#12 in a series
John Allan Whitefied, Merchant Marine
By Paul A. Roales
On June 16, 2012, at the flea market at the Tulsa, OK Fairgrounds, I bought a Memorial Service Bulletin for John Allan Whitfield. The bulletin was printed aboard the United States Army Transport Maui during World War II and appears to mark his burial at sea. Research has revealed considerable information about the USAT Maui, and a little about John Allan Whitfield.
The bulletin is 4 mimeographed pages and measures 8”x5.25” in size. The Memorial Service was held “AT SEA” on Palm Sunday, March 25, 1945. Inside it states that John Allan Whitfield was born October 10, 1890 and died March 18, 1945. Why was his service held a week after his death. Was it a burial at sea service or is this bulletin only a Memorial Service for an earlier burial?
The third page of the bulletin contains the “Order Of Service” and lists USNR Lt. Nathaniel Wheeler as Organist, US Army Lt. Estes D. Sherrill as Bugler, and US Merchant Marine Cleddy Murphy as Soloist for the ceremony. The “Order Of Service” includes the Prayer of Committal and Taps. The back of the bulletin contains a poem by Gerald J. Holman titled “Scotty”. Since I can not find any record that this poem was previously published I am assuming it was written for this ceremony. So why is it titled “Scotty”? Was that John Allan Whitfield’s nickname?
Here is what I do know. Maui was built as the commercial passenger ship SS Maui in 1917 for the Matson Navigation Company of San Francisco. Matson placed her in service between the United States West Coast and Hawaii. The U.S. Navy acquired Maui from Matson on 6 March 1918 for World War I service as a troop transport, and commissioned her the same day as USS Maui. Maui made transatlantic voyages carrying United States Army troops to Europe on her outbound voyages and bringing passengers and sick and wounded military personnel back to the United States on her return voyages until the end of the war in November 1918. After the war, she conducted voyages to bring American troops back to the United States for demobilization. In September 1919, Maui was decommissioned and returned to Matson. The ship re-entered commercial service as SS Maui and resumed passenger service between the United States West Coast and Hawaii. Due to the difficult economic circumstances prevailing during the Great Depression, she was laid up at San Francisco in 1933. In 1934, Maui was converted into a cargo ship and returned to commercial operations. In December 1941, the United States Army purchased Maui for World War II service, converted her into a troop transport, and placed her in service as the United States Army Transport USAT Maui. Her first voyage in Army service was from the United States West Coast to Honolulu, Hawaii, in late 1941. She operated in the Pacific Ocean for the remainder of World War II, carrying personnel and cargo to Alaska, the South Pacific, the Southwest Pacific, the Philippines, and, after the end of the war in August 1945, to Japan. Maui completed her Army service in early 1946 and was laid up in mid-1946 at Olympia, Washington. She eventually was transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal and was scrapped in 1948. She had a displacement of 9,730 tons, length of 501', beam of 58', draft of 30' 2", and a top speed of 18 kts. Her armament was four 6" mounts, two 1-pounders and two machine guns. Her propulsion was two 5,000ihp steam engines, two shafts.
From the Tenth Fleet Ship Movement Card records and the Op-23-L-2 Armed Guard reports it appears the USAT Maui was in port at Manila, Philippine Islands on March 18, 1945 when John Whitfield died. The records show that the USAT Maui stopped at Oro Bay after leaving Manila and then sailed from Leyte heading to Hollandia on March 25, the day the burial at sea ceremony was held. So was John Whitfield buried at sea or not? If he died in Manilla was he buried in Manila? And if he was buried in Manilla why hold a "Burial at Sea" ceremony a week later?
The "List or manifest of aliens employed on the vessel as members of crew" for the USAT Maui's voyage to Honolulu ending October 17, 1945 lists John A Whitefield (notice the different spelling of the last name) and his name is crossed out. He is listed as deceased. According to this form he was an Eng. Storekeeper. He had been at sea 8 years, and was a naturalized US citizen (naturalized in New York City in 1935) of Scotch ancestry (this explains why the poem in his Memorial Service Bulletin was titled "Scotty"). His remains were interned at Manila #1 cemetery on 3/18/45 - plot #2, row #2, grave #17.
With the correct spelling of his last name I was able to find out a little more about John Whitefield. John Allen Whitefield is listed as a Merchant Seaman, service # Z-281118
in the United States Merchant Marine. He entered the Service from California. He is now
Buried at: Plot L Row 5 Grave 56, Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines.
So this bulletin is a Memorial Service bulletin, and not a burial at sea. But another sad thing is that his name is misspelled in the bulletin.
E-mail feedback or questions to Paul Roales.You can return to Heroes: An Introduction HERE. All contents copyright 2012 by Paul A. Roales