EM3c Reese Olin Griffin,

Unknown Sailor

EM3c Reese Olin Griffin

When a Census-taker visited their Galveston County, Texas homes in May 1940, Warren Guy Heckendorn and Reese Olin Griffin listed their occupations as oil refinery workers.

Mr. Heckendorn lived with his father and siblings at San Leon on the mainland about 20 miles northwest of Galveston. Mr. Griffin lived with his father and step-mother nearby at Clifton by the Sea, now known as Bacliff. Both communities had about 100 residents and were known as beach getaways.

The Heckendorn household was the 120th visited by the Census-taker in their area, the Griffin household the 159th.

It isn’t clear that the two young men knew each other, but both decided to enlist in the Navy about two weeks apart in November 1940.

And by early the next year both were aboard the U.S.S. Arizona — the battleship on which they  were killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. Mr. Heckendorn was a seaman first class and Mr. Griffin an electrician’s mate and petty officer third class.

Mr. Heckendorn was born Jan. 15, 1915, in Texas – possibly at Katy west of Houston – to John Robert Heckendorn, a farmer, and Julia Hennessey Heckendorn, a homemaker. She died of cancer when their son was 13. He finished two years of high school, according to the Census.

Mr. Heckendorn was one of six children, and at least one of his brothers, John Herbert, served in the Army in World War II and survived, though he was wounded twice and earned the Bronze Star. 

Mr. Griffin was born June 17, 1917, in Texas, to John Reese Griffin,a restaurant manager, and Anna Olin Griffin, a homemaker.  By 1920 the family was in Houston. The mother died in childbirth when Reese Olin was five. The baby, a boy, lived six months. The family also included two sisters. They lived in Des Moines, Iowa in early 1930, but by 1935 had returned to Texas. Reese Olin graduated from nearby Dickinson High School in 1937.

Sources: Galveston (Texas) Daily News; Clay-Barnette Funeral Home of Shelby, N.C.; Census; Navy muster roll; Texas death certificates; U.S. Department of Defense.  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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