Like many oth­ers, Mil­wau­kee teen en­listed the day af­ter Pearl Har­bor, and never came home

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Front Page - Meg Jones

Hun­dreds were wait­ing at Mil­wau­kee’s mil­i­tary re­cruit­ing sta­tions on Dec. 8, 1941, when re­cruiters opened the doors at 8 a.m. Among them was a tou­sle-headed kid named Roy Ken­neth Marin who wanted to join the Navy. He needed his fa­ther’s per­mis­sion be­cause he was un­der­age.

Hor­ri­fied by the at­tack on Hawaii by Ja­panese forces the day be­fore, Marin was like so many young Amer­i­cans mo­ti­vated to fight for his coun­try.

Of the 16 mil­lion who served in uni­form, more than 400,000 Amer­i­can GIs died dur­ing World War II. That in­cludes 2,335 U.S. mil­i­tary mem­bers who died in the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor 77 years ago.

That to­tal also in­cludes Marin, whose tragic fate was to en­list on the day af­ter Amer­ica was at­tacked by the Ja­panese and

to die on the day the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Marin came so close to sur­viv­ing World War II. His sub­ma­rine, the USS Bull­head, was the last Amer­i­can ship sunk by the Ja­panese. All 84 sailors aboard the Bull­head per­ished.

“Be­cause he was 17, his dad, my grand­fa­ther, signed for him to go in,” said nephew Ken Mater. “My mom told me he re­gret­ted un­til the day he died sign­ing for Roy.”

Marin ap­peared in the Dec. 9, 1941, Mil­wau­kee Sen­tinel, which fea­tured a story head­lined “Mil­wau­kee Men An­swer Call to Col­ors; Re­cruit Of­fices Swamped” on Page 4.

Marin is pic­tured next to a bald­ing sailor with the cap­tion: IN THE SER­VICE NOW - Roy Marin of 710 W. Min­eral St. in the pic­ture at the left, is in the navy now. He is be­ing fin­ger­printed for records of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion by Joseph Zbier­anek, boil­er­maker first class. Marin, like a large per­cent­age of the ap­pli­cants, is young, although the naval re­serve takes them up to 50 years of age.

Mater sus­pects his un­cle, who turned 18 the month af­ter the Pearl Har­bor at­tack, grad­u­ated from Bay View High School early so he could leave for train­ing. Marin served on the USS Dol­phin un­til he was re­as­signed in 1944 to the newly built Bull­head, where he was a mo­tor ma­chin­ist’s mate, ris­ing to the rank of petty of­fi­cer se­cond class.

“He said he felt lucky to be on the Dol­phin. He didn’t feel lucky on the Bull­head,” said Mater.

Mater’s mother, Flo­rence, had two older and three younger broth­ers; Roy was the youngest in the fam­ily and was par­tic­u­larly close to Flo­rence, six years older, who was like a se­cond mother since Roy was just 2 when their mom died of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

Marin fre­quently wrote to his sis­ter and sent her sou­venirs, like a scarf from the Philip­pines, he picked up on his trav­els to ex­otic places.

Mater still has the let­ters, stacked in chrono­log­i­cal order, tucked in en­velopes printed with Marin’s name, rank and a pen­cil draw­ing of a sub­ma­rine.

The let­ters all be­gan the same — Dear Sis — and he fre­quently wrote, “Boy, I think I have the best sis in the world” be­fore telling Flo­rence he loved her.

In a May 9, 1945, let­ter, Roy wrote that he was thrilled to track down his brother Fred serv­ing in the Army in the Philip­pines.

They hadn’t seen each other since March 1941. Decades af­ter World War II, Fred wrote down his mem­o­ries of five years in the 32nd Divi­sion and spoke of los­ing a close friend in com­bat.

“Maybe, deep down, be­cause of my sor­row, I didn’t ac­cept (Roy’s) in­vi­ta­tion to visit the Bull­head, afraid I might give the boat bad luck or jinx it. I wish now I had gone aboard their boat and had al­lowed Roy to show me how proud he was to be a sub­mariner. Op­por­tu­nity lost for­ever,” wrote Fred Marin, who died in 1999.

In what would turn out to be the se­cond to last let­ter Marin wrote his sis­ter from the USS Bull­head, in May 1945, he signed off with these words meant to com­fort Flo­rence:

“Don’t you worry about me. I am OK and al­right. Al­ways think of you. Love, Roy.”

Aboard the Bull­head, the crew res­cued three B-29 bomber crew mem­bers and sank and dam­aged sev­eral Ja­panese ships.

The USS Bull­head was last heard from on Aug. 6, 1945, when the crew re­ported pass­ing through the Lom­bok Strait near Bali, on the same day the first atomic bomb was dropped.

It was likely the vic­tim of depth charges dropped by a Ja­panese plane. The wreck has never been found.

In his Brook­field home, Mater keeps a small shrine in his un­cle’s mem­ory with a model of the USS Bull­head he had spe­cially made, pho­tos, a folded Amer­i­can flag and Marin’s Pur­ple Heart, which Mater found for sale on the in­ter­net a decade ago and paid a Chicago mil­i­tary mem­o­ra­bilia col­lec­tor $1,400.

The fam­ily doesn’t know how Marin’s Pur­ple Heart ended up in the hands of a mem­o­ra­bilia dealer.

Mater was born a year and a half af­ter his un­cle’s sub­ma­rine was re­ported miss­ing.

Rel­a­tives sug­gested to his mother that she name her baby af­ter Roy but be­cause the sib­lings had been so close, she in­stead chose her brother’s mid­dle name, Ken­neth, for her son. Once Marin was of­fi­cially de­clared dead, the Navy paid the $10,000 death ben­e­fit to Mater’s mother, who used it to buy the Mil­wau­kee home where Mater grew up.

This fall, Mater va­ca­tioned in Pearl Har­bor and saw memo­rial plaques of the 52 U.S. sub­marines lost in World War II, in­clud­ing his un­cle’s last ship.

He took pic­tures of the USS Bull­head plaque and toured the USS Bowfin, a Balao-class sub­ma­rine just like the Bull­head, that’s moored in Pearl Har­bor.

“It was emo­tional for me. I was think­ing about my un­cle es­pe­cially when I walked through the en­gine room,” said Mater, “which is where he would have been when they were un­der at­tack at their bat­tle sta­tions.”


Roy K. Marin en­listed in the Navy the day af­ter the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor and was fea­tured in a Mil­wau­kee Sen­tinel story.


Ken Mater of Brook­field holds a photo of his mother’s brother, Roy Ken­neth Marin, who joined the Navy the day af­ter the Pearl Har­bor at­tack.

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