Unknown Sailor

SC3c Donald William Caplinger

Donald William Caplinger’s last letter home, dated Dec. 6, 1941, included $25 as a Christmas gift to his mother.

He died the next day on the U.S.S. Arizona in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a cook and petty officer third class.

His gift, in 2021 dollars, was equal to about $450.

Mr. Caplinger was born Jan. 18, 1918 and spent much of his life in southwest Ohio near the town of Hillsboro, population 4,040. He graduated from Crestline High School in the northern part of the state, near where his father, Lawrence, was a barber. But by 1940 the Census shows Donald back in Hillsboro, living with his mother, Eva, and his grandfather. He was working as a laborer at a feed mill. Donald was an only child.

He enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 7, 1940, and was one of seven men from nearby communities in southwest Ohio on the Arizona. James Lowell Flannery, Ralph Ernest Poole, John A. Smith,  and Hurschel Woodrow Wilson also died. Wendell Lee Flannery (James’s brother) and James L. Wise survived.

Sources: The Press-Gazette of Hillsboro; the News-Journal of Mansfield, Ohio; the Sandusky (Ohio) Register; US 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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