F1c Lester Ellsworth Mayfield

Unknown Sailor

F1c Lester Ellsworth Mayfield

On the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Mattie May Mayfield wrote to her son aboard the U.S.S. Arizona.

“My own sweet Buzz — Well I guess all Billy H. broke loose in Hawaii yesterday or at least that’s what we hear on the radio. We have all been expecting it for some time but it came as a terrible shock anyway. I don’t believe many people expected it to be hit in Hawaii. Well it sure hurts to have you over there in the danger zone but do your bit darling. I know you will anyway without me telling you… I love you so much best love and God bless you. Mom.”

Mrs. Mayfield did not yet know that Lester Ellsworth Mayfield was killed in the attack on Dec. 7, 1941. He was a fireman first class on the battleship.

He had a pass to go to Honolulu the night before the attack, but agreed to cover the shift of a fellow sailor, Galen Ballard, whose Navy enlistment was about to end. Mr. Ballard wanted to spend in Honolulu what he thought would be his final weekend in Hawaii. He finagled an overnight pass but still needed someone to cover his shift. As he later described it, Mr. Mayfield “was waiting to see if he’d gotten some money in the mail. If so, he was going ashore. He didn’t get it.”

Mr. Mayfield was born Sept. 4, 1918. His father, James, was a laborer at a coal mine and then a farmer, according to the 1920 and 1925 Census. By 1930 the family had moved to Penrose, Colorado about 30 miles south-southwest of Colorado Springs..

Mr. Mayfield enlisted on Aug. 12, 1939. Both parents survived him.


Sources: Letter auctioned by Nate D. Sanders Auctions, Fine Autographs and Memorabilia in March 2016; Census; Navy muster roll. Mr. Ballard’s account is from the 2001 book, “The USS Arizona,” by Joy Waldron Jasper, James P. Delgado and Jim Adams; Defense Department. 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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