Frank Anthony Aprea was born in Brooklyn on April 17, 1921. His father, Genaro Aprea, was a chauffeur in the trucking business, and his mother, Michelina Russo Aprea, a homemaker. Both parents immigrated from Italy as children. The mother, later called Margaret, died at age 32 in 1932.
Independence Day 1942 was a workday for the 40,000 employees of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, as it would be on holidays for the rest of World War II.
The yard, established in 1801, built many warships over its 165 years including, in 1915, a battleship christened the U.S.S. Arizona.
Independence Day 1942 was also an occasion for parades, speeches, and ceremonies attended by thousands of Brooklynites. At one event, a flag with three gold stars was raised and three white doves were released in memory of three local men killed at the start of the war.
Frank Aprea was one of them. He was a coxswain and petty officer third class on the Arizona when he was severely injured in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. He died on Dec. 25. US Navy Muster Reports that he was identified by name on his waist band and they he probably been burned as the cause of death.
By 1936, when the father, by then known as Joseph, petitioned for naturalization, he wrote on the application that his four children lived at the Angel Guardian Home, a Catholic orphanage in Brooklyn. Young Frank also lived for a time with another Italian immigrant family. His father remained part of his life, though, and was listed in Navy records as his emergency contact. The son attended Eastern District High School in Brooklyn and enlisted in the Navy in October 1939.
His only brother, Michael, born in 1927, served in the Navy from 1944 through 1946.
A marker at St. John Cemetery in Queens is carved with the names of Frank and his mother.