When a service member or veteran passes away, I often pay condolences by writing “A soldier/airmen/Marine I never knew, my Brother/Sister nonetheless”. I select the correct title for their branch and gender and post it.
For Navy personnel, I have a slightly different version.
On December 7, 2018, at the Dallas – Ft. Worth national cemetery, my son and I attended the funeral of United States Navy Fireman First Class Albert Utley Kane, who was killed aboard the USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941 and only identified recently.
It was a gorgeous Hawaiian morning, bright and sunny, and because of the Sunday routine, peaceful. Nonetheless, because of the vicious attack that claimed over 2,300 service members, when we hear the word infamy, we reflect on that awful morning. For those in the Naval Service, fifteen Medals of Honor and fifty-one Navy Crosses were awarded and on the Oklahoma, Albert and 428 of his shipmates perished.
Nonetheless, a sleeping giant awakened, and Congress declared war on Japan with a vote of 470 to 1. Days later, Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States, Congress voted again, and we went to war around the world.
For days, sailors trapped in their capsized ship tapped with wrenches as civilian and Navy workers tried desperately to access the hull. For days it went on, and thirty- two men were rescued. The tapping lessened, and then stopped, but the warrior rhythm resonated for the rest of the war. Albert didn’t survive the day of infamy. Nonetheless he, and all lost in Pearl Harbor, were with the sixteen million sailors, Marines, soldiers, airmen, merchant mariners who fought for the next four years.
Had he survived the war, Albert would have been forty-five years old when I was born. I had never spoken to a family member until December 7, 2018. Nonetheless, I felt a connection to him.
We were both engineering sailors. We were both Texans. We both enjoyed photography and film making. We both served on ships in Pearl Harbor.
On December 7, 1941, Albert was among the defenders who were stilled. Nonetheless, their loss gave rise to every motion for almost the four years until victory was achieved, first in Europe, and then the Pacific. Seventy-seven years later to the day, I approached the Kane family and handed them the rank insignia I wore when I was a Pearl Harbor sailor, saying, “It was in the shadow of men like Fireman Albert Kane that I aspired to serve”.
Because a cohesive team is essential in any successful operation, the Navy stresses the importance of being a shipmate. As a sailor, you are expected to be a shipmate to all. “Shipmate”. It is a revered term, a status that is earned, and one that can last a lifetime and span generations.
“Albert Utley Kane. A sailor I never knew, my Shipmate nonetheless.”
Tim Cummings served as a Boiler Technician on USS Preble and was also attached to Naval Station Pearl Harbor. This is his USN I.D. photo, taken on December 7, 1979 in Pearl Harbor.