CHIEF PAY CLERK JOHN KENNETH GORAL; U.S. COAST GUARD

March 3, 1914 (Meriden, CT) – January 29, 1945; 30 years old; married to Dorothy Jackson Goral on August 16, 1941 in Norwalk; no children
Last local address: New Canaan Avenue, Norwalk
USS SERPENS (AK-97)
MIA (at sea)

The largest single disaster suffered by the United States Coast Guard in World War II was the destruction of the USS Serpens (AK-97). The 14,250-ton ammunition ship exploded off Lunga Beach, Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands on the night of January 29, 1945.

Servicemen were loading depth charges when the USS Serpens exploded. The 250 men who died included 193 U.S. Coast Guard sailors, 56 U.S. Army soldiers, and Dr. Harry M. Levin, a U.S. Public Health Service surgeon. Of the 193 Coast Guardsmen, 17 were regular Coast Guard and 176 were reservists.

There were ten survivors. Lieutenant Commander Perry L. Stinson, commanding officer of the USS Serpens, another officer and six crewmen were ashore on administrative business. Two crewmen who were onboard survived the explosion: SN 1st Class Kelsie K. Kemp of Barron Springs, Virginia, and SN 1st Class George S. Kennedy of San Marcos, Texas. Seaman Kemp and Seaman Kennedy were awarded the Purple Heart by Rear Admiral L.T. Chalker, the Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

In July 1947, the Coast Guard still thought an enemy attack had caused the blast. However, by June 10, 1949, it was determined not to have been the result of enemy action.

Arlington National Cemetery: The 250 remains were originally buried at the Army, Navy and Marine Cemetery in Guadalcanal with full military honors and religious services. The remains were repatriated under the program for the return of World War II dead in 1949. The mass recommittal of the 250 unidentified dead took place in section 34 at MacArthur Circle. The remains were placed in 52 caskets and buried in 28 graves near the intersection of Jesup and Grant Drives. Two gravesites were reserved for the memorial inscribed with their names.

Published by jeffd1121

USAF retiree. Veteran advocate. Committed to telling the stories of those who died while in the service of the country during wartime.

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