Jefferson City sailor Charles Kieselbach Jr. killed in attack on Pearl Harbor


World War II was a time when the country’s citizens rallied overwhelmingly to the war effort, often sending their offspring to fight the tyranny that was spreading abroad.

In Jefferson City, the war claimed the lives of many local residents such as Charles Ermin Kieselbach, who earned the unwanted honor of becoming Cole County’s first war casualty when he was killed in Pearl Harbor.

Born in Jefferson City on January 14, 1916, Kieselbach was the namesake of his father, a local mason. When he graduated from Jefferson City Senior High School in May 1934, he discovered that good jobs were elusive during the height of the Great Depression.

Later that summer, after spending several weeks looking for gainful employment, he enrolled in a work aide with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal program that provides single men between the ages of 18 and 25 with improved jobs. public lands, forests and parks.

“He worked in the CCC program from July 1934 to August 1935,” remarked his nephew, Wayne Kieselbach. “Still out of work, he made the decision to enlist in the US Navy in September 1935,” he added.

Early in his four-year enlistment period, Kieselbach traveled to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois, where he spent the next three months as a sailor. His training quickly enabled him to become a journeyman carpenter and be posted to the battleship USS Arizona in January 1936.

The Naval History and Heritage Command website explained: “The USS Arizona, a 31,400 ton Pennsylvania-class battleship built at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, entered service in October 1916.”

The site further noted, “In 1929-31 Arizona was modernized at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, emerging with a drastically altered appearance and major improvements to its weaponry and protection.”

Throughout the late 1930s, Kieselbach remained with the USS Arizona as it continued operations with the Combat Fleet. A pivotal year came in 1939 when the sailor re-enlisted, earned the First Class Journeyman Carpenter Fee, and married his Jefferson City sweetheart, the former June Summers.

As a journeyman carpenter, the young sailor’s duties took him to work on issues related to ship ventilation, painting, repairing lifeboats and, in times of combat, helping with fires. and sealing the holes in the hull of the vessel.

“The Arizona had a teak deck and in the late 1930s the ship was re-decked,” Wayne Kieselbach said. “Of course, as a first-class carpenter’s assistant, he would have been involved in this project.

“Apparently, after the bridging was completed, the journeyman carpenters were allowed to use some of the old bridges for personal projects in their spare time. My uncle made a pair of teak lamps which he gave to my grandmother and which my cousin now owns.

In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to demonstrate American strength to the Japanese by moving the Pacific Fleet (including the USS Arizona) to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The president tried to ease tensions with Japan through diplomatic means, which were quickly resolved and had deadly consequences for Kieselbach and dozens of his comrades.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor became the ground zero for a devastating attack by Japanese forces, the flagship event that dragged the United States into World War II. The attack claimed more than 2,400 American casualties and the destruction of nearly 20 United States Navy ships and more than 300 aircraft.

A bomb exploded in a powder magazine aboard the USS Arizona, sending the battleship to the bottom of the harbor and becoming the coffin of dozens of sailors, including Kieselbach, 25.

“The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the remains of the sunk battleship USS Arizona, the final resting place of many of the 1,177 crew members killed on December 7, 1941,” according to the Pearl Historic Sites website. Harbor. “This loss of life represents more than half of Americans killed in the worst naval disaster in American history.”

Devastated by the loss of their son, Kieselbach’s parents quickly pledged to support the war effort, including two other sons still in service, by calling on their fellow citizens to purchase War Bonds. Over the years, Kieselbach’s family explained, communication got lost with the young sailor’s widow, June.

In 1959, Jefferson City participated in the “USS Arizona Memorial Day” celebration, presenting a check to a representative of Governor James T. Blair to assist in the construction of “a suitable memorial on the battleship sunk at Pearl Harbor,” noted in the Sunday News and Tribune on August 9, 1959. Contributions were made in honor of the ultimate sacrifice made by Kieselbach and his fellow sailors.

The USS Arizona Memorial opened on May 30, 1962.

Nancy Snakenberg, a niece of Kieselbach, never had the opportunity to meet her uncle. However, she maintains that her respectable heritage was passed down to her family, offering her a lasting appreciation for all the sacrifices that were made on behalf of future generations.

“The Kieselbach family were a hardworking, loving and patriotic family who taught respect and integrity,” said Snakenberg. “Their values ​​are directly responsible for my quality of life and those that my children enjoyed.

“I am grateful for the example they set and that their memory be honored, including that of our uncle Charles Ermin Kieselbach.”

Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.