S1c James Henry Kramb


S1c James Henry Kramb

Charles Kramb, a World War I Air Corps veteran, lost his sons John and James in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Then, on Valentine’s Day 1942, he was notified that his only other son, Charles Jr., had also died serving in the Pacific.

“They were interested in everything, loved swimming and outdoor sports, but they didn’t have any particular hobbies,” their father told a newspaper reporter. “They didn’t live long enough, I guess.”

James Henry Kramb was born Oct. 26, 1920 and attended Madison and Franklin high schools  in Rochester, New York before enlisting in the Navy on Nov. 3, 1937. He was a seaman first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed. He had completed his enlistment when Pearl Harbor was attacked, his father said, and was waiting to return to the mainland.

John David Kramb was born Sept. 14, 1917 and graduated from Madison High School. He enlisted on  March 23, 1938. He was a metalsmith and petty officer first class on the Arizona when he was killed.

The middle brother, Charles Herman Kramb Jr., was born Feb. 11, 1919 and enlisted on Oct. 19, 1938. On the day his brothers died, Charles was aboard the U.S.S. Canopus, a tender, in the Philippines. He was a gunner’s mate and petty officer third class when he was killed on Feb. 8, 1942.

Charles Kramb Jr. was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The presidential citation read, in part: “..for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Quinauan Point, Bataan, Philippines Islands… When it became necessary to coordinate an attack from seaward with the operations of ground forces in breaking the resistance of a defiladed and strongly held enemy position, Gunner’s Mate Kramb served as a gunner on one of the armored boats with the expedition. During the entire operation this intrepid blue jacket maintained accurate and voluminous fire from his exposed post in the bow of his boat despite heavy enemy fire from the beach and several hostile dive bombing attacks. On the return trip, after completion of the mission, Gunner’s Mate Kramb took a machine gun position in an open part of the boat where he ignored considerations of personal safety in firing at dive bombers as they came in to attack, thereby driving off two such attacks. On a third dive bombing attempt, however, three bombs fell alongside his boat causing his death, but not before he had contributed in a large measure to the success of the enterprise.”

The brothers had a difficult childhood. Their mother, Ruth, died before 1930, and they lived with various relatives, including ones in California, during the early years of the Great Depression.  “They were like displaced persons,” a cousin, Donald Kramb, recalled years later. They eventually reunited in Rochester with their father, who remarried.

In May 1942 a stained-glass window at St. Stephen’s Episcopal, the family’s long-time church, was dedicated in memory of the brothers. The father and step-mother, Florence, “sat in tearless, rigid silence” during the service, a brief International News Service article reported.

The Times-Union newspaper described the window: “In the center panel stands the figure of the ‘angel of peace and mercy,’ with wings spreading over figures in the two side panels.” 

Charles Sr. was a millwright in a war factory and kept at that job after their deaths.

“The boys over there are on duty 24 hours a day,” he said. “Everyone here should keep plugging for all the production we can get to back them up.”


Sources: International News Service; The Times-Union of Rochester, New York; The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, New York; The Associated Press; Navy muster rolls; Defense Department. 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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