit younger than Varchol and Konnick. There is no evidence that Jeffries knew the other two before they were assigned to the Arizona, but they may have competed against one another on youth teams.


Sources: Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre Record, U.S. Census. 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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