Unknown Sailor

S2c Charles Edward Brittan

On the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Oree Weller and other survivors traveled to Hawaii to commemorate the 2,403 people killed on Dec. 7, 1941.

Mr. Weller told a reporter, “I could only think of the 50 more years I have had to live” and about a friend, Charles Edward Brittan, who died. “He will never know what it is like to be a father or a grandfather.”

Mr. Brittan, 17, a seaman second class on the U.S.S. Arizona, had been in the Navy for seven months.

He was born March 2, 1924, in California to Charles Brittan, a World War I veteran, and Laura Hamilton Brittan. He attended Polytechnic High School in San Francisco.

In a written account of his experience on the Arizona, Mr. Weller said that when he made it to the ship’s deck during the Japanese attack, he saw “many men, some burned beyond recognition, lying on the quarterdeck. We tried to make them as comfortable as possible, which wasn’t much.”

One of them was Mr. Brittan, who was so badly burned that Mr. Weller recognized him only by a small tattoo of a bird, not larger than a 50-cent piece, on his right shoulder. He died before he could be taken ashore.


Sources: the Honolulu Star-Bulletin; the San Francisco Examiner; Oree Cunningham Weller;  Census; California birth index; Navy muster roll; grave marker; Arizona State Archive. Naval History and Heritage Command photo. The photo of Mr. Brittan is in the Arizona State Archive courtesy of his sister and brother-in-law, Lois and Rudy Carlson. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM