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First Name: William

Last Name: Shanahan

Birthplace: Cedar Rapids, Linn, IA, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)

Rating: Signalman Petty Officer 3rd Class

Middle Name: James

Date of Birth: 22 July 1918

Date of Death: 18 February 1942 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 23 December 1941

Rank or Rate: Petty Officer Third Class

Years Served: 1940-1941

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


William James Shanahan Jr was the son of William James Sr and Florence Ann Schluntz Shanahan. They were married on 27 Oct 1917 in Cedar Rapids, Linn, IA. They were the parents of six other children; Margaret Phyllis, Robert Henry, Thomas Phillip, Patricia J. (twin), Patrick Joseph (twin), and Mary Lou Shanahan. William Sr. was a career railroad engineer and a US Navy veteran of WWI.

William graduated from St Patrick's Catholic School in Cedar Rapids in June 1936. After high school he worked to help support his family during the Great Depression as a Gazette Courier salesman and later for Concrete Materials Co. William enlisted in the US Naval Reserve, V-3, (NSN:411-08-11) on 19 Sep 1940 in Rock Island, IL. He was transferred to active service on 5 Oct 1940 and trained at the Signal School, Naval Reserve Armory in Chicago. Upon completion of his service school he was advanced in rate to Signalman Third Class (SM3). Shanahan was transferred to the Receiving Ship (RS) in San Diego awaiting orders on 3 Feb 1941.

He was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB-37) for duty. On 20 Feb 1941, he was detached from the RS in San Diego and reported as a passenger to the destroyer USS Roe (DD-418) for transportation from San Pedro, CA to Pearl Harbor. He was detached from Roe and transferred to the repair ship USS Medusa (AR-1) as a passenger for further transfer to the Oklahoma on 11 Mar 1941. He reported for duty on board Oklahoma on 12 Mar 1941. SM3 Shanahan died on board the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) on 07 Dec 1941 during the attack by the Japanese on the US Fleet.

A letter from SECNAV dated 17 Feb 1942 to Mr. Shanahan was found in the Iowa application for a WWII Service Compensation for Beneficiaries (online Ancestry.com). The letter offers SECNAV's condolence in the tragic death of your son, William James Shanahan, Jr., Signalman third class, United States Naval Reserve, which occurred at the time of the attack by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941. It is hoped that you may find comfort in the thought that he made the supreme sacrifice upholding the highest traditions of the Navy, in the defense of his country. //s// Frank Knox.

[This letter serves as notification of Shanahan’s presumptive death date]

Also found in this file was a copy of William Jr.'s, birth certificate issued on 19 July 1949. The certificate states William James Shanahan, b. 22 July 1918 in Cedar Rapids, Linn, IA to William James Shanahan, age 21, and a locomotive engineer born in Cedar Rapids, IA, and Florence Ann Schluntz, 20, a housewife of Cedar Creek, Nebraska. Date the original record filed: 24 July 1918.

After almost 78 years, the remains of SM3 Shanahan were positively identified on 31 May 2019. Burial services at St Patricks Church in Cedar Rapids, Linn, IA on 3 Sep 2019. He will be buried with his family at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Cedar Rapids, IA with full military honors. The Governor of IA ordered all flags in the state to fly at half-staff on the day of his burial. His only living immediate family member, his sister Mary Lou Shanahan Pierce, will be present.

Signalman Third Class Shanahan was (posthumously) awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with a bronze star, and the World War II Victory Medal.


SM3 Shanahan's family received a commemoration from President Roosevelt. It reads:

In grateful memory of William James Shanahan, United States Naval Reserve, who died in the service of his country at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, 8 December1942 (Presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live, and grow, and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives – in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

(signed), Franklin D. Roosevelt

President of the United States of America

[Bio #27 composed by Gerry Lawton (GML470)]

Honoree ID: 101698   Created by: MHOH




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