When I first told you about finding my father-in-law’s 1942 photograph of his company at boot camp, I mentioned starting to research the men who signed the back of his copy of that picture. The first signature on Frank Stevens’ photograph was that of a Rockford, Illinois, man named Sherwood J. Hanford.
With a name like that, surely I’d find quite a bit of information online. That would be easy to search!
It didn’t take me long, though, to find an entry for him at a website featuring the vessel in which he served during World War II. I even found his picture—bright eyes, great smile, really personable, full of life and potential—and then found out why he was being featured in this site.
the monument at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, duly noted in the State Summary of War Casualties from the Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Sherwood didn’t leave much of a digital trail of lifelong activities on the Web. The only thing he left behind was the memories of a very short life. And speculation over when, exactly, that short life met its end.
When news of the Trout’s demise hit the papers back home in Rockford, Illinois, I suppose it threw the Hanford family and neighborhood into that moody gray waiting period—that interminable limbo of not being sure in the face of such loss. I’d like to search through the local papers at some time and see what the headlines were for the hometown of the Hanfords. I’m sure the town shared their grief, waited along with them for further news, hoped for the best but knew, deep down, that it probably was not to be, in their case, anything but grim.
From the 1930 US Census and elsewhere, I found Sherwood’s parents names to be Zolmon Duerwood and Marguerite Henen Hanford. Somewhere online, I found a mention that Sherwood had a brother sharing his December 18, 1920 birthday. The pain of that separation must have been near unendurable—though not to minimize the loss his other, older siblings also sustained.
I sometimes wonder how closely my father-in-law, Frank, kept in touch with those comrades from his training days at the beginning of his Navy career. He often mentioned trying to find some of these friends in his wartime letters home to his folks in Chicago. I wonder what thoughts each of the trainees had about their future during those years of such turmoil. I wonder if Frank ever knew about what became of the USS Trout and its entire crew or if news like this was kept from those others deep in the midst of that war.
Whether their friendship was a passing time of camaraderie, never to be picked up again once they parted ways with each heading to his own assignment, his own destiny, their acquaintance has bestowed me with the opportunity to discover Sherwood Hanford’s—and each of these men’s—story and accomplishments, and thus to learn to appreciate their sacrifice that has benefited untouched future generations like mine.