Erminio Joseph Brignole knew at least two fellow sailors when he went aboard the U.S.S. Arizona in August 1941.
He’d enlisted in the Navy in June, right after his graduation from Salinas Union High School in California. A classmate, Norman Iversen, quit school in February to enlist with his older brother, Earl Iversen. The senior class was small enough — just over 300 — that Brignole and Norman Iversen surely knew each other.
Mr. Brignole also knew Anthony August Vosti, a gunner’s mate who enlisted in October 1939. Both were Boy Scouts in Salinas, and the local newspaper reported on their activities several times. A July 1939 article described their attendance at the birthday party of a mutual friend.
All four men — Mr. Brignole, the Iversen brothers, and Mr. Vosti were killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Mr. Brignole was a seaman second class.
The Monterey Peninsula Herald reported on Dec. 24, 1941, that Mr. Brignole was missing in action. And then it said: “Although a Salinas resident, Brignole was well known on the Peninsula and was a friend of Jack Hazdovac, Michael Criscuolo and Tommy Trovato, Monterey youths reported missing in the same action.”
Those three also died on the Arizona. Mr. Trovato and Mr. Criscuolo were cousins, and Mr. Hazdovac was their friend since childhood. The story did not explain how Mr. Brignole came to know them. But Salinas and Monterey were only 18 miles apart, so it’s quite possible that they were friends before joining the Navy.
Among the 1,500 men assigned to the Arizona were dozens and dozens of similar connections — brothers, friends, cousins, uncles, classmates, foster brothers, and even a father and son.
Mr. Brignole was born April 20, 1923, to Italian immigrants Louis Brignole, a janitor, and Angela Debitonto Brignole, a homemaker.
The son, known to friends as Elmo, was a member of the Nostra Signora del Sasso branch No. 25 of the Italian-Catholic Federation, which held a Mass in his memory in 1942.
Sources: The Californian of Salinas; the Monterey Peninsula Herald; the Salinas Morning Post; Census; California birth and marriage records; 1941 Salinas Union High School yearbook photograph. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.