First to fall

Northfield, OH

Ensign William Ignatius Halloran
By JC Sullivan

"The telegram of his death arrived at 2:30 a.m., Friday, December 12th, by a Western Union kid in an olive drab uniform riding a bike in the dark," recalled Laurence Halloran. He slept in a sleeping bag in the cold attic of the Halloran home at 3311 West 100th St. His brother John had awakened him to show him a telegram that "looked like it had four stars on it." He stumbled down the stairs from the dark attic to read it.
"The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son Ensign William I Halloran United States Naval Reserve was lost in action in performance of his duty and in the service and in the service of his country x The Department extends to you its sincerely sympathy in your great loss x to prevent possible aid to our enemies please do not divulge the name of his ship or station x if remains are recovered they will be interred temporarily in the locality where death occurred and you will be notified accordingly." It was signed by C.W. Nimitz, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.
That's how Laurence Halloran described receiving notice that the family's eldest son and brother, a U.S. Navy ensign, was dead, the first Ohioan and Clevelander to fall in World War II. "The family was shocked and sat, wondering," said Laurence. "Then Dad and I went to Mass at St. Ignatius that morning."

Bill was a 2nd generation Irish Catholic, grandson of Irish-born John and Canadian-born Edna Halloran, son of Laurence J. and Rose Estelle (Stella) (nee McGuire) Halloran. The family were parishioners at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, a few minutes' walk from their home on W. 100th St. "We always went to Mass as a family. I was an Altar Boy and then a choir member." They practiced at lunchtime, every Friday and then on Sunday too. "Bill wasn't; I don't think he had the voice for it." Their parish priest, Fr. McManus was a prisoner of war from the Philippines. He later died on a prison ship that was strafed by American fighters in Tokyo harbor.
Bill had graduated from Cathedral Latin High School, then located on E. 107th St. off Euclid Avenue. He served as Editor of the school newspaper, The Latineer. He attended Cleveland's John Carroll University for two years, which was then located on the 3rd floor of St. Ignatius High School building. He opted to complete a degree in Journalism at Ohio State University. "He really wanted to go to Marquette but we had no money to do it so it was off to Ohio State where he worked as a page in a sorority to get a meal," Laurence recalled.
Ever energetic and socially conscious, at Ohio State he was president of the Catholic Newman Club and president of the University's Interracial Council. "It was an interracial group, which was way before its time," said Laurence. "Saying or doing it was rough for anybody that had a different color." Bill was on the editorial staff of The Lantern, the Buckeye school newspaper, where he was described as being "well liked, sincere in his aims and beliefs." In 1938, with his degree in hand, the former Shopping News paperboy accepted a position with United Press in Columbus and in 1940 he advanced to the Cleveland Bureau as Sports Editor.
Laurence gives us a glimpse into Bill's spirituality and that of the Halloran family when he quotes him saying that war was "...impractical, crazy and un-Christian." He added that "he was a lot of fun, loved sports and organized local teens into baseball teams." Even though Bill was nine years his senior, they got along well. "I was his team's batboy. When we needed a football, Bill bought it, as he was working. He was just a prince of a guy. Everybody liked him. We were always into sports. Bill started a team with guys that didn't have any money but "give me a dime and a buck a week" but that was living and doing with friends and the like. I enjoyed being his brother. After he joined the Navy he wrote and asked if I had joined the scouts yet. Growing up we used to hike along in the woods where you could do things. Other neighborhood kids felt the same way about him because Bill Halloran would get things going. He was that way." Laurence says his brother Bill 'left a spark'..."and that's the way I, my wife and my kids have lived."
Laurence shared Bill's spirit and sense of patriotism and insight about the upcoming war when he wrote in another letter "...But when I'm able because I'm young and have a good job I can do it, in so many words, I will do it. Others have less chance to give for their country." Laurence said Bill realized early that we would end up a war with Japan. "And they were actually applying for peace in the capital the day before Pearl Harbor. Anybody who reads about Bill, or knew him, will understand what he meant for the country and the Knights. Our Knights are good as they do so much for those who need support in one way or another."

