Learning About Grandpa’s WWII Naval Service

by John Crockett

Growing up, I enjoyed spending time with my paternal grandfather, but I knew very little about his time in the United States Navy during World War II. I was recently reading a life story written by one of his sons that simply says, “in 1943, Dad went off to war in the Navy, leaving Mom behind with two kids.” There was no other mention about his time in the Navy during WWII. That brief sentence got me wondering what more I could discover about such a pivotal time in his life and in the history of the world.

Using a combination of resources from Ancestry®, I was able to learn more about my grandfather’s participation in World War II. Hints and record searches across Ancestry, Fold3® and Newspapers.com™ have helped paint a more thorough picture of what his life was like.

Piecing Together the Mystery

James Crockett was born in 1918 in Tennessee, eventually moving as a child with his family to Arizona. Starting with a hint on Ancestry, I learned that like many young men at the time, James registered for the draft in 1940, just before the United States entered into World War II.

World War 2 draft card for James Everett Crockett
Source: Ancestry, U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

A search on Fold3 unveiled additional information about where James had served. His name was included on the 1945 muster rolls of the U.S.S. Dobbin, a destroyer tender ship that supported the fleet. His reported rank was “SK3c”, which upon further investigation showed that he was a Storekeeper, Third Class aboard the Dobbin.

U.S.S. Dobbin muster roll, July 1945
Source: Fold3, U.S. Navy Muster Roll of the Crew, U.S.S. Dobbin, 1 Jul 1945

World War II Naval History

More searches on Fold3 and Newspapers.com™ revealed military histories and news articles that gave more context to the role of the U.S.S. Dobbin in World War II. The ship was commissioned in 1924, and by the end of 1941 ship reports show she was anchored north of Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, as part of the Destroyers Battle Force, Flotilla One.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin - December 7, 1941 front page
Source: Newspapers.com, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Dec 1941

The commanding officer of the U.S.S. Dobbin wrote the following in the ship’s history at the end of WWII. During the attack at Pearl Harbor, the Dobbin, “was subjected to enemy plane attack and had three near bomb misses, which caused considerable personnel casualties, resulting in the death of two of her crew.”1

U.S.S. Dobbin U.S. Navy destroyer tender
Source: Fold3 military photo archives

Following the events of December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, various records, images and histories detail that the U.S.S. Dobbin supported war efforts with the Pacific Fleet as it ferried supplies to the fleet from locations in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. And in 1943, my grandfather became a storekeeper on that ship as they provided supplies and repairs to other ships in the fleet.

Return to Civilian Life

At the end of the war, additional muster rolls from 1946 show James was still onboard after the ship sailed her final voyage across the Pacific to San Diego, California—where the ship was soon decommissioned. With an end to both the war and the ship he served on, James Crockett was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy and returned to his wife and children in Arizona.

James Everett Crockett - US Navy
James Everett Crockett, Storekeeper 3rd Class, US Navy, 1943 – courtesy Crockett family photo collection

It was amazing to see how a collection of documents and photos created over 75 years ago provide so much more color and context behind such a notable point in world history. Grandpa died nearly two decades ago. Learning new things about him has allowed me to better appreciate and love the man I knew in my youth. What a great reminder to me that our ancestors have left behind a treasure trove of clues for us to follow that will help us better understand their lives and legacies.

Find out how you can learn more about the details of your family members’ lives by starting a free trial today with Ancestry®.

1 – U.S.S. Dobbin (AD3) – Ship’s History, J. T. Warren, USN (Commanding Officer), 9 Jan 1946, www.fold3.com/image/302099327