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Frank Edward Reed
Young American Patriots

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Frank Edward Reed
1917-1941

"Our enemies have made the mistake that America’s enemies always make. They saw liberty and thought they saw weakness. And now they see defeat."

George W. Bush

George Bush’s quote could easily have applied to the enemies of the U.S. in World War II. U.S. Navy Shipfitter Third Class Frank Edward Reed was killed in action on December 7, 1941, on the USS Utah during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While Pearl Harbor may have been a moment of weakness, the U.S. would ultimately go on to defeat Japan.

Young Frank was born to Willa Henderson Reed and Frank Edmond Reed on July 16, 1917, in Logan County, West Virginia. (Some records have the elder Reed as Frank Edward, making young Frank a Junior.) The father’s World War I draft registration indicates he was a self-employed plasterer. Young Frank had three siblings: Robert Reed, Eleanor Reed, and Maurice Reed. Frank grew up in a time when industry was booming—the 1920s, so early on the family might well have lived in economic prosperity. The 1920 Federal Census shows the family to be living in Logan, where Frank attended high school. By 1930, however, the family was in Charleston. By now the area was experiencing the Great Depression, and West Virginia was one of the hardest hit states in the nation. Unemployment exceeded 80 percent, and all sectors of the economy were affected.

In the years before the war, most Americans were extreme isolationists. The American people didn’t want anything to do with the war, which made it extremely difficult to help the Allies in a desperate time of need. Europe was almost lost to Hitler, and the Pearl Harbor attack finally pushed the United States into the war. The attack was a great surprise to the American people, but to the government it was bound to happen. The attack united the American people; all made sacrifices to win the war.

When he enlisted at Norfolk, Virginia, on November 9, 1939, Frank was 22 years old. He spent some time at Long Beach, California, but 1941 found him aboard the USS Utah in the Hawaiian Islands.

The attack on Pearl Harbor began when a Japanese submarine was spotted around 50 miles from the harbor. Just a few hours later, 183 Japanese fighter, bomber, and torpedo planes attacked.This was the first use of kamikaze warfare against the United States. The torpedo attack lasted about eleven minutes and was followed by bombers. The entirety of the attack lasted around two hours. More than 2,400 Americans died, and over 1,000 were injured.

Frank was killed after the USS Utah was hit by two torpedoes and quickly flooded and sank. This ship is known as “the ship that no one remembers” as it was on the other side of Ford Island from where the main part of the attack occurred and a number of battleships were struck. The ship was one of the first to be hit, with two torpedoes striking it within the first five minutes of the attack. The commander gave his order to abandon ship, and by 8:12 a.m. the USS Utah had capsized. (Robert F. Dorr, “Utah Was the ‘Not So Famous’ Battleship Sunk During the Pearl Harbor Attack,” Defense Media Network, 7 December 2011, accessed 1 April 2017, http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/utah-was-the-not-so-famous-battleship-sunk-during-the-pearl-harbor-attack/.) Most of the crew managed to survive, but Frank was one of 64 who did not. The wreckage remains in the harbor with a memorial erected near the ship. Frank is now memorialized in the USS Utah Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is also honored in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific. In his hometown of Charleston, he is honored at the Veterans Memorial at the state capitol, and his was the second name to be placed on the World War II memorial at the Lee Street Triangle. Frank E. Reed was awarded the Purple Heart, as well as the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
USS Utah

USS Utah capsizing during the Attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, official U.S. Navy photo no. 80-G-266626

Willa Reed

Willa Reed is shown examining the second Purple Heart awarded her son posthumously. She explained his first Purple Heart was lost or stolen. Charleston Daily Mail, November 12, 1944

tablet

SF3c Frank Edward Reed is memorialized on one of the World War II tablets in the Courts of the Missing, Honolulu Memorial. Courtesy David Blewster Knight, Find A Grave

Article prepared by Lydia King, George Washington High School Advanced Placement U.S. History
2017

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Frank Edward Reed

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