Last Known Activity|
Birth and Early Life:
Jay Griffith was born in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, on August 26, 1920. He was raised in Massachusetts, excelled in school, and entered Dartmouth College in 1938.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Griffith began his life in the Corps on June 24, 1940, between his sophomore and junior years at Dartmouth. He was selected for Reserve Officer Training School, taking military tactics and leadership lessons concurrently with his college classes. He entered active service in January, 1942, just a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Griffith attended the Basic School at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, and joined Company L, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines as a platoon leader.
Lieutenant Griffith shipped out for the Solomon Islands in July, 1942. He was in the wardroom of the USS McCawley with a handful of friends, when an officer approached with an offer that would change his life. Captain Tom Barry recalled the incident in a 1982 interview:
Four of us were sitting in the wardroom, shooting the breeze. There was Charlie Barrett his dad was a Marine general a fellow named Ed Gilson, later killed on the Canal, and Jay Griffith from L Company. One of our headquarter colonels, Gerry Thomas, came over to us. Any of you young officers want to volunteer for airplane observing duty he asked. Trying to show how salty I was, I made some crack about the number one Marine Corps rule, Never Volunteer! But Jay Griffith was really interested. Sure, he said, besides, I have a temporary flying licence.Okay, said Thomas, pack your gear, you're going to transfer to the cruiser Astoria. He was then slated to fly as an observer on the plane that was catapulted off the cruiser. His job was to observe the landing and to keep headquarters aware of what was going on.
Tom Barry, quoted in Henry Berry's Semper Fi, Mac!
Instead of the Nasty Asty, Griffith was sent to the Vinnie Maru the USS Vincennes. He was assigned to a Curtiss SOC-2 floatplane a Seagull which would launch from the cruise's catapults to spot targets for her main batteries. Vincennes sister ship, USS Astoria, launches one of her floatplanes in 1942. Griffith and his pilot, Lieutenant William Kirby, got an early start to the war on August 7, 1942. Their Seagull was shot into the sky, and the two circled over the landing beaches of Guadalcanal, calling targets and corrections to the gunners aboard the cruiser.
Date Of Loss:
The Vincennes was caught by Japanese searchlights in the early morning of August 9, 1942. As she sounded general quarters, enemy shells began landing on her superstructure. The second salvo hit her squarely on the hangar, destroying the scout planes and spreading blazing aviation fuel across the deck. Now brightly illuminated by the fires, Vincennes became an easy target for the ruthless Japanese gunners. Jay Griffith was killed in the sinking of the Vincennes; he was probably near the hangar when it was obliterated early in the fight. His friend Tom Barry would believe that for the rest of his life:
We later heard that they tried to catapult his plane once the battle started, but it took a direct hit. Both Jay and the pilot were killed. Who knows what would have happened if he'd stayed with the 1st Marines? I guess I'm talking about the old adage about your number being up no matter what.
Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Jay Griffith Sr.
Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea