In December 1916 Edward (Barney) Lacy King Jr was born, son of Edward Lacy and Edith (Follett) King – in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Known as Barney, he joined the Naval Reserve in College and graduated in 1939 from Tulane University with a B.E (Batchelor of Mechanical Engineering) Degree.
After University, Barney worked as a draftsman and machine designer at Higgins Industries Inc., the company which designed PT boats used as landing craft, before moving to New York as a test engineer for the Worthington Pump and Machinery Corp.
In February 1942 while still based in New York, Barney went skiing and broke his knee-cap. In Navy Hospital undergoing treatment Barney met his future wife Helen, a nurse, and by May of that year they were married. Having volunteered for active service the previous Autumn, Barney transferred to Mobile, Alabama and Helen went with him, working as a surgical nurse. Two children followed, Karen in October 1943 and her brother in July 1945. In Mobile, Barney was appointed Lieutenant and assisted the Industrial Manager, before reporting for duty aboard the USS Croatan. In March 1944 he transferred to the Landing Craft School in Coronado, California, becoming officer-in-charge of E-8 Unit. In 1945, Barney was posted to Samar, Philippines and was the Boat Officer at the aircraft jetty of the Naval Air Base.
Tragically Barney did not live to see his newborn son. On 21 August 1945 he was killed in an accidental bomb explosion while fragmentation bombs were being loaded on to barges for disposal at sea.
The Second World War Experience Centre is especially grateful to Lt King’s daughter, Karen, who originally contacted The Centre via our Website to tell us about the family’s wartime letters. Since the initial contact, a close relationship has been built up between Karen and the Centre staff. The process of going through the correspondence has been a rewarding experience for Barney’s family – an unique opportunity to ‘get to know him’ more intimately, despite rekindling a deep sense of regret for the loss of his presence in their lives. The hard work done by Karen and family has also, needless to say, been tremendously helpful to the Centre’s cataloguing staff. The Centre counts this set of original material including extensive correspondence, photographs and associated documentation as one of its finest and most poignant collections of U.S. documentation.
Inventory of the Donation
- Large collection of original letters written by Barney to his wife Helen and his parents
- Smaller collection of letters written by Barney’s parents and his wife
- Correspondence concerning Barney’s loss sent to his wife and family by official sources and letters of condolence sent by friends and family
- Copy of the Accident Report into Barney’s death and the findings of the Investigation
- Documentation regarding Lt King’s Naval service
- Other materials, including copies of cartoons and newspaper cuttings
Letter to Helen, May 29, 1943 – Transcript
May 29, 1943
Well I surely was surprised to get your anniversary card on the 28th. What did you do? Give it to Mr Thompson. The notes on it were nice. We had a pretty good time in Mobile I think. Write and tell me about the Salt Lake city trip. Did you get to see a Mormon Temple?
This “life on the ocean wave” is really different to say the least. I saw a whale yesterday (the first I ever saw) and some seals today. I don’t get up on deck much but I enjoy it when I get a chance. Several of the boys have gotten seasick but so far I have not. The water is very smooth so I really have not been tested.
The chow is still pretty fair. Elected a new mess treasurer so Misseu does not have the job now. I don’t suppose he is sorry. The laundry shrank some of my clothes and busted the buttons on others. Will be an ace at putting buttons on things yet but don’t think I will take over this job when I get back! Hope you will write soon as I miss you very much. The ship’s store is open more often now and I am getting to be quite an ice cream and candy hound. I got my copy of Esquire the other day so I guess they got your change of address card. Wish I was where the weather is warmer. One would never think it is the first of June out here. I have been hooked with the 12-4 watch lately which is the reason I have not been writing much. I spend most of my time trying to get in some “sack drill” as sleeping is called. Our new room (I have been moved up to the second deck near Mr Thompson’s room) is always full of people sleeping. The beds hardly get made up as someone is always in there trying to catch up on their sleep. I think my handwriting is pretty good considering that this is being written at about 0200. I hear the noise of the engine about ½ hour after coming off watch, but the engine room is nice and warm so that is something. Well I guess that is about all of interest now. All my love to you honey, Barney.
