U.S.S. Juneau letters may be donated to museum

Copy of a letter from William George Meeker, Jr. aboard the U.S.S. Juneau to Winifred Blohm.

Copy of a letter from William George Meeker, Jr. aboard the U.S.S. Juneau to Winifred Blohm back home in New Jersey. Meeker is believed to have perished when the vessel was sunk on Nov. 13, 1942. Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO News

A set of letters written by a sailor aboard the original U.S.S. Juneau may be headed to the Juneau-Douglas City Museum for research and display.

Assemblymember Randy Wanamaker, who’s organizing activities centered around the cruiser’s tragic sinking during World War II, said he was contacted by the daughter of a woman who held on to the letters for nearly seventy years. Winifred Blohm of New Jersey was the next door neighbor and good friend of William George Meeker, Jr. who served as a seaman aboard the Juneau. Wanamaker says Meeker wrote at least sixteen letters to Blohm.

“He became alive to me because I can remember being that person,” said Wanamaker reflecting on his early military training. “A new person, with less than a year, still learning and having a sense of wonderment about it all.”

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Wanamaker said the collection also includes postcards and Japanese documents which need translation. Blohm recently passed away and her daughter wanted to pass the documents on to Meeker’s family, but she could not find any surviving relatives. She then turned to Wanamaker to arrange a possible donation to a museum or library.

A representative of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum was not present during an organizational meeting on October 5th. But a representative of the state’s historical collections said the City Museum would be the proper place for such artifacts.

The wife of Juneau Mayor Harry Lucas sponsored the U.S.S. Juneau which was launched in Kearny, New Jersey on Oct. 25, 1941.

U.S.S. Juneau CL-52

U.S.S. Juneau (CL-52) on Feb. 11, 1942 displaying her original camouflage scheme. Photograph 19-N-28143 from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives, courtesy of the Naval Historical Center.

The U.S.S. Juneau was a light cruiser that was eventually sunk following the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Among the 687 sailors who perished were the five Sullivan brothers.

The five Sullivan brothers

The five Sullivan brothers on board USS Juneau (CL 52) at the time of her commissioning ceremonies at the New York Navy Yard, Feb. 14, 1942. All were lost with the ship following the Nov. 13, 1942 Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The brothers are (from left to right): Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George Sullivan. Photograph NH 52362 from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives, courtesy of the Naval Historical Center.

Wanamaker is leading a group that’s organizing events to mark the seventieth anniversary of the sinking on Nov. 13, 1942. He said if anyone has any old artifacts or pictures related to the first U.S.S. Juneau, then they should contact him.

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