Unknown Sailor

RM2c Wilbur Danner Ellis

The month after his son died at Pearl Harbor, Wilfred Ellis attended the “Farm and Home” picnic in Hutchinson, Kansas.

The master of ceremonies asked for the newest married couple in the crowd to come to the stage. Wilfred, a widower who had remarried just two months before, could not get to the front before another couple, married six months, were given the prize of a silver platter.

The emcee promised the Ellises a bouquet, though, and asked them to dance the schottische — a kind of polka — accompanied by a fiddler. While they danced the length of the stage, a friend told the host that Mr. Ellis’s son was killed in the Japanese attack, Dec. 7, 1941.

As they were about to leave, the emcee “called the large crowd to attention and spoke a moment of the sacrifices which come with war,” The Hutchinson News reported. “Then he introduced the slim, quiet-voiced father, who briefly told of receiving the telegram notifying him his only son, Wilbur D. Ellis, a Navy radioman, was lost with the battleship U.S.S. Arizona.

“Rev. W. B. Stevens, a retired minister, prayed for a few moments. Many women in the crowd cried unashamedly and more than one man wiped his eyes.”

Wilbur Danner Ellis was born in Kansas on March 23, 1915. His father was a laborer and his mother, Flora, who died in 1939, was a homemaker. Wilbur attended Hutchinson High, but it does not appear that he graduated. In the 1930 Census he was identified as 15 and a truck farmer. He enlisted in the Navy on Feb. 15, 1938, and was a radioman and petty officer second class when he was killed. He was survived by his widow, Genevieve, and daughter in Long Beach, California.


Sources: The Hutchinson News; Census; grave marker; Navy muster roll; Veterans Administration. 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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