Ernest Davenport: Washington County’s First Casualty of WWII ---- By: David Bennett, Curator at the Port o’ Plymouth Museum

Private Ernest J. Davenport was the first man from Washington County to die during World
War II. He was born on July 28, 1918, to Alexander and Pauline Davenport. Alexander
Davenport was killed in an accident when Ernest was only two years old. In 1921, Ernest’s
mother married A.L. Clifton. Clifton was a poor farmer but he strove to provide Ernest with an
education. Unfortunately, financial hardship necessitated that Ernest leave school after the 8th
grade to work on the family farm. Ernest understood the importance of education and wanted
to see his half-sister, Olean Clifton, go to college. Therefore, he joined the U.S. Army to pay for
his sister’s education. On June 23, 1939, Ernest J. Davenport was inducted into the Army.
At the end of November 1941, Ernest boarded the Cynthia Olson, a merchant ship, in Tacoma,
Washington, with orders to report for duty in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ernest, however, never made
it to Hawaii. On December 7, 1941, at 7:38 a.m. (Hawaiian Time), the Cynthia Olson was
attacked by a Japanese submarine, I-26, 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii. Before she sank,
the Cynthia Olson transmitted an S.O.S. indicating that she was “under attack by a surfaced
submarine.” Just before 8 a.m., the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by the
Japanese Imperial Navy.

Due to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy could not respond to the Cynthia Olson. There were 33 merchant marines and two U.S. Army personnel, including Ernest Davenport, aboard the ship. None survived. This incident marked the first American vessel to be sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War II.

Today, Ernest Davenport’s name can be found inscribed on the World War II West Coast Memorial, located in San Francisco, California. The memorial is dedicated to the American servicemen who lost their lives in American coastal waters during World War II.

Special thanks to the Golden Skillet, and U.S. Cellular for sponsoring this article on behalf of the Port o’ Plymouth Museum.

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Ernest Davenport: Washington County’s First Casualty of WWII ---- By: David Bennett, Curator at the Port o’ Plymouth Museum Ernest Davenport: Washington County’s First Casualty of WWII ---- By: David Bennett, Curator at the Port o’ Plymouth Museum Reviewed by kensunm on 7:30:00 PM Rating: 5

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