This Week in Sapulpa History: Pearl Harbor was attacked, destroying USS Oklahoma & Arizona, killing sailors Albert Lewis Ward and Unknown Sapulpan

Rachel Whitney, Curator
Sapulpa Historical Museum

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, a little before 8 in the morning Hawaii Standard Time, or just before noon in Sapulpa, the attack on Pearl Harbor began. Hundreds of Imperial Japanese aircrafts of dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and fighters rained down on the Naval Base.

Within the first fifteen minutes, USS Arizona exploded. Moments later, torpedoes penetrated the USS Oklahoma; she rolled onto her side, losing her balance, and sank into the water.

USS Arizona

Of the eight U.S. Navy battleships that were on site, all were damaged, and four had sunk. Of the four battleships, USS Utah, USS Oklahoma, and USS Arizona were a total loss.

USS Oklahoma would rise again, but later sank heading to the mainland. USS Arizona and USS Utah would remain submerged. Along with these battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, and one anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer had sunk during the attack.

In less than two hours, a total of 2,404 United States military and civilians were killed during the aerial attack. Of these casualties, 68 were civilians, and 1,177 were killed on USS Arizona alone.

Two Sapulpans were crew members on board the USS Arizona. Neither sailor made it home after this day.

The townsfolk of Sapulpa did not receive word of who among the casualties were from their families for a few months. But then the press released a single name of the known fallen hero from Sapulpa.

Albert Lewis Ward graduated from Sapulpa High School in May 1939. He joined the Navy exactly two years prior to the Attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1939.

“Seaman Ward, whose hobbies were art, drawing, and printing, was a member of the Printers’ Club in high school and served as a linotype operator in the navy. Following his graduation from Sapulpa High School, he was employed at the Rogers Bakery until the date of his enlistment in the United States Navy. He made his home with his aunty, [sic] Mrs. Joe Gault, 200 S Mounds.”

His image was next to this print pleading to people of Sapulpa to “buy war bonds now!” “This Creek County boy [is] not coming back. For him, life’s span is ended. He gave up the right to live and earn money so that we could live and earn money. Tomorrow all bonds sold in Sapulpa will be dedicated to his memory. Remember him.”

In his honor, a Memorial Assembly was held at the high school. On March 17, 1942, “a patriotic pageant entitled ‘Our American Heritage’ was presented by a large cast of students. Special guests for the assembly at the high school were his aunt and uncle.”

The same year, the yearbook staff for the high school held a meeting for new officers in the upcoming year. “The yearbook dedication closed the assembly with Mr. Davis, director of the yearbook, and John Young, president of the senior class, [that the yearbook] being dedicated to Albert Ward, the first casualty of the war from Sapulpa.”

In late January of 1944, Mrs. Joe Gault, Ward’s aunt, received a notice that Seaman Albert Ward had received the Purple Heart. The medal was awarded posthumously to the first class seaman, “for [his] military merit and for wounds sustained in action.”

Mrs. Gault received many letters and phone calls from the townsfolk. She stated “during his training period, Ward sent many fine sketches he made…” as she reflected how Albert loved the arts.

Additionally, in his honor, the American Legion in Sapulpa preserved his name to their unit. The Frye-Ward American Legion was dedicated to the “first body” of the Great War and World War II. “The first body received here after World War I for burial was not a Sapulpan. He was a Kansan: Royal Lester Dahrens was killed in action July 24, 1921. Charles Berryhill was the first Sapulpan returned here for burial after this war. He was buried in 1922, also killed in action…Another Sapulpan, Roscoe Frye, was killed in action in World War I. He is buried in France.”

Today, Seaman First Class Ward is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial in Hawaii.

For years, only one name appeared to be known, honored, and recognized for his life, death, and duty. In 1995, the Herald printed “Albert Ward has officially [been] considered the first Sapulpan to die in the war…However, there may have been another local who perished.” As far as the records show, there was one other Sapulpan killed at Pearl Harbor. There were only a handful of mentions of the unknown seaman. It wasn’t until 1995 when someone in the community noticed that there was another fallen hero among the USS Arizona casualties. 

In an investigation, a local citizen dug deep to find the name of the unknown hero. Thanks to Dale Thresher, he discovered the name of the mystery man. On August 14, 1945, an issue in the Sapulpa Herald released pages of fallen and returning military servicemen from Creek County. Thresher stated “he found the man listed in the Oklahoma Chronicles [July 27, 1943].”

Signalman, Third Class, U.S. Navy, Loy Raymond Broome was born on July 4, 1916 and lived at 136 W Lincoln with his mother, Mrs. L.M. Brown (possibly Lula Mae Brown). He apparently enlisted in the Army when he was 18. Loy Broome was stationed at Fort Ringgold on the Mexican Border for three years. He later joined the Navy on January 7, 1938.

After learning his name, research found that there was a single memorial dedicated to Signalman Loy Broome in a Sapulpa paper. On June 16, 1944 the Sapulpa Herald published a similar “buy war bonds now!” dedication to Loy Broome like for Albert Ward.

It stated: “Don’t let this boy down! Petty Officer Broome…was serving the fourth year of his enlistment in the Navy at the time of his death. Posthumously he was awarded the Purple Heart. It was presented to his mother, Mrs. L.M. Brown. Two brothers of Petty Officer Broome are now serving with the armed forces. They are: Sgt. P.L. Broome, who is now taking his basic training in Florida; Sgt E.M Broome, a staff cook at the baker school at San Francisco, Calif. Another brother, Stanley Broome, recently received a medical discharge from the armed forces.”

According to the National Purple Heart Hall of Fame for the list of recipients, Signalman Broome is not included to this list, at least not online via their website. However, in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned that those who were wounded or killed in action during the Attack on Pearl Harbor would receive the Purple Heart.

This is dedicated to all veterans and serving military personnel. On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Tuesday, December 7th, 2021, around noon, we honor our lost heroes, Albert Lewis Ward and Loy Raymond Broome.