S1c Thomas Edgar Triplett
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S1c Thomas Edgar Triplett
Two months after his only son, Thomas Edgar Triplett, was killed on the U.S.S. Arizona in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Thomas Hays Triplett tried to enlist.
But he still had a wife and two daughters to support, and the only Navy job that paid enough to do that was in a construction regiment ashore. Mr. Triplett, who had a good civilian job as a locomotive fireman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, would have none of it.
He wrote to Navy Secretary Frank Knox asking to be assigned to a ship in the Pacific. In July 1942, the Navy agreed and enlisted him as a watertender and petty officer first class. He was well suited to the job. A watertender tends the fire and boilers in a ship’s engine room.
“I want to get into a fighting unit of the Navy, and the sooner the better,” Mr. Triplett told a reporter for the Hutchinson (Kansas) News.
“I can get along on cigarette money,” he said. “Just so my family gets along.” His wife, Lucy Yarnell Triplett, was left behind with a toddler and a teen-ager. She said she supported his service even though he had to take a $100 a month pay cut.
Mr. Triplett officially enlisted on July 30, 1942, and was assigned to the U.S.S. Pecos, an oil tender, until June 25, 1945. The ship survived repeated attacks in the Pacific and earned seven battle stars.
The father returned to the railroad after the war but died of a heart attack in April 1949 while in Horace, Kansas waiting for his return run as an engineer to Hoisington in central Kansas. He was 45.
His son was born June 21, 1921 in Frederick, Kansas, population 145. In May 1924 his sister, Cora Jane, was born in in Sonoma County, California. But by the late 1920s the family had returned to Kansas about 25 miles west of Frederick to Hoisington with about 3,000 residents. The son attended the local grade school and then Hoisington High School where he played in the band and orchestra. In the April 1940 Census he is listed as an aviator with an aircraft company, but the year before worked for just two weeks, earning $20.
Mr. Triplett enlisted on May 22, 1940, and was a seaman first class when he was killed on Dec. 7, 1941.
The Hoisington Veterans of Foreign Wars post was named in honor of Thomas Edgar Triplett and two other local men.
Sources: The Hutchinson (Kansas) News; The Great Bend (Kansas) Tribune; grave markers; Barton County Kansas government; the Salina (Kansas) Journal; federal application for a headstone or marker for a veteran. Special thanks to Jessica Locker Smith, granddaughter of Thomas Hays and niece of Thomas Edgar for their photos. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.
[NOTE] There are 2 photos of Thomas Edgar and of his father Thomas Hays. They are titled “Triplett photo one, Thomas Edgar” and “Triplett photo two, Thomas Hays.” I think someone said there is a way to post two photos. If that’s right, I ask that both be posted. It’s a great tale of a father’s love and sacrifice.