U.S. Navy sailor from Georgia sketched Pearl Harbor attack before he was killed in action

His story is timeless. Today seems like a good time to retell it.

Right after high school, the Adel native signed up with the U.S Navy. He hopped aboard the U.S.S. Helena, known as "the fighting ship that went in harm's way."

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Leonard Franklin Tomlinson, known as Frank, in his Navy dress blues.

Frank was a gifted artist, and when he wasn't attending to duties aboard the Helena he found time to ply his trade on one onion-skin thin piece of paper at a time.

frank

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Not quite two years after Pearl Harbor, the U.S.S. Helena was among the vessels involved in the Battle of Kula Gulf, where United States and Japanese ships met off the coast of Kolombangara in the Solomon Islands.  Japanese destroyers pointed their torpedoes in Helena's direction and she was lost.

"Any who survived the torpedo attack jumped into the shark-infested waters filled with diesel fuel, debris, bodies and body parts," Powell said. "Like any sailor whose body could not be found, Uncle Frank was declared Missing in Action."

Claimed by the sea, Frank never returned to Adel. But his sketch of Pearl Harbor survived, and on Dec. 7, the day which lives in infamy, the niece who was born after he died took it out, and remembered.

USS_Helena-CL-50-War-Bond-1943

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About the Author

Jennifer Brett
Jennifer Brett
Jennifer Brett is a multiplatform journalist and digital coach. She writes The Buzz blog for accessAtlanta.com.
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