Unknown Sailor

MUS2c Ralph Warren Brudette

Ralph Warren Burdette was an outstanding cornet player at Plainfield High School in New Jersey. He was in the all-state orchestra in 1938 and in the all-state band in 1940, the year he graduated.

He enlisted in the Navy in February 1941 and the next month went to the Navy School of Music in Washington, D.C., where he played the french horn. Bandmates nicknamed him “Chow- hound.” He was a musician and petty officer second class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. All 21 band members died when they rushed to their battle station in the ammunition lift below the No. 2 turret with its 14-inch guns. The men were killed instantly when a Japanese bomb exploded black powder on the other side of the barbette under the turret.

Mr. Burdette was born on March 11, 1921, the son of Harry S. Burdette, a painter, and Mabel M. Burdette, a seamstress. The mother also played the piano.

He was active in several local Granges, a fraternal organization that supported agriculture. A memorial service for Mr. Burdette was held at the Grange Hall in New Market in February 1942. That same month, the Plainfield High student council sponsored an assembly in his honor. It included the showing of a film, Incendiary Bombs: Bonds, and money was raised to purchase a war bond. The choir at Juanita College in Huntington, Pennsylvania, performed many songs, including “Goin’ Home” based on a theme by Antonín Dvorák and “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington. Yet another program was held in his memory that month, featuring the high school band. “Taps” was performed to honor Mr. Burdette.

There is a cenotaph in his memory at Rural Hill Cemetery in Whitehouse, N.J. His parents are buried there.


Sources: The Central New Jersey Home News; the Courier News of Bridgewater, New Jersey; 1940 Plainfield High yearbook photo; Navy muster roll; Census; marker at Rural Hill Cemetery in Whitehouse, New Jersey; “At ‘Em Arizona,” the ship’s newspaper. Navy photo. 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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