Unknown Sailor

MM2c John Albert Doherty

The U.S. Navy since early 1942 and the National Park Service since circa 1990 say that three Doherty brothers were serving on the U.S.S. Arizona when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Two, brothers John Albert and George Walter, died. A third Doherty, John Andrew, survived.

But was John Andrew related to the two brothers who died? Substantial evidence says no..

This is what public records and news accounts tell about the three men:

Brothers John Albert and George Walter were born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada to native Kentuckians George Clarence Doherty and Ethel Cox Doherty — John Albert on March 8, 1919, and George Walter on April 13, 1921.

By June 1926 the family was in Hardin, Montana, population about 1,100 and seat of Big Horn County in southeastern Montana, where another brother was born. By April 24, 1930 the family had moved about 30 miles south-southeast to Lodge Grass, Montana, population 373, where the father was a farmer and the mother a homemaker. The family also included a daughter and two younger sons. 

John Albert enlisted in the Navy in July 1938. By then, the parents had divorced. Each remarried in 1939. George Walter enlisted in July 1941.

John Albert was a machinist’s mate and petty officer second class and George Walter a seaman second class when they were killed.

John Albert is correctly memorialized as a Montanan at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, though most often both brothers are identified as Californians. Their mother moved to California between April and December 1940, but before then both sons spent most of their youth in Montana.

The surviving man named Doherty — John Andrew — was born March 25, 1903, in New York state. On that date, the father of the two definite Doherty brothers was nine and their mother about eight.

Obituaries provide further evidence that there was no sibling connection. The father of the two definite Doherty brothers died in 1956 in Montana. His obituary named all three of his surviving children, and John Andrew was not among them. The step-father of the definite Doherty brothers also died in 1956. His obituary named his surviving step-children, and John Andrew was not among them.

John Andrew Doherty retired from the Navy in 1946 as a chief warrant officer after 24 years of service. When he died in New Orleans in 1966, his obituary said he was an Arizona survivor. But it made no mention of the two Doherty brothers and said his only survivor was his widow, Bessie.

An accounting of sources follows. We don’t usually post so much detail, but we hope it will help someone determine with certainty whether the three Dohertys were in any way related.

Father George Clarence Doherty, born Kentucky Oct. 24, 1893. (Source: His obituary and his WWII draft registration card.)

Mother Ethel Leola Cox, born Kentucky Sept. 4, 1894. (Source: Extrapolation from her December 1984 obituary, which said she was 90.)

— March 25, 1903, John Andrew Doherty born in New York state. He is the Doherty who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Source: His obituary in the New Orleans Times-Picayune). 

— Nov. 4, 1914, George Clarence and Ethel marry in Tennessee (Source: Their marriage license)

— June 22, 1917, their daughter Mildred F. Doherty born in Kentucky (Source: Her U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps membership card and Census records)

— March 8, 1919, their son John Albert Doherty born in Canada. He died on the Arizona. (Source: Veterans Administration)

— April 13, 1921, their son George Walter Doherty born in Canada. He died on the Arizona. (Source: Veterans Administration)

— 1921, Census of Canada lists father George, age 27, and mother, Ethel, age 26. It also names daughter, Mildred, age 4, and sons John, age 2, and Walter, age 9/12ths.

— June 2, 1926, their son Robert Roy (or maybe Leroy) Doherty born in Montana (Source: Montana birth index)

— June 20, 1928, their son Clarence Vernon Doherty born in Montana (Source: WWII draft card)

— 1930 Census for Lodge Grass in Big Horn County, Montana, lists father George, age 36, and mother, Ethel, age 35. It also names daughter, Mildred, age 12, and sons John, age 10; Walter, age 9; Roy, age 4; and Clarence, age 2.

— Feb. 25, 1939, father George Clarence Doherty marries Garnett Lyon in Gillette, Wyoming. (Source: His obituary in the Billings Gazette)

— June 29, 1939, mother Ethel L. Doherty marries Frank Brewer in Hardin, Montana. (Source: marriage license)

— Dec. 14, 1941, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Bessie Doherty has been informed that her husband, John Andrew Doherty, was wounded in the attack on Pearl Harbor. It said he had been in the Navy for 19 years.

— April 27, 1942, father George Clarence, age 48, registers for the draft in Lodge Grass, Montana. (Source: WWII registration card)

— May 5, 1942, the San Francisco Examiner mentions the death of John Albert and George Walter, “sons of Mrs. Ethel Brewer of Monterey. Born in Canada, the youths died when the U.S.S. Arizona was sunk in Pearl Harbor. Also surviving are the boys’ father, who lives in Montana, and two brothers, Roy Doherty, 15, Pacific Grove High School student, and Clarence Doherty, 13.”

— June 6, 1945, daughter Mildred admitted to the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. Graduated June 7, 1948 at St. Vincent’s Hospital School of Nursing in Portland, Oregon. It lists her home address as 434 Ramona Ave. in Monterey, Calif. That was the home of her mother, Ethel, through at least February 1959. (Source: Cadet Nurse Corps membership card and Monterey newspaper article)

— July 3, 1946, son Clarence registers for draft and lists step-father Frank Brewer as next of kin. He registered in Monterey. (Source WWII draft card)

— June 5, 1956, step-father Frank Brewer dies. His obit named as survivors “two stepsons, Robert L. Doherty of Carmel Valley and Clarence V. Doherty of Fresno. Two other stepsons, John A. and Walter G. Doherty, were killed at Pearl Harbor…” It also listed as a survivor “a daughter, Mrs. Mildred Mattson of Portland, Ore.” (Source: His obit in the Monterey Peninsula News)

— Nov. 27, 1956, father George Clarence Doherty dies. His obit in the Billings, Montana, newspaper listed as survivors “two sons, Robert and Clarence of Romona, Calif.; a daughter, Mrs. Harold Matson of Portland, Ore.; two half-brothers and two half-sisters in Kentucky and several grandchildren.” Also survived by his wife, Garnett Lyon. (Source: The Billings (Montana) Gazette

— Dec. 17, 1966: John Andrew Doherty dies in New Orleans. He was an Arizona survivor who served 24 years in the Navy, retiring as a chief warrant officer in 1946. HIs only survivor was his widow, Bessie. (Source: His obituary)

— Dec. 24, 1984, mother Ethel Leola Cox Doherty Brewer dies in Fresno. (Source: Her brief obit, which named son Clarence as her only survivor.)

— Aug. 12, 2001: Daughter Mildred Frances Doherty Matson dies in Portland, Oregon. (Source: Grave marker.)

SOURCE: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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