Unknown Sailor

S1c William Teasdale Durham

William Teasdale Durham graduated from Pittsboro High School in 1939 — one of 53 members of what the local newspaper then said was the largest class in the history of Chatham County, North Carolina southwest of Durham.

He enlisted in the Navy on March 5, 1940, and 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.

His class ring helped identify his body — one of the few recovered from among the 1,177 men killed on the battleship.

A friend and fellow Pittsboro High graduate, Charles Willis Mann, also died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Mr. Mann enlisted two months after Mr. Durham and was a seaman first class on the U.S.S. West Virginia. That battleship lost 106 men.

Pittsboro students organized memorial services for both men and in October 1942 joined a national effort to collect scrap metal. In their push to build planes, ships, tanks and bombs, defense contractors needed more raw materials — and recycling of everything from rubber to paper became popular.

Iron and a few other things turned out to be of high value, others such as rubber much less, but nonetheless civilians scoured the country for items that might help America win the war.

The Pittsboro students adopted a slogan for their collection drive — “Remember William Durham and Charles Willis Mann.”  They collected 3,353 pounds the first day, the newspaper reported, adding that teachers “fell in line with the program and marched to school” with horseshoes, old axes, plow points and other scrap.

Mr. Durham, born April 25, 1919, was the son of Edward W. Durham, a farmer, and Jennie Herndon Durham, a homemaker. His body was returned home after the war and is buried at Lystra Baptist Church Cemetery near Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Two younger brothers also served in the military — Thomas Eugene in the Navy during World War II and Clarence in the Army in the 1950s.

Mr. Mann, born Sept. 14, 1921, was the son of Osborne Mann and Sibbie Bowman Mann. They  operated a store. His body was also returned home after the war and is buried at Raleigh National Cemetery.

Sources: Special thanks to Tony Mann, a great-nephew of Mr. Durham and a cousin of Mr. Mann. Thanks, also, to Gerri Harris, who at age 105 in 2021 shared memories of her brother. Other sources include The Chatham Record of Pittsboro, North Carolina; The Chatham News; North Carolina birth index; grave markers; applications for military headstones; 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