On August 15, 1940 he volunteered for active duty in the Naval Reserves. In a letter to his supervisor before leaving he shared his feelings of patriotism and his Catholic social conscience when he wrote "I want you to know, Ralph, why I feel I should go. Some people will say I'm crazy perhaps but - first of all you know I'm no militarist. I don't believe in war as a means of settling international differences. It's not so much the horror of it but the fact that it's impractical, crazy and un-Christian...I wish we could get along without such a tremendous armament program and devote the money to improving our civilization. But when there are wolves and brigands about it is not well to go unarmed. So let us arm and learn how to use these arms."
Upon entering active duty the peaceful and soft-spoken twenty-six year old young man attended the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School at Northwestern University where he received his commission as Ensign.
His first assignment was the Naval Air Station at San Pedro, California. Afterwards his assignment was to the Battleship West Virginia at the U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Three days before the attack classmates at Ohio State received a postcard from him that had been mailed at sea from the USS Arizona where he was temporarily 'attached.' Both the Arizona and the West Virginia were sunk during the raid. Ironically, President Roosevelt had ordered the deployment of the vessel from San Pedro to Pearl Harbor out of fear the west coast would be the target of any enemy attack should war break out.
December 7th, 1941, in the words of Presiden Roosevelt, was a day that will "live in Infamy." That was when the Japanese navy attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was also the birthday of Stella Halloran. 1,177 sailors aboard the USS Arizona died when the ship was bombed and capsized. Among those entombed is Bill Halloran.
Following December 7th, his brothers Laurence and John, joined the Navy during the war. Lawrence actually served aboard the USS Halloran. It survived kamikaze hits during the battle for Okinawa that killed four, wounded twenty-three and put 304 holes in the ship. Now in his nineties, he's the only Halloran family member living. His brothers, sister Estelle and his parents have all passed on. Over his home flies an American flag that was flown over the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. He also has the battle flag from the ship which has 48 stars signifying their actions in the Pacific. Sadly, the ship was decommissioned and sold for scrap after the war.
When the Navy Department announced a junior destroyer was to be named in honor of Halloran, the West Park Council was in the midst of a War Bond campaign sponsoring a Fighter Plane. When they learned of Halloran's death, and feeling deeply appreciative of the honor bestowed on one of its members, they decided that something should be done in appreciation of this signal honor.
Council Officers convened and determined that Council 2789 would sponsor a $5,000,000.00 War Bond Drive for a destroyer. "My mother became active in the Gold Star Mothers. She began public speaking on Cleveland's Public Square in support of the effort. "There would be three or four thousand people standing there at these rallies. Mom talked a lot at these rallies because by this time people were being killed in Europe and other places. She became active in the affairs of the God Star Mothers.
The National Knights of Columbus raised one million dollars and a destroyer named USS Halloran was to be christened on January 14th at 3:48 pm at Mare Island, California by Mr. & Mrs. Halloran. Laurence wasn't able to be there but he said "The night before a Navy Admiral hosted them for dinner. There she practiced and practiced hitting the bow of the ship with a champagne bottle. The next day on the stand were mom, dad and my brother John. Well, Mom did a good job of christening."
Back home from California they received a letter from the White House. "A three cent stamp was on it with Mom's name in gold letters - Estelle McGuire Halloran. She had been made a member of an exclusive society - Sponsors of a United States Ship. "She was invited to the White House and met President Truman and his wife Bessie. About four years later she met Mamie Eisenhower."

In the 1980s Laurence and his mother visited the USS Arizona, a ship that is still in commission because her crew of 1,177 sailors is still aboard. The Hawaii State Council and Fourth Degree Knights from Council 7156 hosted them at a dinner honoring their son and brother. A group of California Knights headed by San Francisco brother Knight Van Valkenburg were also present to honor the family's sacrifice.Current Hawaii Historian and native Chicagoan Victor M. Abbatiello, Council 7156, was among those honoring Ensign Halloran. Fourth Degree Knights from Hawaii took part in ceremonies aboard the ship in commemoration of the attack. They prayed for all still aboard and especially remembered Ensign Halloran.
"We had the Admiral's Boat to take them out to the Arizona, which is a great privilege. We had a wreath laying ceremony. We then went inside the foyer where they saw his name engraved. They were very impressed. That evening the family was treated to dinner where they reminisced about his boyhood, the things that siblings talk about."
A dormitory at Ohio State, "Halloran House," was named for him and his portrait hung within. Halloran Park on Cleveland's W. 117th St., near the family home, was named for him.

Throughout their lives the Halloran family has remained devout Catholics. Laurence attended Ohio State and became President of the Ohio Valley Newman Clubs encompassing Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia. He later went to Washington as National President of the Newman Clubs. At Ohio State Laurence met the woman he would end up marrying three years later, after the war ended. "I give Bill credit. Because of him I, too, joined the Newman Club."
Although we cannot know where Ensign Halloran's Catholic life would have led him, it is obvious by the testimony to his character and spirituality that he would have remained faithful to the founding tenets of the Knights of Columbus - charity, unity and fraternity.

The author is a military veteran and a widely-published writer residing in Northfield Village, Ohio.

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