SC2c Louis Eugene May

Unknown Sailor

SC2c Louis Eugene May

In the days after the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Kansas farmers William May and Lula Hoefle May worried about their sailor sons Louis Eugene and Lee.

Two weeks later, a telegram arrived from the government saying that Louis, a ship’s cook and petty officer second class, was missing on the U.S.S. Arizona.

Louis was born March 29, 1915, near Hepler, Kansas, population 259 about 100 miles south of Kansas City. From 1920 through at least April 1930 the family lived about 5 miles north in Walnut Township in Bourbon County. He attended Chanute Junior College about 25 miles west for one semester before enlisting in the Navy in March 1937.

Based on Lee’s last letter home, dated Nov. 23, the grieving Mays believed he, too, had been at Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack. As it turned out, his heavy cruiser — the Pensacola — left Pearl Harbor on Nov. 29, bound for the Philippines. After the attack, it briefly diverted to Australia. Lee served in the Navy until November 1945.

A third brother, Everett, was on a destroyer in the North Atlantic on Dec. 7, 1941. He, too, survived the war and retired from the Navy as a chief petty officer.

Their older brother John had been released from the Army shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but he was recalled in 1942 and served until 1946. He was a corporal. The oldest May brother, William Jr., also was called to serve and became an Army private.

Their father was a veteran of the Spanish-American War.

A sixth son, Edward, died in 1925, while trying to catch a train home from his work as a harvester. The family included one sister, Olive.


Sources: The Chanute (Kansas) Tribune; the Philadelphia Daily News; Veterans Administration; Census; Navy muster rolls; grave markers. 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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