Seaman 1st Class Frank Sanborn (1925–1946)

Frank Sanborn (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
Home StateCivilian Occupation
DelawareMill worker at Continental Diamond Fibre and/or projectionist at State Theater
BranchService Number
U.S. Naval Reserve8151607

Early Life & Family

Frank Sanborn was born in Newark, Delaware on July 7, 1925, the son of Italian immigrants Nicholas (who worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, 1883–1979) and Mary Anne Sanborn (née Charamella 1894–1951).  He had two brothers and five sisters.  The Sanborn family was living at 131 South Chapel Street at the time of the 1930 and 1940 censuses. 

When Sanborn registered for the draft on July 7, 1943, he was living at 131 South Chapel Street, across the street from his employer, the Continental Diamond Fibre Company.  He was described as standing 5 feet, 5½ inches tall and weighing 129 lbs., with black hair and brown eyes.  An April 19, 1946 article in the Wilmington Morning News stated that “Before entering the Navy he was a motion picture operator at the State Theatre in Newark.”

Military Career

Frank Sanborn (Courtesy of the Newark History Museum)

Sanborn joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in September 1943.  (Presumably he was drafted, since with a few exceptions, voluntary enlistments into the U.S. armed services closed at the end of 1942 under Executive Order 9279.)  His father Nicholas gave the date as September 17, 1943 when applying for a headstone for his son, though a government official reviewing it penciled in a correction: September 22, 1943.  The State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record filled out by his father stated that Sanborn began his career at the Bainbridge Naval Training Station.  Sanborn was promoted to seaman 1st class on an unknown date.

A May 9, 1946 letter by Nicholas Sanborn to the Delaware Public Archives summarized Frank’s career:

He trained at Bainbridge Md. then he went to [Naval Air Station] Sanford, Fla.  Then to Shoemaker Calif.  Then by air to Pearl Harbor.  After Pearl Harbor he went to sea Duty to these places.  [Saipan], Guam, [Iwo Jima], Tokyo Bay – Bougainville – […] we don’t know just where he went first.  The war was nearly over when he left for those places.

I have been able to learn very little about Sanborn’s military career beyond what his family provided in various documents.  I was unable to locate his name on any U.S. Navy muster roll currently indexed on or Fold3.  In the application for headstone or marker, Sanborn’s father stated that Frank served aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Considering the possibility that the indexing process might have missed his name, I examined the Enterprise muster rolls from mid-1944 through early 1945.  Sanborn’s name did not appear on the rolls when the aircraft carrier was in combat in the Marianas (though he could have been there after those islands were secured) or Iwo Jima, and the ship did not participate in surrender ceremonies at Tokyo Bay.

A 1942 photo of the base at Melville, Rhode Island taken by Torpedoman’s Mate Third Class Eric Neilsen (Navy History and Heritage Command)

Nicholas Sanborn stated that his son was stationed at Melville, Rhode Island when Frank was injured in an accident on March 22, 1946.  The April 19, 1946 article in the Wilmington Morning News stated that he “died Tuesday in the Naval Hospital at Newport, R. I., from injuries sustained in a fall in his barracks several weeks ago.”

An April 18, 1946 article in The Newark Post stated: “Due to be released this week, young Sanborn had been in the Navy for 31 months and saw overseas service in the Pacific theatre.  He was a student at Newark High School when he entered the Navy and had served as movie projectionist in Florida and at the State Theatre here.”

After services on April 22, 1946, Sanborn was buried in the St. John’s Roman Catholic Church Cemetery in Newark.  He was the last man with a connection to Newark who died while serving in the military during the World War II era, which officially ended on December 31, 1946 by proclamation of President Truman.


Dates of Service

Oddly enough, Sanborn’s father wrote in the Individual Military Service Record that Frank Sanborn joined the U.S. Navy on September 17, 1942 (a year earlier than other sources) and remained there until January 1, 1943.  Since the official reviewing the headstone application gave a date of September 22, 1943, Sanborn registered for the draft in July 1943, and a newspaper article stated that Sanborn had been in the U.S. Navy for 31 months at the time of his death, it would seem Nicholas Sanborn meant to write that Sanborn was at Bainbridge from September 1943 until January 1, 1944.


Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives and Newark History Museum for the use of their photos.


Applications for Headstones, compiled 01/01/1925 – 06/30/1970, documenting the period ca. 1776 – 1970. Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

“Frank Sanborn Dies From Injures Received In Fall.”  The Newark Post, April 18, 1946.  Pg. 1.

“Joseph Sanborn.” The News Journal, October 9, 2013.  Pg. B10.

“Sailor From Newark Fatally Hurt In Fall.”  Wilmington Morning News, April 19, 1946. Pg. 2.

Sanborn, Nicholas.  Frank Sanborn Individual Military Service Record, dated May 10, 1946.  Record Group 1325-003-053, Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware.

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930.  National Archives at Washington, D.C.

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940.  National Archives at Washington, D.C.

World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. National Archives at Washington, D.C.

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947.  Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System.  National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri.

Last updated on May 27, 2021

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