S1c William Eugene Seeley


S1c William Eugene Seeley

William Eugene Seely was born Oct. 8, 1922, in Connecticut, the son of Paul Seely, a power company lineman, and Frances Bailey Seely, a homemaker.

The son attended Pleasant Valley and Robert E. Fitch High School, both in Groton. His father died while fishing off the coast in 1936. William, who worked at a hardware store after school, graduated in 1940. He enlisted in the Navy in October.

Mr. Seely was a seaman first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

In 1954, in response to the need for more schools near new Navy housing on the west side of Groton, the school board built William Seely Elementary. Its students collected $59 to help construct the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Admiral Chester Nimitz sent them a thank you letter in 1955.

Every Dec. 7 the principal would explain the significance of the day and who William Seely was, a student recalled years later. On the 25th anniversary of the attack the school held a memorial service, attended by Mr. Seely’s mother and by the Marine color guard from the submarine base at Groton. The school also sponsored an essay contest on the meaning of the event. William Seely Elementary closed in 2004.

Note: Navy records consistently spell Mr. Seely’s last name as Seeley. Newspaper stories and his parents’ gravestone all spell it as Seely. His mother lived in the Groton area until 1977 — long after the school was named Seely in her son’s memory.

Sources: the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant; The Day of New London, Connecticut; the book “Groton: Historical Bits and Pieces,” by James L. Streeter; family grave markers; Census; Navy muster rolls. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM