MATT2c Francisco Reyes Mafnas

Unknown Sailor

MATT2c Francisco Reyes Mafnas

Brothers Francisco Reyes Mafnas and Joaquín Reyes Mafnas were on battleships at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

Francisco was killed on the Arizona. Joaquín survived on the Nevada.

The brothers were indigenous Chamorro from Guam, which meant that messman was the only initial position available to them in the segregated Navy. Messmen cooked, cleaned, and performed other services. They could work up to be a petty officer first class as an officer’s  steward or officer’s cook, but that was their limit. Joaquín enlisted on Dec. 1, 1939, and Francisco on Jan. 3, 1940. Both were mess attendants second class at the time of the attack.

The grief of that day must have been terrible for Joaquín. He knew that his brother was probably dead. The Nevada was about 120 feet directly behind the Arizona when it exploded. But there was no way for Joaquín to share his worries with family back home because Japan invaded Guam hours after it attacked Pearl Harbor. The island was not recaptured by the United States until the summer of 1944. The occupation was brutal, with thousands of people dying in concentration camps and in forced labor.

Joaquín served in the Navy until 1960. He died in 1975. When he applied for citizenship in January 1944 he changed his name to Frank Reyes Mafnas — in honor of  Francisco. 

The Mafnas brothers were the sons of José, a farmer, and Filomena or Filomenia, a housewife. By the time of the 1940 Census, she was widowed. There were nine Mafnas siblings.

Joaquín’s birth date was June 4, 1919 according to his petition for citizenship and his Department of Veterans Affairs death file. That date is also consistent with the 1920 Census, which said he was one year old.

Brother Francisco’s grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu erroneously lists his date of birth as June 4, 1919. His name does not appear with the rest of his family in the 1920 Census. An index of Guam vital statistics shows his birthdate as Dec. 1, 1921. That is consistent with the 1930 Census, which said he was nine and Joaquin was 11.

A third sailor named Mafnas — Andrés Franquez — was killed on the Nevada at Pearl Harbor. He was born Aug. 22, 1914, according to his headstone at the Naval cemetery in Agaña, Guam. He enlisted on Nov. 1, 1939, and was a mess attendant firstt class when he died. His relationship to the brothers is unknown, but he was likely a relative. Before the war, Guam was home to about 20,000 people.


Sources: Census; grave marker; index to Guam vital statistics; petition for naturalization; Veterans Affairs death file; National Park Service. Special thanks to Kerry Hofferth. 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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