William Edward Mann USS Arizona

GM3c William Edward Mann

Best friends William Edward Mann and Lauren Fay Bruner left rural Washington to join the Navy — Bruner in November 1938 and Mann in January 1939.

But they didn’t know they were to be on the same ship until a few months later when the U.S.S. Arizona was docked at its home port of San Pedro, California.

“Somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey remember me?’ ” Mr. Bruner told a reporter years later. “I turned around and it was Billy. I didn’t even know he was coming into the service. My jaw just dropped open.”

The two resumed their friendship, even double-dating. “We would talk it over after we would get back to the ship; maybe Billy didn’t like his date, and we would switch the next liberty day,” Mr. Bruner joked.

Mr. Mann was a gunner’s mate third class when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. Mr. Bruner, a fire controlman third class, was badly burned and spent seven months in a hospital. Then he returned to duty and survived several more major battles in the Pacific. He retired from the Navy in 1947. Mr. Bruner died at the age of 98, and his remains were interred on the battleship on Dec. 7, 2019.

Mr. Mann, whose remains were never recovered from the Arizona, was born April 20, 1920, at Elma, Washington, the son of Charlotte Borden Mann, a homemaker, and Arthur Mann, a farmer. William was the oldest of their 13 children. Elma had a population of about 1,200.

He was active in many activities at Elma High, including track and baseball. He managed the football team, sang in the glee club and was a member of Future Farmers of America.

Sources: Special thanks to a nephew, Bill Wickwire, and to the staff at Elma High School for help with this profile. Other sources include: The Olympian of Olympia, Washington; The Los Angeles Times; Census; Navy muster rolls; grave marker; the Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colorado. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.