Excerpts from Lt King’s Letters:
13 December 1941 to father
Dear Daddy: sorry to delay writing to you but I have been very busy since Sunday. We all had to report to the yards as soon as we heard about the war’s starting. Also all building has gone on 3 shifts and we are now working from 8.00-6.30pm 6 days a week. The way the war started was quite a shock to everyone as no one could believe that those little yellow ——s would do anything like that. It gets me sore to think of all the work that is in those ships just gone like that. After seeing what goes into a ship like that I would like to kill a few Japs to help pay for a dirty trick like that….The radio is playing a song “Goodbye Mama I’m off to Yokahama”. I never heard it before. Incidentally it was reported that a German sub was off the harbor today. Everybody is all excited over air raids here but I get a good laugh out of it. The Britishers are awfully bored with it as the planes only have to fly 3000 miles or else come off of a carrier traveling about 4 or 5000! So it is really quite amusing.
18 February 1942 to his mother
Have been reading a lot lately. Read several books dealing with the war. The news is sure bad lately. I have less and less respect for our friends the lousy British. It confirms my opinions of before the war. I will have even more trouble being civil to them than before. I guess we’ll have to win the war in spite of them as well as the Japs. Thank goodness the Chinese and the Russians hold up their end O.K. I hope Churchill gets kicked out. I hear that Ernie has been sent to Samoa. I guess the boys are pretty well spread around. I hope too many of the boys don’t get in jams before we discard all British leadership and do our own thinking.
12 May 1945 to his wife
It is hard for me to express in writing how much I miss you. It’s been so happy for us both to be together. When I think of all the time we will be together, it sort of lessens the temporary sorrow at our being separated now. Think of how it will be when we are back together for always. Am so glad you are feeling well. Good night honey. Will dream of you again tonight.
26 June 1945 to his wife
We took a boat trip to Corregidor today and I got sunburned on the way back. I had some pictures taken around there and will send them home when I get them…We looked all over the island and in the hospital cave where the last fighting took place. There were dead Japs all over the place and I thought of sending Pack his Jap skull, but most were still being used slightly. We got some pens and stuff out of the pockets and one of the fellows got 2 bayonets. I got a rifle and other papers. There were a lot of helmets, canteens etc lying around. The Japs were pretty ripe and one of the boys got sick. We took our guns along because there were still a few Japs around. We could hear shots now and then and the Army gets 1 or 2 every day or so.
Transcript of letter to Helen
July 5, 1945
Well honey here I am again. The “glorious 4th” went by here with out much of a ripple. I certainly do remember the ones we used to have at the bluff. Worked on a couple of nose fuse paperweights for Daddy last night. My various projects are coming along OK and I’ll send your box on out soon. So far none of your boxes have arrived. Some fellows got some yesterday mailed the 5th of May so in the future I imagine it would be best to send anything air mail. Took some pictures of the place but we have no way of getting them printed. The negatives came out fine, but no way to have them printed.
Am enclosing a money order for $100. I thought you could get the evening dress I spoke of and really make it good! Am looking forward to your pictures and your assurance that they’ll be sent makes me feel better. I’m really sorry that I have to do my looking at something like that second hand. I could do so much more first hand!
I guess this letter will be a short one. Not much has happened since I last wrote. Of course as you can gather, I miss you all the time and look forward every day to the time when we will be together again. The rainy season seems here to stay. We have a time keeping dry even in a Quonset hut. We made curtains to drop down over the windows, but sometimes the rain gets in anyhow. I fixed my jeep up with regular vacuum wipers instead of the standard hand type and that is a help. My sport type raincoat made from the parka works well also.
Well honey, I guess this is all for now. Will write a better letter tomorrow. I hope you are feeling OK. Take care of yourself as you are very important to me. All my love Barney.
Excerpt from Lt King Letter:
13 August 1945 to his wife – this was the final letter as Lt Edward Lacy King Jr was killed 8 days later
If the news is favorable tonight, perhaps I’ll be on the way home before long. It can’t be too soon…Glad to hear that you are getting the kids on schedule. They had better be on schedule well enough to have you leave them for our 2nd honeymoon. Well good night honey.