CAPT(CO) Franklin Valkenburgh Van

Unknown Sailor

CAPT(CO) Franklin Valkenburgh Van

Franklin Van Valkenburgh was 17 when he was appointed a midshipman at the Naval Academy and 53 when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

During his long military career he served on battleships, submarine tenders, destroyers, and a gunboat. He taught at the Naval Academy and worked in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

A captain, he became commanding officer of the U.S.S. Arizona just 10 months before Japanese bombs destroyed the ship on Dec. 7, 1941.

When he was told that Pearl Harbor was under attack, Mr. Van Valkenburgh went immediately from his cabin at the rear of the ship to the navigation bridge. He was last seen just after the forward magazines exploded, filling the bridge with fire and smoke. Days later, his 1909 Naval Academy ring was recovered from among the ashes on the bridge.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor “for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life” in attempting to defend the ship.

Mr. Van Valkenburgh was born April 6, 1888 in Minnesota but his family soon moved to Milwaukee where his father, also named Franklin, was a lawyer. His mother, Jane, was a homemaker. He graduated from East High School, later called Riverside.

The 1909 Naval Academy yearbook described Mr. Van Valkenburgh as a man who “always greets you in the pleasant way that shows his comfortable, optimistic view of life. His warm, affectionate nature may manifest itself in either a handshake, a knockout blow on the back or a hearty hug. Easy-going but very sensitive, those big ears will turn red at the slightest provocation. He manages to get along without much worry.” He was chairman of Bible study at the YMCA and a cadet petty officer.

Mr. Van Valkenburgh married Marguerite Horne in the Philippines in 1914. Her father, Frederick Joseph Horne, became the first vice chief of naval operations in 1942 and directed Navy logistics during World War II. The Van Valkenburghs had two daughters and a son. The son was also named Franklin and also had a long Navy career, including service as the executive officer of a destroyer, the U.S.S. Van Valkenburgh, named in memory of his father.


Sources: Naval History and Heritage Command; The Coronado (California) Eagle; The Honolulu Advertiser; Columbia University; the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; Minnesota birth record; the “Lucky Bag” yearbook; USS Arizona Action Report of the Pearl Harbor Attack. 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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