Unknown Sailor

SGT Joseph Baraga

Joseph Baraga was born Oct. 31, 1915, near the village of Channing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

His mother, Josephine Laurich Baraga, was a homemaker and his father, Karl Baraga, a farmer. Both parents immigrated from Austria in the early 1900s. The family included nine children.

The youngest, Leona Baraga Nichols, said college wasn’t an option in the “lean” years when her brother graduated from high school, so he found work where he could, including helping on the family farm. He enlisted in the Marines on Jan. 3, 1939.

Mr. Baraga was a sergeant on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

That morning was cold and misty back home, Leona recalled 50 years later. “Christmas tree cutters were working on our land and there were frequent visitors going in and out.” In the afternoon, someone said that the radio reported an attack on Pearl Harbor, but there was “no hint of the enormity of the situation so we didn’t immediately feel that Joe, now a Marine Sgt., was in danger.” Later that month the family found a telegram in their mailbox saying that he was missing in action. His final letter home, written just before Thanksgiving, arrived a couple of weeks later. He described his plan for the holiday and told how many more months and days he still had to serve “on this old tub.”

There’s a cenotaph for Mr. Baraga at the Channing Cemetery, where his parents are buried.

Sources: The Daily News of Iron Mountain, Michigan; the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison; cenotaph; Census; Marine enlistment photo. Leon’s Nichols’ written recollection is at the Arizona State Archive, along with a photo of her brother. 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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