S1c Jay Wesley Young

Unknown Sailor

S1c Jay Wesley Young

Photos of Jay Wesley Young taken before and after he enlisted in the Navy hint at the hardship of his youth.

Mr. Young was born Oct. 29, 1912 in Garfield County in south-central Utah. His mother, Minnie Willden Young, was a homemaker, and the father, John Wesley Young, a farmer. The family included eight children.

During most of Jay’s childhood the Youngs lived at Widstoe, which is now a ghost town. The area — settled by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — was beset by drought, poor soil, and overgrazing. Their situation grew so dire that in 1935 the federal government bought the town and about 30,000 acres and helped many of the remaining 30 families resettle elsewhere.

“Because of where he lived and the Depression, Jay spent many years being hungry and malnourished,” wrote one of his great nieces, Shelly Craghead. Indeed, a pre-Navy photo shows a thin-faced young man.

The Youngs moved to Salt Lake City, where Jay finished South Junior High School, and then about 40 miles east to Oakley, population about 450. He was active in Scouting and in the LDS church. He worked on farms and at a tire shop until he had the money to go to Denver to study welding at the Griffith Opportunity School. Its students were adults and most worked while also learning a trade. The spring 1940 Census said Mr. Young was a lodger at a Denver home and in 1939 at a cafe earned $600 for 52 weeks of work – about $11,600 in 2022 dollars.

He enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 28, 1940, and by December was aboard the U.S.S. Arizona.

He chose the Navy at the suggestion of his girlfriend, whose research of the military determined that the Navy afforded the best options for furthering his education after his service ended.

Mr. Young was shy and homesick, but he liked the Navy, Ms. Craghead said. A photo of him in uniform certainly shows him to be better-nourished.

Some of his letters home included his poetry and short stories. Sadly, many of his things were destroyed years later in a fire at his parents’ home.

One surviving letter to his sister Delsa Duncant, dated Nov. 8, 1941, thanks her for remembering his birthday by mailing a cake to him aboard the battleship in Hawaii. His girlfriend, Ruth Andrus, sent a box of chocolates from Bluebird Candy Co. — a business that still exists in Logan, Utah. “They were splendid,” he wrote, “and should have been, at $1 lb. I know I bought some there once myself. It seems she thinks the best is none to good” for me.

He also received home-made candy from “The Oakley Ladies Art Club,” a group he said he knew nothing about. “I appreciate their thoughtfulness tho. It seems that people inland appreciate the men in service more than those who live along the coast. I suppose it’s because sailors are somewhat like flies; they can become too numerous. But in the early spring one can even appreciate a fly. That’s the way it is with service men. The less one sees of a soldier or a sailor, the more he’s appreciated.”

Mr. Young signed off by telling his sister to keep her chin up and promised to write again. “Until then, God Bless You and Good luck. Your Loving Brother, Jay.”

Mr. Young was killed one month later on Dec. 7 in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a seaman first class.

He had been ordained an elder in the Marion Ward, South Summit Stake, in Marion, Utah, shortly before he enlisted, and a memorial service there honored him in April 1942.

Three of his brothers also served in World War II. Keith was in the field artillery in the South Pacific. Ted, an Army private with a medical detachment, was awarded the Silver Star for saving the lives of three wounded men amidst intense mortar and small-arms fire on Okinawa in June 1945. Marion was a Navy Seabee from shortly after his 1940 graduation until the end of the war. A younger brother, Lynn, later served as a military policeman in South Korea.

Jay’s Purple Heart — destroyed in the fire at his family’s home — was replaced in 2008 when his brother Marion visited the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Mr. Young’s body was never recovered from the sunken battleship.


Sources: Special thanks to Shelly Craghead for the photographs and most of the information in this profile of her great uncle. Other sources include: the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, Utah; the Washington County News of Saint George, Utah; the Sanpete Messenger of Sanpete County, Utah; Census; Navy muster roll; family obituaries; letter of award of the Silver Star. 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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