Unknown Sailor

ENS Robert Neal Brooks

Robert Neal Brooks was born on Jan. 11, 1920 in Poulsbo, Washington, then a town of about 550 on Liberty Bay in Kitsap County west of Seattle.

His father, John Brooks, was a postal clerk and World War I veteran, and his mother, Pearl Marie Morford Brooks, a homemaker. Both of his parents had attended college, married in April 1919, and by 1940 in Seattle owned their own home north of downtown.

Robert, the oldest of three children, was president of his 1937 graduating class  at North Kitsap High in Poulsbo. He was active in many organizations — the service and language clubs, the library staff, and the band. He was advertising manager for the yearbook and a Student Council officer. He had the lead male role in the senior play, Hold Everything. The yearbook predicted he would one day become an editor.

The 1940 Census said Mr. Brooks was in school and had completed two years of college. That was at the University of Washington in Seattle. He also worked in the circulation department of the Seattle Daily Times, earning $665 in 1939 for 52 weeks of work. That’s equal to about $12,000 in 2020. He was initially a carrier-salesman, then a station manager.

He left the newspaper in the spring of 1940 to join the Navy, presumably the Reserve Officer Training Program at UW. Mr. Brooks was commissioned an ensign in May 1941.

He died on Dec. 7, 1941, aboard the U.S.S. Arizona in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He worked on the communications staff. His battle station was with flag communications – the staff under Rear Admiral Issac Kidd, commander of Battleship Division 1 of which the Arizona was the flagship. 

Sources: the Seattle Daily Times; the News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington; Census; North Kitsap High yearbook; Navy muster roll. Yearbook 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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