GM3c George Hayward Thornton

Unknown Sailor

GM3c George Hayward Thornton

George Hayward Thornton was born and raised in New Harmony, a place so small that the 1940 Census recorded it as “other places” in Union County in northeastern Mississippi.

News accounts said he was born from 1914 to 1918, but Navy records say that he was born on March 29, 1917. He attended local schools through the 8th grade. The 1940 Census identified him as a 22-year-old farm hand.

His father, George Madison Thornton, was a sharecropper and his mother, Callie Kennedy Thornton, a homemaker.

“My parents didn’t want him to go into the service,” his sister, Doris, recalled years later. He said he was probably going to get drafted anyway. And he said he could help out the family better. Times were hard then.”

Hayward, as he was known, joined the Navy on Oct. 4, 1940. He was a gunner’s mate and petty officer third class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

He was honored at a memorial service on Dec. 29 at the New Harmony Baptist Church.


Sources: the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi; the New Albany (Mississippi) Gazette; unidentified newspaper obituary; Census; Navy muster roll. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM