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Eugene Mitchell Skaggs
Courtesy Gaye Thomas, Find A Grave

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Eugene Mitchell Skaggs
1909-1941

"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."

Elmer Davis

Signalman First Class Eugene Mitchell Skaggs was born February 11, 1909, to coal miner Grover Cleveland Skaggs and his wife Minnie Mae Wood Skaggs in the town of Ansted, located in central West Virginia. 1930 U.S. Federal Census records show he was the eldest of four brothers; his siblings included William D., Paige, and Everette Gordon Skaggs. Navy muster rolls indicate Eugene enlisted in the U.S. Navy on November 11, 1935; however, the 1930 census shows him already to be a seaman living in Norfolk, Virginia. By 1940 he is found to be in Long Beach, Los Angeles, California, as a signalman, and this is where he married his wife, Mary Johanna Jameson Skaggs. They had one child, Marie Elizabeth Skaggs. Eugene was then deployed to the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where he would continue working as a signalman on the USS Oklahoma, meaning he coordinated vital communications between ships. Eugene would die months later in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

The USS Oklahoma fell victim to one of the most overlooked elements of the Pearl Harbor attack—midget submarines, attacking from below. By 7:58 AM (ten minutes after the first air attack) on December 7, 1941, eight Japanese torpedoes struck the Oklahoma, and, after she sank into the mud, a ninth. Eugene Skaggs, at merely 32 years old, in addition to the 428 other U.S. Navy and Marine personnel aboard the USS Oklahoma, lost his life in the ambush. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed, and only 100 Japanese, despite the Americans’ valiant efforts to minimize damage in any way possible. In the attack, all eight American battleships on famed Battleship Row were severely damaged, though the only two that could not be recovered were the USS Arizona and Eugene’s ship—the USS Oklahoma.
USS Oklahoma

USS Oklahoma (BB-37), photographed circa 1940, by George Winstead. U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph # 77076

The following day, President Roosevelt asked Congress to approve a declaration of war against the Japanese, which was unanimously approved almost immediately. This marked the entrance of the U.S. into World War II, and following the deaths of an additional 418,500 courageous Americans over the span of four years, the Axis Powers were defeated.

Cenotaph

Cenotaph for SM1c Eugene M. Skaggs. Courtesy Debbie (Tetrault) and Bruce Almeida, Find A Grave

Eugene would be awarded a Purple Heart following his death, and though his remains were never found, a memorial for him was placed in Restlawn Memory Gardens in Ansted. SM1c Eugene M. Skaggs is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific, and a cenotaph also bears his name.

Sources Consulted

“Pearl Harbor—USS Oklahoma—The Final Story.” Public Broadcasting Service. Accessed 22 June 2017. http://www.pbs.org/program/pearl-harbor-uss-oklahoma-final-story/.
“The Official Website of the USS Oklahoma.” Accessed 22 June 2017. http://www.ussoklahoma.com/.
“Pearl Harbor Bombed.” This Day in History. Accessed 22 June 2017. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/pearl-harbor-bombed.

Article prepared by Margaret McClellan, George Washington High School Advanced Placement U.S. History
2017

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Eugene Mitchell Skaggs

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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