Pittsburg, Texas, lost three of its 2,916 citizens in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Royal Elwell, his cousin Weldon Harvey Milligan, and their friend Robert Chilton Hudnall, all died on the U.S.S. Arizona.
Mr. Hudnall, born March 31, 1920, enlisted first. He joined the Marines in July 1940, soon after his high school graduation. Bobby was the son of Ben and Lizzie Hudnall. His father was a farmer and nurseryman. His mother died of pneumonia when he was 12.
Mr. Milligan, born Jan. 6, 1919, joined the Navy in October 1940. By then, he, too, was a high school graduate and listed his occupation as a farmer. His father, James H., was a farmer and his mother, Ida, a homemaker. A newspaper obituary described Mr. Milligan as a “bright, promising young man, popular with everyone.”
Mr. Elwell, born May 21, 1920, was the son of Oscar and Annie Elwell. His father owned a hardware store in the northeast Texas town and his mother was a housewife. In the census in the spring of 1940, Royal Elwell was listed as a high school graduate working as a clerk at a drugstore. He joined the Navy in November 1940.
When they were killed on the Arizona, Mr. Hudnall was a private 1st class. Both Mr. Milligan and Mr. Elwell were seamen 1st class. Mr. Elwell’s body was one of the few recovered from the ship’s crew and is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
For the Elwell family the bad news would be compounded barely half a year later.
After his brother was killed, Norman Elwell quit the University of Texas to join the Army Air Corps. A classmate said they washed out of pilot training, and a relative said Norman Elwell was rejected because he was color blind. Perhaps those two reasons were one and th same.
In any event, Norman Elwell and the buddy went to Canada and qualified as pilots in the Royal Canadian Air Force. “He was really a typical Texan if ever there was one,” the friend, R.L. Templeton, wrote later. “Tall, slender, not very talkative, a good fighter, and a good flyer.” He was “anxious to get a chance to get even” with Japan for killing his brother and cousin.
Instead, Norman Elwell was shot down over England in May 1942.
At least two other Elwell brothers also served in World War II. Royal’s twin, Doyal, served in the Navy from Dec. 31, 1941 through September 1945. Brother Cecil served in the Army from July 1942 until March 1946.
At least one of Mr. Hudnall’s brothers, Vestal, also served. He was in the Army from February 1942 through December 1945. Mr. Milligan had no brothers.