Title: Navy Chief Quartermaster, World War I, World War II
Birthdate: March 23, 1894
Death Date: May 17, 1950
Plot Location: Naval 4, Row 4, Grave 29
The O’Connell family’s roots were in Morris, Illinois, a rural community 60 miles southwest of Chicago. The family had fraternal twins in 1894, Art and Alice, although Art’s given name was Joseph Arthur. Their mother died in 1897 but their father didn’t remarry. Because he was employed as a traveling salesman for a farm implement company, they grew up with their aunt and uncle and grandmother.
Art joined the Navy in 1911 and made it his career. His service record through the Great War and the 1920s and 1930s is unknown except for his rank, which would become Chief Quartermaster by 1940. He was assigned to the battleship USS Texas that year, serving on Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic.
In 1942 she escorted cargo and troop-carrying ships between the U.S. and England. Art had remained single his entire life until he was on leave that September. He was 48 when he married Mary Hall, age 28, and then returned to the battleship known as “the Big T.”
He saw action that November as part of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. A civilian passenger on board the Texas during this mission was a reporter named Walter Cronkite who was just beginning his career as a war correspondent. He issued the first uncensored report about Operation Torch.
In the Navy, the Quartermaster’s responsibilities include navigation of the ship. Chief O’Connell played a role in the numerous voyages throughout 1943 as a convoy escort. The Texas was well-prepared for June 6, 1944 and took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, shelling Omaha beach and bombarding enemy-held towns. After that came the Battle of Cherbourg, where the ship was hit twice by German shore batteries, but dodged 67 near-misses.
Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France, took place in August where, due to heavy fog, radar was utilized to hit the assigned targets. “Big T” was one of the first warships equipped with the new technology. It arrived in New York for repairs on September 14, and Chief O’Connell retired in November to finally experience married life.
By April, 1950, Art was in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital where, one month later, he died of bronchopneumonia. The death certificate listed his marital status, unfortunately, as divorced, and his place of residence as Clinton, Iowa. Since he died at the Naval Hospital, his place of burial was in the Naval Plot at Mount Moriah.
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