Unknown Sailor

MM1c Stanley Joe Erwin

Five months after Stanley Joe Erwin was killed on the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor, his widowed mother lost a second son to war.

Stanley Joe Erwin was born on Feb. 13, 1919 in Adrian, Missouri about 50 miles south-southeast of Kansas City to Joseph Marion Erwin and Lois Belle Erwin. The son was the third born of eight children, and the oldest of three boys. His father, Joseph, a veteran of World War I, was at one time a farmer and also had a career as an insurance agent. His mother Lois was a homemaker. Both parents were born in Missouri, where they started their family before moving to San Benito, Texas northeast of Brownsville and the Tamaulipas border at Matamoros.  

Young Mr. Erwin attended the local San Benito schools, and he was a popular kid around town. The month before his 19th birthday, he enlisted in the U. S. Navy in Houston, Texas.  Upon completion of his training at the San Diego Naval Station, Erwin boarded the U.S.S. Arizona. The date was April 28, 1938. His duties were to operate the main and auxiliary engines, and to adjust, repair, and overhaul the engines. He had knowledge of the ship’s drainage systems, distilling plants, evaporators, and pumps.

Machinist’s Mate and Petty Officer First Class Erwin was killed during the surprise attack by the Japanese on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. At first, he was mistakenly believed to be safe.  Sadly, that was not true of this 22-year-old hero. His body was not recovered and he remains with his comrades missing in action aboard the sunken battleship.

Services were held for Erwin on Sunday, Feb. 1, 1941 at the First Presbyterian Church in San Benito. His father died in June 1936, but his mother and all but one sibling attended his services. His brother Frank, who was two years younger, was serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps. In attendance at the services were the Sam Jackson Post No. 111, American Legion, and the Colonel Sam Robertson Post No. 2414, Veterans of Foreign War. 

On May 3, 1942, another Sunday morning, Mrs. Erwin lost her second son. Corporal Frank Willian Erwin was a radio operator with a bomb squadron in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was killed in the crash of a four-engine Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress that was returning from Las Vegas to Pendleton Field in Oregon when it hit a 4,000-foot ridge in the Blue Mountains. His body was recovered and the tombstone placed after his burial is engraved with the names of both Erwin brothers.

Sources: Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas); Brownsville Herald (Texas); findagrave.com; sanbenitohistory.com; USSArizona.org/index; Navy muster roll. Special thanks to Marie Pavini Martin for helping with the research and for writing this profile on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona
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