All In the Family: Small Town Boy to American Hero

Today marks 77 years. It was August 9, 1942, when the USS Quincy was in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, patrolling in a channel between Savo Island and the Florida Islands. In the early morning hours, Japanese gunfire attacked the ship. That morning, 370 men were killed with 167 wounded.

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One of those killed was my great uncle Earl Grimsley. While I never knew him and my grandmother rarely talked about him, when I learned about how Uncle Earl died, he became my American Hero.

Cecil Earl Grimsley was born December 31, 1920, in Mayfield, Georgia. A small community just northeast of the city of Sparta. He had 9 siblings, my grandmother being an older sister. Mayfield was a close-knit farming community where the people considered each other family.

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My Great Grandmother sent four of her sons to war; she received the 4-star honor pin a few months before the death of Earl.

Lina Grimsley was notified that her son Earl was missing in action not long after the sinking of the USS Quincy. For one year, she lived life with the thoughts and prayers of others while she waited for the final word. On August 10, 1943, they declared Earl Grimsley dead.

Earl Grimsley ranked Petty Office 2nd Class (Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class). His station was the engine room. A letter written by a surviving shipmate to my great Aunt in the early ’90s, tells that Earl attained this rank by “taking exams in competition with other men. He evidently showed himself to be a competent technician”. He tells that Earl would have been in the engine room the morning of the attack because he was in charge of a certain area there. Since this was a battle emergency, the sailors manned all stations.

In the same letter, Mr. Brown tells a little about what life was like on the USS Quincy. From four-hour watches to mechanical maintenance. The pay was $72 a month for a second class Petty Officer and everyone had a $10,000 life insurance policy. It was family, these men and boys considered their shipmates as brothers.

The food. We’ve all heard stories about food in the Navy. I just love this description, “Food was good, not fancy. Of course, in heavy weather, all we got to eat was Spam sandwiches. Coffee was always available”.

Another letter written to my great Aunt, tells a little more about the morning of the sinking. “We lost our ship on a dark stormy night after a hell of a fight. Survivors had to swim in mighty deep water during a real bad thunderstorm. It was an experience none of us will probably ever forget.” Mr. Joslin tells, “Earl as far as I know, was stationed below deck in the engine room, I know of only one person who got out alive – Ed Brown.” Mr. Brown is the same mentioned above.

Uncle Earl is buried at sea on the USS Quincy. He has a memorial at the Manila American Cemetery.

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The family placed a marker in the family plot.

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Earl has a brick at the Veterans Memorial in Sparta, Georgia.

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Do you research your family’s history? Don’t know where to begin? Ancestry is an awesome place to start. While you can signup for free and begin a free research, there is a fee to access a lot of the records.

Follow me as I share about my genealogy journey in my series All In the Family.

The real heroes of war were men like Earl.” ~ Leonard A. Joslin