In Memory of
U.S. Naval Seaman Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Minnehaha County

January 28, 1930 – June 9, 1953
Died of Injuries while Serving Aboard the USS Lipon, Yokosuka, Japan

Eugene “Gene” Francis O’Connell was born on January 28, 1930, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to John J. O’Connell and Marie H. O’Connell. Eugene had eight siblings; his brothers were Ralph, John Jr., Joseph, James, Duane, and his sisters were Lucille, Ruth, and Helen. He lived in Sioux Falls all of his life, where he attended schools and graduated from Sioux Falls Cathedral High School in 1949. Eugene is remembered as being quiet, strong and handsome with “movie star looks.” He loved to help people and was a friend to all who knew him. He was also interested and enjoyed all types of sports, including baseball, where he once pitched a one-hit game in a local league game in Sioux Falls. Before he entered the service, he worked for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls while a member of the Naval Reserve.

Eugene was activated and trained in San Diego, and was then assigned duty to the USS Uvalde. Although he shipped out for duty overseas in the fall of 1950, he returned to the States every three or four months as the USS Uvalde returned for supplies. His last letter home was dated April 28 [1953], and was written home with stationery from the USS Uvalde. It read, in part:

We arrived yesterday, was very happy to get your letter. Most happy to hear Dad’s X ray shows improvement.

About 10 minutes before we left Oakland, we had a fire on the ship. It wasn’t big at all. But we had a big send off with about 6 fire trucks there. It was quite warm all the way across. The best trip we have had yet. We are in Yokosuka now, we are leaving for [unreadable] tomorrow….

At some point prior to his death, Seaman O’Connell was transferred to duty aboard the USS Lipon, a tugboat. At Christmas-time of 1952, Seaman O’Connell was home on leave for the last time.

On June 8, 1953, while working on the USS Lipon near Yokosuka, Japan, Seaman Eugene O’Connell fell about 25 feet into a concrete drainage area and suffered a fractured skull and severe neck injuries. According to his family, he lived until the next day and died on June 9, 1953, in a Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, the same day his family was informed of his death by a telegram. He was 23 years old. His brother, Duane, remembers that Eugene’s death had a great impact on him as he was only eleven at the time. He wrote of his brother, “We were very close as I idolized him and followed him around when he would come home on leave. Hence he called me ‘Shadow’ for following in his tracks whenever I could.”

Eugene’s body was kept in cold storage and was shipped home for his funeral in Sioux Falls on July 15, 1953, at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The family was able to view Eugene’s body through the hermetically-sealed glass covered coffin. They were comforted to be able to see him before burial; his brother said, “At least we knew we had him back.” He was buried with full military honors at St. Michael’s Cemetery.

Eugene O’Connell was awarded the National Defense Service Medal for his service to his country.

Currently only Eugene’s brother, Duane, survives him.

Ruth with brother, Eugene, aboard the USS Lipon in 1953

Miranda Reed 8th grader at Spearfish Middle School in Spearfish, South Dakota, May 11, 2004, respectfully submitted this entry. Ms. Marilyn A. McCollar, cousin of Eugene, Sioux Falls, South Dakota provided information for this entry; information was also obtained by an application for a South Dakota bonus and by newspaper clippings. Additional information and profile approval by Duane O’Connell, brother.