Howard Deal Merrill was born on 16 December 1917 in Utah. His father Leslie was born in Idaho. He married Eliza (Deal) in 1916. She died on 13 Jan 1918. By 1920 Leslie was attending medical school while living in Ogden, Utah. In May 1921 Leslie married Stella (Larsen) who was born in Utah. Howard had a younger sister and a younger brother.
Howard was a graduate of Ogden High School. He was appointed to the US Naval Academy in 1936. By 1940 Howard graduated from the academy.
According to the Naval Academy's Lucky Bag:
"Howard was one westerner who really didn't have to go far away to taste salt water. Plebe summer and plebe year were easy for him because he learned quickly that the Commandant's cat ranked above a plebe. He was a confirmed "Red Mike," for he found interest in things that never disturbed one's sleep or studies; he is one of the gifted few that know what to leave alone. Academics were just an easy hurdle to him, with a view of better things yet to come. Hailing from the Rockies, he brought a little of their ruggedness and determination with him. Once Ute makes up his mind, not even dynamite can change it."
"Boat Club; Boxing 4, 3; Excellence in Great Guns; 1 Stripe."
He was commissioned an ensign (service number 0085057) on 6 Jun 1940 and assigned to the battleship USS Arizona. He was a division engineer.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Ensign Merrill was on duty onboard the USS Arizona when it was hit by four Japanese bombs. The final one penetrated to the forward magazine and exploded with devastating loss of life. Ensign Merrill's battle station was the central engine room. Along with hundreds of his fellow sailors, Ensign Merrill remains entombed in the USS Arizona Memorial. He was awarded the Purple Heart. He was most likely the first Utahn killed in World War II. Fellow Utahn Mervyn Sharp Bennion, captain of the USS West Virginia, died later that day.
His cenotaph grave is at Aultorest Memorial Park, Ogden, Utah.
In August 1943 Howard's sister Dorothy christen the destroyer escort USS Merrill (DE-392) named in Ensign Merrill's honor. It provided transatlantic escort duty during the war.
The American Legion Post in Ogden was renamed the Baker-Merrill post in his honor.
Thank you Howard for your sacrifice.
Thanks to Darillyn Lamb Starr for recommending that Howard be profiled.
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smartphone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.
Ancestry records such as census, headstone application, marriage records
Newspapers.com Salt Lake Tribune 14 Aug 1945