PFC Frank Jake Stevenson

Unknown Sailor

PFC Frank Jake Stevenson

Frank Jake Stevenson’s roots in Waterville, Kansas, ran deep.

His father, James, was born there in 1881. James left when he was 17 to serve in the infantry in the Spanish-American War, but returned when it ended to farm west of town about 40 miles north of Manhattan, Kansas.

Frank was born on Nov. 16, 1921. He was 15 when his father fell ill in the spring of 1937. He was taken first to a veterans hospital in Nebraska and then to one in Illinois, where he died that September.

Frank graduated from Waterville High School in 1939. He lettered in football for three years and was a member of Future Farmers of America. But he was not to become a farmer. He and his mother, Myrtle Hubbard Stevenson, moved to Manhattan, where the 1940 Census showed him newly employed by a magazine company. He joined the Marines in October.

In a letter to his mother on Nov. 24, 1941, he wrote: “Tomorrow, we are going out to the rifle range and fire our rifles … it looks like we will be using them before long.”

Mr. Stevenson was a private first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

A memorial service was held in January 1942 at the Methodist church in Waterville, population 717. Nearly half the town attended.

Remains of most of the 1,177 men killed on the Arizona are still on the ship, but Mr. Stevenson’s body was recovered. The first bodies of World War II dead from eight midwestern states were returned to the United States in October 1947. The men were honored at a ceremony at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas Gov. Frank Carlson placed a wreath on Mr. Stevenson’s casket and his mother was chosen as the representative of all Gold Star mothers in their state.

A Marine then escorted Mr. Stevenson’s casket by train to Waterville, where it was met at the station by members of the American Legion. He is buried at Riverside Cemetery, as are his parents.


Sources: Waterville (Kansas) Telegraph; the Manhattan (Kansas) Mercury; 1939 Waterville High School yearbook; Census; application for military headstone; family grave markers; “Kansas Snapshots,” a blog by journalist Gloria Freeland. Marine photograph. 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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