Postmark USS Arizona Part II
Not long ago while perusing a well-known online auction website, I came across this used postal cover from 1935. It was originally mailed to Miss Marjorie Ogle of Glendora, California and was postmarked onboard the tragically fated battleship USS Arizona. Postal covers postmarked on the Arizona (as well as other US warships of the time) are not uncommon since commemorative covers were available by subscription service to collectors. I posted an article regarding on one of these commemorative Arizona covers here.
Above: Addressed to his future bride to be Marjorie Ogle, the envelope to Storekeeper 1st Class Herman Lincoln Schuman’s letter is postmarked March 7, 1935, on board the USS. Arizona. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia
Two things caught my eye with this cover. One was the hometown of the addressee Marjorie Lois Ogle which also happens to be where I live – Glendora, California. The second was the fact that it was not a commemorative/souvenir issue but a cover from a personal letter sent by a member of the crew of the Arizona apparently to his girlfriend or fiancé on March 7, 1935. At the time the Arizona was moored at San Pedro, California with the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Battle Fleet.
The cover (and sadly now missing letter) was mailed by Storekeeper First Class (SK1/c) Herman Lincoln Schuman and needless to say I began investigating his story even before purchasing the cover. The uneasy question in the back of my mind was as to whether Schuman was still aboard the Arizona six years later at Pearl Harbor on the Day of Infamy.
Above: The reverse side of the envelope which one held Schuman’s letter to his future wife identifying the sender as a member of the ill-fated battleship’s crew. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia
Herman Lincoln Schuman was born in Connecticut on February 12, 1912, to Otto and Elizabeth Schuman. Herman had two younger sisters, Grace (born about 1916) and May (born about 1919). Little can be known about Schuman’s early life and schooling. Scant records indicate that Schuman enlisted in the navy on March 9, 1935, and reported aboard the Arizona on the 23rd of that month – not long after James Cagney and company took over the ship during the filming of Here Comes the Navy. The very short time between enlistment and assignment implied that most of Schuman’s training took place actively onboard ship.
In the later part of 1935 Schuman would have taken part in fleet exercises and made port at Balboa, Panama. Budget cuts led to the ship being held in port for good portions of 1936 -1938 and in 1937 Schuman would marry Marjorie Ogle. The new couple took an apartment in Long Beach, California.
Schuman’s new bride was born at Enders, Nebraska on July 24, 1917, to George Washington Ogle and Orrilla Vennie Cooney. The Ogle family headed west in the early 1920s, settling in Glendora. Marjorie’s mother died on May 5, 1923. Exactly how a blue water sailor like Herman Schuman and Marjorie, a girl from the orange growing inland town of Glendora came to meet is for now part of the story lost to history.
Above: A section of the USS Arizona’s Report of Changes (ship’s muster book) for March 31, 1939. Herman L. Schuman is listed along with his service number – 375 50 95 – as well as his date, and place of enlistment – March 9, 1936, at San Pedro, California. His then rating is also given – Storekeeper 2nd Class (SK2c). Source: National Archives.
Fleet exercises took Schuman and the Arizona to Hawaiian waters in 1938 and again in 1940. It was then on to Bremerton, Washington for a long-needed overhaul which was completed in January 1941. The Arizona would make one final visit to Long Beach, California in June – July 1941. While Herman and Marjorie would have had a long overdue reunion, little did the couple know it would be the last time they would ever see one another.
The Arizona returned to Pearl Harbor and took part in additional training exercises in prelude to a war most knew was inevitable. Inevitable as the coming was seemed to be, the Japanese attack in the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, took a sleeping Pearl Harbor by total surprise. Soon after the beginning of the attack, the Arizona beat to quarters and battle stations were quickly manned. The crew’s gallant efforts came to naught. I rapid succession the Arizona was hit by eight bombs from Japanese warplanes. One bomb glanced off turret no. 2, pierced the deck and detonated in the forward magazine. The resulting explosion and fire instantaneously destroyed the forward half of the ship and the lives of 1,177 of the crewmen on board her snuffed out. In the immediate aftermath of the attack and during later salvage operations on the wreck many bodies were recovered but some 900 were declared unrecoverable. The ship would become their tomb. SK1/c Herman Lincoln Schuman is among those 900 whose still rest beneath the waters of Pearl Harbor.
Schuman’s widow Marjorie would remarry during the war to another navy man. She passed away at Benson, Arizona in 1998.
Above: A wartime film that combined a recreation of the attack on Pearl Harbor with actual newsreel film of the event including the massive explosion which destroyed the USS Arizona. Source: The National Archives/YouTube.
Researching Herman Lincoln Schuman has been problematic due to the paucity of military records. Only a few pages of ship’s musters have been found for the Arizona that mentions him with these being for between 1939 and December 31, 1941. Not much can be gleaned from these other than him being on the ship on a given date and his then given rating and his service number – 357 50 94. An inquiry made to the National Archives several months ago regarding acquiring copies of his service records has so far gone unanswered. Service records would provide much in-depth information relating to Schuman’s naval career. Additionally, after exhaustive searches, no photograph of Herman Lincoln Schuman has been found. Again, Schuman’s service records probably contain a photograph of him.
Note: In 2015 an extensive research project was initiated at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri into the service jackets (service records) of the officers and crewmen who died on the Arizona on December 7th. The project included digitally scanning the contents of all 1177 service jackets of those that died on the Arizona. As of May 2016, the USS Arizona Casualty Project was supposed to be completed in one and a half years and the results made public. As of this posting I have not been able to find any information online as to the current status of the project. A message to the Pacific Historic Parks – USS Arizona Memorial Facebook page as to the status of the project may answer the question as to the availability of Herman Schuman’s naval records.