S2c Oren Sumner

Unknown Sailor

S2c Oren Sumner

The parents of Oren Sumner received a telegram on Christmas Eve 1941 telling them that their youngest child was missing in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mr. Sumner was a seaman second class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed on Dec. 7. He had been a sailor less than six months and was still just 17.

He and a friend, Ernest Robert Werner, quit Albuquerque High School in New Mexico after their junior year to enlist. But they were soon separated, with Mr. Sumner heading to the Pacific and Mr. Werner to the Atlantic.

When Mr. Werner visited his family for Christmas in 1942, the Albuquerque Journal recounted his destroyer’s participation in a torpedo fight off the coast of North Africa. Asked about his feelings during the attack, he said: “All I could think of was my buddy, Oren Sumner.” Mr. Werner served until the end of the war.

Mr. Sumner was born March 12, 1924 in Albuquerque, New Mexico to John Franklin Sumner, a machinist and later a road foreman for Bernalillo County, and Mary Ruth Anderson Sumner, a homemaker. They had four other children.

In April 1930 the family was living in El Paso, Texas. A year later they may have returned to Albuquerque. A 1931 city directory says a J. Frank and Ruth Sumner lived there.

By April 1935 the family had moved to Atrisco, a neighborhood on Albuquerque’s southwest side. Oren attended a year of high school, and was a member of the Future Farmers of America.

Oren Sumner enlisted on June 21, 1941. An older brother, Frank Jr., was already in the Navy. He survived the war.


Sources: the Albuquerque (N.M.) Tribune; the Albuquerque Journal; U.S. Headstone Application for Military Veterans; Census; Albuquerque High yearbook; New Mexico military discharge record. 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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