Veterans Jackson Loy

U.S.S. San Francisco

By Herb Meeker

News Report Staff

Many Effingham residents know Jackson “Jack” Keith Loy as a Navy hero from World War II.

But Lorean Macklin remembers him as a younger brother who went off to war and lost his life much too soon. Sunday will mark the 75th anniversary of the start of the first naval battle of Guadalcanal when Loy and many of his crewmates aboard the cruiser San Francisco were killed in combat. Loy’s youth is obvious in a photograph taken with him in uniform and holding a rifle.

His medals, including the Navy Cross, are on display in her home. Macklin, now 102, doesn’t recall him as a warrior, but as a cheerful boy with red hair and blue gray eyes and a talent for playing the guitar and singing.

“He liked music. He was always singing and playing the guitar. He picked that up on his own. The song he loved to play was ‘Pull off your coat and throw it in the corner. Don’t see why you don’t stay a little longer,’” Macklin said with a laugh.

She paused as she tried to recall lyrics to the old song, made popular by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

“I remember anything he was doing he was singing. I can still remember him with that old guitar over his shoulder. That was about the only entertainment he had at times,” Macklin said.

Olin Alonzo “Lon” and Carrie Loy raised seven children at their farm near the old Loy Church in Watson Township. Jack had plenty of older brothers with Ralph, Ken, Charles, and Lon Jr., in addition to his sisters, Ema and Lorean.

It was a simple life then for farming families. Macklin recalls trips to the Old Settlers’ Reunion each year in Effingham. If it rained the day of the reunion, the Loy children were pretty disappointed.

“We all rode in an old farm wagon. It didn’t have spring seats, either. It just had boards to sit on. And if it rained, we didn’t get to go to Effingham probably for anytime that year,” she recalled.

The Loy children went to Franklin School, a one-room schoolhouse that could feel very small at times.

“We had one room and one teacher and there were as many as 68 pupils there,” Macklin said.

Living in the country meant the kids made fun for themselves. Jack, along with his brothers, liked to play baseball.

As he grew older, Loy got restless. He served in the Conservation Corps, which offered work, shelter and discipline to young men during The Great Depression. So it seemed natural when Loy’s eyes turned to the military, which came out of the blue one day for his family.

“Jack and our first cousin came to the house one day and said they were going to join the Navy,” Macklin said.

Loy completed basic training at Great Lakes Naval Base near Chicago. He would later go aboard the San Francisco, a cruiser that was at anchor for overhaul in Pearl Harbor when America entered its second world war.

While Japanese warplanes bombed, torpedoed or strafed other American ships, Loy’s ship escaped damage. That is ironic because while under repairs, the cruiser had most of its weapons removed or inoperable. Some of the sailors used rifles or machine guns to fire back at the enemy planes.

On the same Sunday that her brother was involved in America’s first fight of the war, Macklin was in the hospital pregnant with her oldest son. Her husband, Perry, didn’t want anyone to tell his wife of the Pearl Harbor attack because it might involve the death of her brother.

“He told them not to tell me about Pearl Harbor. But I heard about it through the hospital staff. We eventually got word through Mom with a telegram that Jack was OK,” Macklin said.

During August 1942, Jack and his crew were steaming to the Solomon Islands, where the Allies were trying to hold off the Japanese advance into the southern Pacific and gaining a foothold next door to Australia. A lot was at stake and the U.S. Navy, along with the Army and Marines, would lose thousands of lives in a series of battles at Guadalcanal and other islands in the Solomons.

On Nov. 12 off Lunga Point, the San Francisco was flagship for a task force that included several destroyers and some cruisers, including the Juneau, which carried five brothers named Sullivan from a town in Iowa. The Americans ran into a Japanese force that included warships and planes.

The overnight battle would light up the sky with tracer fire, cannon blasts, flaming planes, fires on different decks and spotlights. It was one of the most costly battles in United States Naval History. The Juneau would be lost before most of its sailors could get over the side.

Four of the Sullivans died aboard when the magazine exploded making the ship seem to disappear. Some sailors escaped, including the remaining Sullivan brother, who died at sea. From that tragedy, the Navy prohibited brothers from serving on the same warships, which had doubled some families’ losses already at Pearl Harbor less than a year before.

Gunner’s Mate Third Class Jack Loy would die at his gun station on the San Francisco. He was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism for courageously refusing “to abandon his gun station and fearlessly remained at his gun” as an enemy torpedo plane set on fire headed toward his battle station, a Presidential Citation read. The 20-year-old kept firing until the plane hit.

Loy was among 77 of is crew killed during the battle, including Rear Admiral Dan Callahan and Captain Cassin Young. The task force had 1,439 killed during the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The Allies would later triumph in the Solomons, but at a staggering cost.

The Loy family came to grips with that cost on their own terms. A telegram now told them he was dead. They would later learn of his death through a Navy buddy with ties to Illinois. It was a hard time for the Loys.

“Some of the neighbors came over then. Some had sons serving during the same time as Jack,” Macklin said.

The name Loy would go to war again. A destroyer escort called the U.S.S. Loy was launched in five months at Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia. It would escort ships across the Atlantic and Caribbean for a year. Then it went to duty in the Pacific. It would fight off Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa in the final months of the war.

Families of Naval heroes honored with their names on warships were invited to the launchings. Macklin said the Loy family couldn’t make it.

“My parents were invited, but no one was able to go to the launching,” she said.

Everywhere in Macklin’s home in southern Effingham County – she has lived there since 1941 — there are images of her family, which keeps growing. But she has saved a special place for the photos dedicated to the brother she lost too soon. Remembering him is the greatest tribute she can offer him.

“He was the baby of the family and everyone loved him,” she said.