LCDR Paul James Register


LCDR Paul James Register

Paul James “Cash” Register was born Nov. 5, 1899 into a Bismarck, North Dakota family with a history of public service.

His father, Francis H. Register, was the mayor of Bismarck from 1901 to 1905 and city attorney from 1908 to 1916. Two older brothers served in the military during World War I — Francis D. in the Army and Dill Brownell in the Navy. The mother, Helen Donaldson Register, was a homemaker.

Paul graduated from Bismarck High School and was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1917. The academy’s 1921 yearbook said “by consistent work in the gym he early developed one of those Venus-like forms, and form surely does show to the best advantage in one of the Annette Kellerman gym suits.” Kellerman was an Australian swimmer and actress who championed form-fitting suits for women in an era when most wore gowns with bloomers.

The yearbook also chided that “Cash never quite got used to city customs. After coming straight from the simple life of Bismarck, North Dakota, he found the devious ways of suspenders too much for his unsophisticated mind to cope with and he used to leave them hanging down behind on the background of his service…

“But if you want somebody to do something for you, just go around to Cash and he will do it, even if it’s dragging the same brick twice in succession.”

He was commissioned an ensign in June 1920.

While at school, he met Ethel Lohman and they married in 1929. They had a son in 1930 and a daughter in 1934.

Ensign Cash served on several ships, completed postgraduate work at the Naval Academy,  and attended the Naval War College. He was promoted to lieutenant commander while working at the Navy recruiting bureau in New York City in July 1939. He became the communication officer on the U.S.S. Arizona in May 1941 and was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that Dec. 7.

His wife was living in Coronado, California when he died, but soon moved to be near family in Mississippi. It was like a different country, she recalled many years later. “On the West Coast, we all lived in fear of bombings from the Japanese. We had blackouts every night and people were not free to move around even in the daytime. When I arrived in Mississippi and friends invited me to go shopping, I couldn’t believe the freedom of movement. These people didn’t really know there was a war on.”

The U.S.S. Register, a destroyer escort, was launched in January 1944 at the Charleston, South Carolina, Navy shipyard. Mrs. Register christened the ship, which was soon reclassified as a high-speed transport and saw heavy fighting in the Pacific. It was seriously damaged in a kamikaze attack in 1945.

A nephew, Francis R. Register, also became a Navy ensign and in October 1942 was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his performance as a pilot in the Solomon Islands. He was awarded the Air Medal posthumously in 1944. By then a lieutenant, Mr. Register was 25 when he died in 1943 during the Battle of Attu in the Aleutian Islands. All told, Francis Register was credited with downing eight Japanese planes.


Sources: The Bismarck (North Dakota) Tribune; The Fargo (North Dakota) Forum; the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi; The Vicksburg (Mississippi) Post; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs death file; North Dakota military records; Census; the Lucky Bag, the yearbook of the U.S. Naval Academy; District of Columbia marriage record; Navy History and Heritage Command; California birth index. Yearbook photograph. 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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