Vernon Russell White was a young man from Spartanburg County, South Carolina, born on August 7, 1919, to a family of carpenters and homemakers. After attending school at Tucapau and working at LaMotte’s Barbecue, he enlisted in the Navy in September 1940.
Like many young men of his generation, Mr. White wanted to serve his country and protect its values. His family was proud of him and his decision to join the Navy. He was a seaman first class aboard the U.S.S. Arizona, stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Joseph Harrison White, Vernon’s brother who was stationed at Fort Weaver near the harbor, planned to visit him on the Arizona. However, as the Japanese attacked “out of nowhere,” Joseph witnessed the Arizona being bombed and eventually sinking, taking Vernon and over a thousand other sailors with her. Joseph kept checking casualty lists until he knew his brother had died.
Mr. White’s father received a telegram on December 20, 1941, saying that Vernon was missing in action. The family hoped for the best, but as time passed, they began to realize the terrible truth.
Like many families of fallen soldiers, the Whites were devastated by the loss of their son. They took solace in the knowledge that he had died serving his country with honor and bravery. Despite the grief and the uncertainty of the war, the Whites remained proud of their son and his service.
Vernon’s brother Joseph also served in the war, but was wounded during the battle of Guadalcanal. The Whites lost another son, Wallace, who served in the Army and was wounded in the head in North Africa. Wallace underwent seven operations, but passed away in February 1948.
Vernon Russell White’s legacy lives on, not only in the memories of his family but in the hearts of all those who honor and respect the sacrifices made by the men and women who served in World War II. He was just 22 years old when he lost his life in defense of his country, but his bravery and dedication will never be forgotten.