ARTHUR AUGUST FLAWS
Branch: Merchant Marine
Rank: Able Seaman
Status: Died non-battle
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Bear Creek Township
Arthur August Flaws was born June 22, 1924 in Alida, Clearwater County, Minnesota to parents John Thomas and Margaret Louise Tisch Flaws. John’s parents had immigrated to the U.S. from the Shetland Islands northeast of Scotland and settled near Chicago. He moved with his family to a farm near Claire City in Roberts County, South Dakota and lived there until 1910 when he met and married Margaret Tisch, a Wisconsin native. The pair moved to a farm in the Alida area around 1920. Their children Elmer, John, and Jennie were born in South Dakota. Harry, George, Arthur, Mary and Gladys Mae were born following their move to Minnesota.
The children went to country school and after 8th grade they all helped out on the farm in Bear Creek Township. John T. was an enthusiastic member of the Bear Creek Farmer’s Club and often held meetings at his home.
Arthur registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, eight days after his 18th birthday. He had been working for the National Youth Administration, a New Deal program under the WPA. He was 5’10”, 140 lbs., with brown eyes and black hair.
Within a year Arthur had joined the Merchant Marine. The Merchant Marine is the fleet of ships which carries imports and exports during peacetime and becomes a naval auxiliary during wartime to deliver troops and war materiel. During World War II the fleet was in effect nationalized, that is, the U.S. Government controlled the cargo and the destinations, contracted with private companies to operate the ships, put guns and Navy personnel (Armed Guard) on board. The Government trained the men to operate the ships and assist in manning the guns through the U.S. Maritime Service, which was by law the official training organization for the U.S. Merchant Marine. It trained men for the U.S. Merchant Marine and U.S. Army Transport Service to transport supplies and personnel in the largest fleet of freighters, tankers, and transports in history to bases all over the world for U.S. and Allied forces. Men at the fronts depended on this important service for bombs, gasoline, shells, ammunition, food, guns, vehicles, planes, medicine, and other materials for warfare.
Arthur’s maritime service can be traced through ship’s manifests which still exist and which recorded the names and ages of all passengers and crew on each voyage.
Arthur was essentially “employed” by the Waterman Steamship Corporation. During the war, the company operated 125 vessels and employed 900 merchant marines. Waterman acted as an agent of the War Shipping Administration, which oversaw transport of war-related materials, even though its European trade routes were often disrupted by German submarines.
Arthur joined the Marchant Marine in 1943 and was sent to Sheep’s Head Bay, New York for training. Arthur was then sent to be an “ordinary seaman” (naval rating of the deck department of a ship) on the Virginia Dare. The ship had been engaged on November 17, 1943. The Virginia Dare sailed to Hull, England, then departed there on January 2 and arrived at the port of New York on January 28, 1944. Just three months later the Virginia Dare was struck by a torpedo off the coast of Bizerte, Tunisia and broke in half. The crew managed to stay on the half that flooded and were picked up a few days later. Arthur was transferred to the S. S. Madaket, also owned by Waterman. The Madaket sailed from Philadelphia in June of 1945 and landed in Marseille, France. By then Arthur was an “Able Seaman,” a naval rating of the deck department that indicates more than two years’ experience at sea and a seaman who was well acquainted with his duty. From Marseille it was back to New York, arriving on July 9, 1945.
A week after arriving in New York the Madaket set sail for Shanghai, China. It took a month to sail to China from New York. Arthur was assigned to deck maintenance. The Madaket arrived back in New York November 22, 1945. Meanwhile, World War II had officially ended in September.
In January of 1946 Arthur was assigned to the S. S. Kyska, which sailed for Antwerp, Belgium in late winter. The Kyska was a brand new cargo ship built in 1945 and good duty for a merchant marine. The Kyska left Antwerp on April 25, 1946 and arrived at the port of New York on May 4, 1945. Arthur was no longer alive to celebrate its arrival, however. He got sick with strep throat. The crew wanted the captain to drop him off in England or radio the ship closest to them that Art needed to see a doctor. Art wouldn’t do it, however, saying he wasn’t sick enough. Unfortunately, he died aboard ship on May 2, 1946. He was only 21 years old.
Although Arthur died after the official end of WWII, casualties were considered wartime until December 31, 1946. The casualty ratio of the Merchant Marine in WWII was higher than any of the other services – one in 26 men were injured or killed.
Arthur’s body was sent home to be buried in the family plot at the Claire City Cemetery, Claire City, South Dakota.