S1c Ralph Ernest Poole

Unknown Sailor

S1c Ralph Ernest Poole

“I can’t understand why more young men don’t join the Navy to help defend their country,” Ralph Ernest Poole wrote in his last letter home. “It should not be necessary for Navy Secretary Knox to draft men for naval service.”

Mr. Poole’s mother in Ohio received the letter on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after her son was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a seaman first class on the U.S.S. Arizona. In other letters, he said how much he liked his life in the Navy. He had enlisted in September 1940.

He was born near Minford, Ohio about 80 miles south of Columbus on Nov. 14, 1920. The Depression was tough on the Poole family, and everyone pitched in to get them through it.

The 1940 census for Portsmouth, Ohio 10 miles to the southwest said Ralph and an older brother, Bernard, were working for the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal jobs program. A sister, Alice, worked in a shoe factory. Their father, Frank, was a blacksmith and their mother, Sarah, a homemaker. Everyone in the family had an 8th grade education except for Alice, who had finished three years of high school.

Ralph’s death prompted his friend and neighbor William Douglas Davis to join the Navy. He was killed the next fall in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.

Mr. Poole was one of seven men from nearby communities in southwest Ohio who were on the Arizona, including a friend, James Lowell Flannery, who also died. Others killed were Donald William Caplinger, Hurschel Woodrow Wilson, and John A. Smith. James L. Wise and Wendell Lee Flannery (brother of James) survived.

Mr. Poole was a member of the First Christian Church.


Sources: Portsmouth Daily Times; Ohio birth index; the US. Census. 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