My mother spoke quietly that it was her brother’s birthday. But, of course, he is a memory, a long-ago one, that she holds onto as she enters her 91st year.
It was summer 1945 and the telegram had arrived stating he was missing in action. The U.S.S. Indianapolis had sunk days earlier in the Pacific. It wasn’t until a year later that her brother, James Madison Flynn, Jr., was officially declared dead and a Purple Heart had been bestowed upon him and the other teenagers and young men who had given their lives to the sea.
Pasquale “Pat” Annarumo had remembered their friendship, joining other lads in Bristol at the former YMCA downtown. Their last handshake was on a cold evening on State Street, sitting on the steps on the former Knights of Columbus Hall. Their conversation had lasted an hour, talking about what teenage boys talk about. Then it was time to part, with “me going left and him going right. He left for his ship the next day. He was a great guy, a marvelous kid … reminded me of a devoted Irish Catholic.”
Louis “Duke” Medeiros remembers him as a “wonderful friend. There wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t do for anyone, any time.”
Louis “Chi Chi” Cirillo remembers him and shared a book of graduation photos of years gone by, including a beaming photo of Jimmy at age 13.
Mom had corresponded with LCDR L. Peter Wren, author of We Were There. Mr. Wren was active in the rescue of the survivors of this tragedy at sea. His harrowing recollection of the rescue and the condition of the surviving sailors, many of them still teenagers, can be read in his book. He recounts in one of his letters how many of the survivors were mentioning their mothers, as if their mothers were speaking to them.
As Mom (Shirley Flynn Mello) remembers…
James Flynn was as wonderful a person you could find anywhere. He was liked by anyone who knew him and loved by all. There wasn’t one thing he wouldn’t do for anyone at any time. He joined the Navy to serve his country, and gave his life in the war. He is missed and loved by all who knew him.