Remembering alumnus’ sacrifice at Pearl Harbor

Edward Webb Gosselin ’40 was aboard the U.S.S. Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He was the first Yale alumnus to lose his life when America was plunged into war with Japan.
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After the attack: the U.S.S. Arizona from the port bow.

From Yale archivist Judith Schiff comes this tale of a Yale alumnus who was among those who gave their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941:

The anniversary of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 reminds us to be grateful for the supreme sacrifices made by young men of Greater New Haven and Yale. 

One of them was Edward Webb Gosselin, a 1940 graduate of Yale College, who was born in Hamden and died on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. His name, rank, and date and place of death are inscribed on a tablet in Yale’s Memorial Hall (between Woolsey Hall and the University Dining Hall), whose memorial walls inspired the design of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington.

Gosselin’s name is now inscribed on the walls of Woolsey Hall. (Photo by Kimberly Pasko)

Gosselin was the first Yale alumnus to lose his life when America was plunged into war with Japan. After being commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy in March 1941, he was immediately assigned to duty with the Pacific fleet aboard the U.S.S. Arizona. In November he was promoted to full division officer in charge of the battleship’s boiler, hydraulic machinery, and fuel supply. He died aboard when the Arizona blew up after receiving a direct hit from an aerial bomb.

Not long before his death he wrote to his parents: “Mine is a great opportunity and I’m anxious to learn something more. I feel just a little more valuable to the U.S.A. – just in case.” 

The Navy named the U.S.S. Gosselin in his honor. It was one of the first ships to enter Tokyo Bay prior to the surrender of Japan in September 1945, and the first radio broadcast from the Japanese harbor was sent from this vessel.

Today, a visitor to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor Memorial can see a rainbow-like stain in the waters above the sunken ship — a thin oil slick formed by the fuel supply that continues to slowly leak from the vessel in which over 1000 crewmen are entombed.

Yale is commemorated Pearl Harbor with a ceremony on Dec. 7.

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