Our Family and WWII

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a couple of years now as it was one of the most interesting history lessons I had early on when I started doing my genealogy in 2006.

December 7th marks the anniversary of Pearl Harbor and my great-uncle,  Lorenza McNair (1921-2005), was in the military during this time of war.  I’d always heard from my mother that after he returned, he told the family that if they had any questions about what happened, they’d better ask then because he was never going to talk about it again.  To the best of my mother’ s knowledge, he never did.

Lorenza McNair

Lorenza’ s military records show that he was a crew member on the USS Neosho when it was attacked during the Battle at the Coral Sea on May 7, 1942.   This is the last picture taken of it after it was bombed; 80% of the crew were killed during the attack and my uncle was one of 123 people rescued when the ship was found 4 days later; he was wounded in action.   This picture comes from a very thorough account of the ship and it’s activities from a man named Del whose uncle was also one of the rescued.

You can read more about the intense action of that day on Del’s website. He also has a video interview of his father and his uncle with his uncle describing some of what happened that day. This was very moving for me to watch as my own uncle was part of it too.   There’s been a book written about the USS Enterprise that I should read – The Big “E” by Edward Stafford.

Lorenza’s next military service was then on the USS Enterprise, which he joined in October 1942.  The USS Enterprise was the US ship with the most battle stars during WWII.  While he was on the USS Enterprise he was also involved in several more battles:

In November 1943, Lorenza then transferred to the USS Hornet. The Hornet deployed in 1944 and began it’s career with a series of raids against Japanese bases in the Caroline islands; Lorenza’s records show he was on the ship during this time.

According to my grandmother,  her brother was the 1st black man from Plymouth to join the Navy.  There was a newspaper write-up about him that I have, but it does not have the date on it.  One of my future research tasks is to see if I can find out when this was published.  However, the article gets the order of his ship service wrong, having him listed as being on the Hornet first and then the Enterprise.















After I learned all of this, I realize it is no wonder Lorenza did not want to talk about his service.  This was certainly a traumatic experience.  I think our family was truly lucky that he did return home after the war.

I’ve added information about Lorenza to his Footnote Page.

Comments (4)

  1. Faye Simmons

    Taneya, This is a wonderful story. I Thank God for you and am proud to be a McNair. As I am sad that I never got a chance to hear Uncle Lorenza speak about his experience, I never imagined how traumatic this must have been even though my father often mentioned that he was injured in Pearl Harbor. Keep doing what you love to do. I am anticipating a book from you about the McNair family.

  2. Vernestean J. McNair

    Taneya, I too am grateful for you. My father, Jesse Lee McNair also fought in WWII. I was only twelve when he died and I did not get a chance to ask all of the questions I would have liked to. Having access to actual information about the service of one of my blood relatives is so heart touching. Thank you so much and God bless you for doing the research to make all of us even more proud to be McNairs.

  3. Aunt, Martha Braswell

    Taneya,It was great to see how you have work on this about your uncle.Thank very much.We celebrated our Veterans too on November 11th here where we live. will be looking to see whatever you can come up with. MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR.
    Love, Aunt MARTHA

  4. Tim Allmond

    I am interested in the USS Neosho because my mom’s other brother died in the attack in the Coral Sea. His name was Frank Allen Scarborough and he was aboard the 68 man life raft that was lost. The weird thing is that my grandmother (Dolly Scarborough) received a letter from a woman in Australia telling her that Frank and another man “washed ashore” and she was taking care of them. My grandmother died shortly after (my mom was only 7 at the time) but my father (who knew my mother as a child) had heard the story also.

    Any insights would be greatly appreciated.

    P.S. I think that this site is a great way to honor the brave men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. We must NEVER forget that 70 years ago today (Septemenr 1st, 1939) Nazi Germany invaded and attaked Poland. If we as a nation forget the past, then we will be doomed to repeat it.

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