MATT2c Willard Hardy Hurd,

Unknown Sailor

MATT2c Willard Hardy Hurd

Willard Hardy Hurd was born Aug. 7, 1922 in Collierville, Tennessee about 25 miles east of Memphis, the son of Charles W. Hurd and Beulah Mae Duckett Hurd. The father was a farmer and the mother a homemaker.

By April 1930 Willard was the oldest of three sons and a daughter. At a later date he moved – possibly with his father – to Whitehaven about 10 miles south of downtown Memphis. The son was an honor graduate of Geeter High School in the Whitehaven neighborhood.

Willard enlisted in the Navy on Aug. 20, 1940, and was a mess attendant second class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941 – his mother’s 38th birthday.

His job was part of the Messman Branch — the only branch then open to African-American men in the segregated Navy. Messmen cooked, cleaned and performed other services. They could advance to become a petty officer first class as a steward or cook for officers, but that was their limit.

Mr. Hurd was honored at a ceremony at Mount Nebo Baptist Church in Memphis in February 1942.

His father enlisted in the Army in July 1942 at the age of 34, but further record of his service was unavailable. It appears that he died that same year. Beulah Hurd’s 1945 death certificate described her as a widow.

Sources: the Atlanta (Georgia) Daily World; The Chicago Defender; Arkansas State Press of Little Rock; the Plaindealer of Kansas City, Kansas; Census; Navy muster roll; Tennessee death certificate; Army enlistment record.
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