SFC Kenneth Eugene Graff

SFC Kenneth Eugene Graff

Horrell Township, Frontier County, Nebraska, USA
Death 6 Jul 1943 (aged 23)
At Sea
Cenotaph Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, Kansas, USA
Plot Section MA. Grave 159
Memorial ID 129838773 View Source

The USS Helena, the ship he was on, was sunk in Kula Gulf, off the coast of the Solomon Islands. His body was never recovered.
From Doug Graff Comella, who is Kenneth Graff's son:

Kenneth Graff's name appears on the Wall of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery, along with those of the other 167 men who lost their lives 6 July 1943 during the Battle of Kula Gulf, BSI, while serving on the USS Helena (CL-50).

One of those men, S1c General Preston Douglas, came home to Tennessee 5-10 years ago when his remains were discovered on one of the islands in the vicinity of where the ship sank.

http://www.exciteableitalian.com/KEG/kegmain.htmKenneth Eugene Graff was born in Farnam, Dawson, NE, the third child of four
(according to Floy’s obit) born to Harry A. and Floy Baker Graff. Harry August
Graff married Floy Baker on 07 Aug 1913. Their other children were Elaine
Loretta, Gerald Edwin and an infant son Graff who died young. Kenneth graduated
from Cambridge HS, Cambridge, NE on 04 May 1939. After graduation, Kenneth
worked as a waiter for a short time before joining the Civilian Conservation
Corps (CCC) Co. 757, at Custer, Custer, South Dakota. He was discharged from the
CCC prior to enlisting in the US Navy.

On 06 Jun 1940, Kenneth began his processing for a minority enlistment (under 21
yrs old) into the US Navy at the Hastings, NE recruiting office. After he
completed the enlistment processing, including obtaining on 14 Jun 1940 his
father's permission to enlist, Graff was sworn in to the naval service for a
period of six years on 26 Jun 1940 in Omaha, NE (NSN:316-65-61) as an Apprentice
Seaman (AS) in a group with 29 other navy recruits. Later that day the group
boarded a train for the US Naval Training Station (NTS), Great Lakes, IL, and 8
weeks of basic training (One of the other men who joined with Kenneth was Max A
Calkins of Wymore, NE. He was killed in action during the Battle of Midway when
his torpedo plane in which he was a gunner was shot down by enemy Japanese
fighters 04 Jun 1942). During recruit training, Graff was assigned to a
leadership position as Petty Officer Third Class of Company 47-40 on 31 July 1940.

After AS Graff completed recruit training at Great Lakes he was detached on 17
Sep 1940. He took a short leave period to visit family before he was to report
to the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB-37) on 20 Sep 1940 for duty. The Oklahoma was
based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She had to return to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
in early Feb 1941 to have anti-aircraft guns and armor added to her
superstructure. In mid-August 1941, she was to have had armor replaced at San
Pedro, CA. However, while enroute to San Pedro, the Oklahoma encountered a
severe storm that caused significant damage to the ship. She sailed to the
closest navy shipyard that had an adequate Drydock: San Francisco. She remained
there until mid-Oct when she returned to Hawaii after repairs were completed. On
26 Oct 1940, Graff was advanced in rate to Seaman Second Class (S2c).

S2/c Graff was on board the Oklahoma during the surprise Japanese attack at
Pearl Harbor and escaped uninjured. Because he was a deck seaman rather than a
fireman likely contributed to his survival in the attack. Many of the firemen
(engineering) personnel caught below decks when the ship capsized were killed.
Several days later on 09 Dec 1941, Graff received orders transferring him from
the Oklahoma to the Light Cruiser, USS Helena (CL-50). She also sustained some
damage in the attack. His service record was lost when the Oklahoma was sunk.
Graff reported on board the Helena for duty on 24 Dec 1941.

After a preliminary overhaul at Pearl Harbor, Helena returned to Mare Island, CA
for permanent repair in early January 1942. On 01 Feb 1942, Graff was advanced
in rate from S2c to Seaman First Class (S1c). On 6 July 1942, Graff, while still
in Mare Island, CA, failed to return to duty on time. He was deemed Absent Over
Liberty (AOL) for 24 hours. Back in action in the Pacific by September 1942,
Helena participated in numerous actions in and around Guadalcanal and the
Solomon Islands. According to service record entries, Graff received accolades
for superior performance of duty during a night surface engagement off Savo
Island against Japanese surface ships on 11 Oct 1942, and another accolade for
his performance of duty on another night surface action against the enemy on 13
Nov 1942. On 06 March 1943, Helena entered Sydney, Australia for an overhaul. It
was during this time that her crew was granted shore leave for rest and
relaxation (R/R). Helena remained in Sydney until 26 March 1943 (according to
Helena War Diary entry) when, her overhaul completed, she got underway and
returned to Espiritu Santo on 30 Mar 1943. A short time later Helena
participated in bombardments of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands.

Several months later in the early hours of 6 July 1943, Helena engaged enemy
ships in a night gun action off Kolombangara in the Kula Gulf north of New
Georgia, when she was hit by three surface fired torpedoes. She sank a short
time later with the loss of 168 sailors. One of them was S1/c Kenneth Eugene
Graff. It is not known whether he went down with the ship or did not survive the
ordeal in the water prior to rescue of the survivors. He was declared missing in
action on 06 July 1943. The Navy Dept. notified Mrs Graff via telegram dated 23
July 1943 that her son, S1c Kenneth Eugene Graff, was missing in action. Graff
was presumed dead on 10 Aug 1945. His remains were unrecoverable.

S1/C Graff was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Navy Unit Commendation
ribbon (first ship to receive this award), American Campaign Medal, American
Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Medal with seven Battle Stars, and World
War II Victory Medal. He was possibly eligible for the Navy Combat Action Ribbon.
USS Helena (CL-50) Navy Unit Commendation citation reads:
"For outstanding heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces afloat in the
Solomon Islands - New Georgia Areas. Gallantly carrying the fight to the enemy,
the USS HELENA opened the night Battle of Cape Esperance on 11-12 October 1942
boldly sending her fire into the force of enemy warships, sinking a hostile
destroyer and holding to a minimum the damage to our destroyers in the rear of
the Task Force. She engaged at close quarters a superior force of hostile
combatant ships in the Battle of Guadalcanal on the night of 12-13 November
1942, rallying our own forces after the Flag Ship had been disabled and
contributing to the enemy's defeat. In her final engagement in the pre-dawn
battle of 5-6 July 1943, the HELENA valiantly sailed

[Bio by G47]

Kenneth Graff's name is included in group memorial at Manila American Cemetery and Memorial (Metro Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines). In May 2013, an individual memorial marker for him was placed at Leavenworth National Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Additional information can be found here: http://www.exciteableitalian.com/KEG/kegmain.htm

and here:



In memory of Kenneth E Graff, S1, U.S. navy, World War II, April 9, 1920, July 6, 1943; Purple Heart, Killed in Action, USS Helena, CL 50

Gravesite Details

This is a cenotaph. He has another cenotaph at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. Find a Grave Memorial # 56788385. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56788385/kenneth-eugene-graff

Family Members