John George Dine enlisted in the Navy on Halloween 1940 — the day after his 18th birthday.
He was a fireman second class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he wrote a final letter home to his brother Phil on Thanksgiving Day 1941.
He wrote about his hope that the ship would soon sail from Hawaii to California and that he would be home in Fresno, California, for Christmas. He also inquired about his parents’ reaction to his failure to send them $20 that month. His paycheck was less than $100.
During the Great Depression it was common for teens to enlist because they and their families needed a steady paycheck — and common, too, to send money home. “I really did need the money,” Mr. Dine wrote, “so tell mom I am sorry but you cant do what you whant in here when they say you got to have certain items well you are going to have them thast all to it.”
He signed off with two bits of information — first that fellow sailors called him Johnny. Though his first name was John, he was called George at home. “P.S.,” he concluded, “forgive the hand write but I smell the turkey in the oven.”
Mr. Dine was born in Fresno to Russian immigrants Henry Dine (sometimes spelled Dein), a raisin farm worker, and Maggie Nickle (or Nichol) Dine, a homemaker. At least two other sons served in the Army in World War II. The father became a U.S. citizen in November 1943.
Sources: Letter posted online by Mr. Dine’s nephew, Phil; the San Francisco Examiner; the Fresno Bee Republican; Census; Navy muster roll; California birth index. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.