S1c James Richard Philbin

Unknown Sailor

S1c James Richard Philbin

All three Philbin sons of Pueblo, Colorado served in World War II and two of them died in service to the country.

James Richard Philbin, the middle son, enlisted in the Navy in August 1940. He was a seaman first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Raymond Phil Philbin, older by about three years, enlisted the month after James died. He served in the Navy until he was injured and given a medical discharge in March 1945. He soon joined the Merchant Marine, a civilian force. In November 1947 he was on a ship in the Pacific when a wave crashed over the bow and broke Mr. Philbin’s back. He died five days later.

The youngest brother, John, served in the Army Air Forces from July 1942 through December 1945.

They were the sons of John Philbin and Genevieve McPortland Philbin. James was born Aug. 30, 1915. The 1920 Census said the family lived in Franklin, then a town of about 1,000 in far south central Nebraska. The father ran a hotel and the mother was a homemaker.

By 1930 the family had moved to Pueblo, Colorado, population 50,000. James was still in school but also worked as an office boy at a packing plant. The parents divorced in 1932. 

The children, including a younger sister, remained with their mother and attended St. Leander Catholic Church and its elementary school. James also attended Centennial High School in Pueblo. The three sons were all working by 1940 — Raymond as a hotel bell hop, James as a beef wrapper at a packing plant, and John as a butcher at a grocery store.


Sources: the Denver (Colorado) Catholic Reporter; the Southern Colorado Register; Census; Navy muster roll; application for military headstone; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 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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