U.S.S. WORDEN • DD 352

The Unknown Sailor

Amchitka Island Post Cemetery
Amchitka Island Post Cemetery, 1945: The white cross to the immediate left of the entrance marks the temporary grave of Don Blue, a Worden casualty. The next cross to the left is the unknown sailor. Photo by Charles Pospisil.
Front of Section K Plot 30 Back of Section K Plot 30
The current resting place of the Unknown Sailor: Sitka National Cemetery, section K, plot 30. Photo from Find A Grave, Memorial #119463966.

Of the 11 Worden sailors who went missing after the disaster, one may yet be found.

An unknown sailor is buried at Sitka National Cemetery in section K plot 30, and there is conclusive evidence that it is one of Worden’s crew. Research by Pete Fineo of Homer, Alaska, shows that the unknown sailor at Sitka was originally buried at the Amchitka Island Post Cemetery, where the Army had reported burying two Worden casualties.

Soon after Worden sank, Leland Bass and Charles Wood died aboard the destroyer Dewey and were buried at sea; Don Blue, who died aboard the transport Arthur Middleton, was buried in a temporary grave by Navy Seabees and then moved to the Amchitka Island Post Cemetery; Arthur Middleton had also run aground soon after Worden, making sea burials impossible. The other 11 fatalities were declared missing and presumed drowned.

Bits of Worden’s hulk were still occasionally visible on the rocks, and in mid-March 1943 the partial remains of a body washed ashore and was later buried.

Adjoining Don Blue in row 1 of the Navy section of the Amchitka cemetery were the remains of the unknown sailor, identified only as “X-1,” and whose date of death was not recorded on the cemetery chart. After the war, the post cemetery was emptied and the bodies moved elsewhere; Don Blue was sent home to Texas but the unknown sailor was re-interred at the nearest national cemetery, in Sitka, on 6 September 1948.

Could the unknown sailor be from Worden?

The Army thought so, and carefully recorded the discovery of the body:

UNKNOWN SAILOR, died about 12 January 1943, burial at 1600 24 March 1943. This body was washed ashore during the storm, about 100 yards from where the U.S.S. Worden sank on 20 March 1943. No identification tags found on the remains. The head, both lower arms, and lower portion of the legs being missing. There was no clothing on the remains, except for a non-issue leather belt and a piece of blue dungaree about 38” x 2” having no laundry marks. Remains were viewed by Lt. Comdr. Reed, U.S. Navy on 21 March 194[3].

Other evidence is compelling:

The 11 possible Worden sailors are: EM3c John Anderson, F1c Keith Briley, RM3c Robert Kieser, S1c Francis Musgrave, F1c William Reddeman, F2c Leo Schultz, S1c Stephen Seltz, S1c Harvey Senne, F1c Willard Shinabery, F1c Jerome Wolshock and S1c John Wright.

In any case, here we remember the sacrifice of the unknown sailor of Sitka National Cemetery.