Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A Belated Burial

Photograph of Charles Stern in uniform
This past weekend, the remains of Charles M. Stern Jr., a member of the class of 1936, were brought back to his home town of Albany, NY, for reburial nearly seventy-eight years after his death. Stern had been one of many unidentified sailors who died upon the battleship USS Oklahoma when it was destroyed during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Four hundred and twenty-nine crew members were killed by Japanese planes during the surprise attack that claimed the lives of 2,403 soldiers and civilians. Stern's remains had been interred in a cemetery in Hawaii until relatively recently, when efforts began to identify those who had previously been classified as "missing in action."

Newspaper article relating Joan Mayer Stern's experience during the attack on Pearl HarborAccording to a Dartmouth Alumni Magazine obituary in the February 1942 issue, Stern was the first Dartmouth man to lose his life in the war. He had been working in advertising ever since graduating from Dartmouth, but in 1940 had enlisted in the US Naval Reserve Midshipman's school in New York. Soon after, he was assigned to Honolulu. The following year, he married a hometown girl, Joan B. Mayer, who had only just graduated from Vassar College in June of 1941. Only few months later, he would die in service of his country while his new bride listened to the explosions from their apartment only fifteen miles away in Waikiki. After several days of waiting for some sign or message of Stern's survival, Joan accepted the worst and returned home to Albany. Soon after, she took a job at the Grumman aircraft factory on Long Island. In 1943, she was informed by the Navy that a new destroyer escort was to be named for her husband. The USS Stern launched on October 31, 1943, was stationed in the Pacific, and performed numerous roles while supporting US troops in the Philippines and during the battle of Iwo Jima before being decommissioned in 1946 with three battle stars.

To read more about Stern's life and death, come to Special Collections and ask to see his Alumni file.

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