Patrick V. O'Leary (1945/05/04)
A duty officer aboard a cruiser was given a shoebox that provided his link with the future.
Patrick Vincent O'Leary was born September 12, 1917, in West Virginia and educated in the small town of Beckley where he attended high school. Following his graduation, he enrolled in the Colorado School of Mines where he took part in an ROTC program. During the summer, he was employed by the Union Carbide Company in West Virginia.
O'Leary entered the US Navy in 1940 and after completing a special office training program, received additional training in New York City aboard the USS Prairie State. On February 28 1941, he was commissioned an ensign and assigned to the naval operations base at Norfolk, Virginia. During this period, he married Edna Mabel Roberts, who was also from West Virginia.
In June 1942 Ensign O'Leary was assigned to the cruiser USS Birmingham. He was aboard the Birmingham the following year when it left for Sicily to participate in the invasion of July 10-26, 1943. He had now been promoted to Lieutenant.
While serving as duty officer aboard the Birmingham one night at a port in Vichy, France, the French underground smuggled a shoebox aboard the ship containing a small Jewish baby girl for safekeeping. Lt. O'Leary took the child aboard, wrapped her in a blanket and obtained permission for her to depart with the ship to the United States. When he returned home, Patrick and Edna adopted the child and named her Rose Erin. When the Birmingham was assigned to the Pacific Theater, the family moved to Aptos, California, where Mabel's aunt resided.
In August 1943 Patrick O'Leary left with the Birmingham when it departed for Pearl Harbor. He served aboard the ship during the invasion of the Mariana and Philippine Islands. Following the invasion of Iwo Jima, the Birmingham sailed for Okinawa. On May 4, 1945, a Japanese Kamikaze plane crashed into the Birmingham's deck near the forward gun turret taking the life of Lt. Patrick Vincent O'Leary and fifty other men. Edna Mabel and his adopted daughter Rose Erin (Hellier-Dabbs) continued to make Santa Cruz County their home.
Lt. O'Leary's remains were returned to the United States and buried at the Golden Gate National cemetery at San Bruno in 1949.
(USDVA; DANFS, USS Birmingham CL-62; SCSn June 28, 1945; SCSn May 26, 2003 1)