ABOUT … My Uncle Arnold Hansen (4/12/25 – 4/19/44)
- One of fifty-five sailors lost at sea, April 19, 1944.
- Survivors question Secretary of Navy’s account of sinking.
- Photos of the SS John Straub at sea and going down.
- Misinformation or, war time confusion?
- LEARN MORE …
Seven days after his nineteenth birthday, my ARNOLD ARTHUR HANSEN, was one of fifty-five sailors lost at sea, April 19, 1944. Arnold joined the U.S. Navy at age 17. Ship: John Straub – Rank: Seaman 1st Class.Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal sends a form letter to the families of the 55 lost sailors aboard the John Straub. One goes to, Arnold’s mother, Lillian Hansen, of Spokane, Washington (my paternal grandmother). The letter Seven days after his nineteenth birthday, ARNOLD ARTHUR HANSEN, was one of fifty-five sailors lost at sea, April 19, 1944. Arnold joined the U.S. Navy at age 17. Ship: John Straub – Rank: Seaman 1st Class.
Reports follow that the SS John Straub was one of thousands of Liberty ships built to ferry supplies for the American war machine simply cracked in two. There are also reports of unexplained explosions abord ship.
Twelve months after the sinking, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal sends a form letter to the families of the lost sailors. One goes to the mother of Spokane sailor Arnold Hansen. It reads:
“Dear Mrs. Hansen, “Your son, Arnold Arthur Hansen … was a member of the armed guard crew serving on board the S.S. JOHN W. STRAUB when that vessel, while en route from Seattle, Washington to Attu Island, was damaged as the result of one or more internal explosions and subsequently sank almost immediately.”
Secretary Forrestal notes that the Straub was damaged as the result of one or more internal explosions as the cause. But, is that the whole story? Apparently not. For more details and photos scroll down.
A Friend Offers Help and Survives
Arnold, hospitalized due to illness learned the Straub was about to ship out. Arnold sneaked out of sick bay and joined his buddies on board ship. While at see, his name came up for guard duty. He was still so ill that a buddy took Arnold’s duty watch so Arnold could stay in his bunk below decks. That night the shipped sunk. All below deck died at sea. It is believed the man who stood Arnold’s guard duty was among the survivors above deck.
Above:The stern of the SS John Straub floats 14 hours after two-thirds of the ship sank in forty seconds. Photo courtesy The National Archives in Maryland, and Seattle’s Spoksman Review.
Hansen Family Receives Closure
Arnold was my “Uncle Arnold,” the younger brother of my father, Woodrow Christian Hansen. I don’t have much memory of my uncle. He died in service to his country when I was five years old. All that remains is a few faded photos, but I do have some of his artwork and what I am told were his treasured ice skates. And now, thanks to my daughter and the Internet, our family finally has some degree of closure.
Misinformation or War Time Confusion?
Shortly after the war, I recall family discussions as to the cause of Arnold’s ship going down. Most of my family believed it was due to poorly constructed Kaiser built Liberty Ships. There was some historical validity to that theory as many of the early Kaiser built ships did come apart at sea. However, as it turns out there is more to the story. Misinformation? War time confusion?
My daughter, Shawn Hansen, surprised me a few days ago by telling me that she had located further information that might help clarify what actually happened on that black night, April 19, 1944. Bruce Spang of Kendrick, Idaho, survived the sinking of the SS John Straub. More about Mr. Spang and Arnold can be found here:
1. THE SPOKSMAN-REVIEW MOBILE http://m.spokesman.com/stories/1999/apr/18/sailors-son-pursues-long-submerged-truth/
2. THE SPOKSMAN-REVIEW: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/1999/apr/18/sailors-son-pursues-long-submerged-truth/?phot
Above image courtesy of Shawn Hansen and Book Cover Junction