S2c Laddie James Willette

Unknown Sailor

S2c Laddie James Willette

Laddie James Willette was born April 26, 1921 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His mother, Mary Pence Willette, was a homemaker, and his father, James Willette, a railroad yardman.

By the time of the spring 1940 Census Laddie, the second of eight children, had completed two years at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek, Michigan. As for most families during the Great Depression, times were hard for the Willettes. The father worked full time the previous year, earning $2,000 as a church caretaker – almost $38,000 in 2022 dollars. The mother was a stenographer at a Red Cross office, though the Census didn’t say whether she earned anything in 1939.

Laddie enlisted in the Navy on Sept. 9, 1940. He was a seaman second class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

He was buried in Hawaii until 1950, when his body was brought to the mainland and re-buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California across from today’s San Francisco International Airport. His parents in 1946 had moved to Black Point 35 miles north and operated the Black Point Inn. They are also buried at Golden Gate. The father was an Army private during World War I.

The other Willette son, Don, born in 1927, was also a sailor during World War II.


Sources: the Battle Creek (Michigan) Enquirer; the Petaluma (California) Argus-Courier; Census; Navy muster roll; military interment forms. Photo courtesy of Lisa Olson. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM