Trains, Ships, and Tragedy

The year, 1944, had barely begun.  Just outside New York Harbor, the ship, USS Turner, had arrived late during the evening of January 2nd and anchored near the Ambrose Light.  The next morning, explosions were heard from the ship, and it began to list.  The aerial photo below must have been taken at about that time.

USS Turner – January 3, 1944

Then at 7:50 a.m. another violent explosion caused this ship to sink, resulting in the loss of 15 officers and 123 sailors.

The USS Turner was a relatively new ship, commissioned on April 15, 1943.  It had made three voyages across the Atlantic during World War II, escorting convoys of ships to their destinations.  She was especially equipped to serve as an anti-submarine vessel.  There is even an event recorded which indicates the USS Turner may have sunk a German submarine on one of its voyages.  Here is a photo of that ship sitting in New York Harbor at some time before its sinking.

USS Turner
USS Turner

You might wonder why I am relating this story to you.  It is because aboard that ship was a young man by the name of Harvey A. Schlessinger.  He was one of the sailors who was declared Missing in Action.

Harvey Schlessinger WWII Missing in Action 1944

We also find him on this World War II casualty list.

Harvey Schlessinger Navy Casualties Books

Harvey Schlessinger was born sometime around 1921 in St. Louis.  I will eventually get around to telling you about his parents.  I found several Navy Muster Rolls that tell the tale of Harvey’s military service.  The earliest record I found was this muster roll from January 20, 1941.  It shows Harvey aboard the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier on its way to Pearl Harbor.

Harvey Schlessinger WWII Navy Muster Rolls January 1941
Harvey Schlessinger – Navy Muster Roll – January 1941

On January 31st of that year, we find this record for Harvey which indicates he began his military service in July of 1840.  That means he had joined the Navy prior to the United States’ entry into World War II.

Harvey Schlessinger WWII Navy Muster Rolls 1941
Harvey Schlessinger – Navy Muster Roll

In this Muster Roll for 1942, we find Harvey serving aboard the ship, USS Chew.

Harvey Schlessinger WWII Navy Muster Rolls 1942
Harvey Schlessinger – Navy Muster Roll – 1942

The USS Chew was in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked on December 7, 1941.  I found this description of what happened with the USS Chew during the Pearl Harbor attack.

USS Chew information

I think Harvey was aboard that ship when the attack took place.  Here is a photo of the USS Chew.

USS Chew
USS Chew

In 1943, we find Harvey on another Muster Roll.  This time we find him aboard the brand new USS Turner.  He is shown as a Torpedoman’s Mate – 2nd Class.

Harvey Schlessinger WWII Navy Muster Rolls 1943
Harvey Schlessinger – Navy Muster Roll – 1943v

That leads us up to the tragedy that took place on January 3, 1944. Here is another record I located describing Harvey as a casualty of war.

Harvey Schlessinger Navy Casualties Record

Harvey’s name can be found on the East Coast Memorial located in Manhattan, New York.

Harvey Schlessinger East Coast Memorial Manhatten NY
East Coast Memorial – Manhattan, NY

Here is an enlargement of the place where we find Harvey’s name.  When he died, his rank was Torpedoman’s Mate – 1st Class.

Harvey Schlessinger memorial
Harvey Schlessinger – East Coast Memorial, Manhatten, NY

Now, I must get around to telling you how the story of Harvey Schlessinger ties into our local history.  On both of the casualty forms shown above, it says Harvey’s mother was Rose Schlessinger.  Rose is our birthday girl for today.  She was born Rosa Margaret Brunkhorst on April 25, 1894, the daughter of Johann and Maria (Versemann) Brunkhorst.  Rosa was baptized at Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, Illinois.  Here is her baptism record.

Rosa Brunkhorst baptism record Christ Jacob IL
Rosa Brunkhorst baptism record – Christ, Jacob, IL

Our German Family Tree says that there were 13 children born into her family, and Rosa was #6.  We find Rosa in the 1900 census for Fountain Bluff Township.

Rosa Brunkhorst 1900 census Fountain Bluff Township IL
1900 census – Fountain Bluff Township, IL

Next, we find Rosa in the 1910 census at the same location.  She was 16 years old.

Rosa Brunkhorst 1910 census Fountain Bluff Township IL
1910 census – Fountain Bluff Township, IL

Rosa got married sometime in the 1910’s.  We find her married in the 1920 census for St. Louis, Missouri.  However, I was unable to find any marriage record for her.  Her husband was Albert Schlessinger.  Here is the 1920 census.  There were two children in this entry, and Albert was described as an engineer for a steam railway.


Albert Schlessinger was born on August 31, 1892, the son of Charles and Anna (Schroeder) Schlessinger.  We find him in the 1900 census for St. Louis.  Albert’s father was a motorman for a streetcar.

Albert Schlessinger 1900 census St. Louis MO
1900 census – St. Louis, MO

In the 1910 census, we see Albert at age 17.  He is described as a clerk for a ry. co.  I assume that means railway company.  If so, he would have gotten his foot into the door of that business as a teenager and would later become an engineer.

Albert Schlessinger 1910 census St. Louis MO
1910 census – St. Louis, MO

That leads us back to the marriage of Albert and Rosa.  A family history on Ancestry shows that they had 6 children, one of which was Harvey.  The 1930 census for this household is shown below.


The last census in which we find both father, Albert, and son, Harvey, was the one taken in 1940.  Harvey was a machinist helper for an automobile agency, and Albert continued as a railroad engineer.

Albert Schlessinger 1940 census St. Louis MO

Now we have gone full-circle back to the USS Turner tragedy of 1944.  Only two years after Harvey’s death, his father died in 1946 at the age of 52.  His death certificate states that alcoholism contributed to his death.

Albert Schlessinger death certificate
Albert Schlessinger death certificate

We know Rosa was still alive at the time of her husband’s death, but her own death is a mystery.  I was unable to find a death certificate for her, and if you look at the gravestone that marks where she is buried in the New Bethlehem Cemetery in St. Louis, there is no death year shown there either.

Albert and Rose Schlessinger gravestone New Bethlehem St. Louis MO
Albert and Rose Schlessinger gravestone – New Bethlehem, St. Louis, MO

I suppose it’s even possible that Rosa may have been buried somewhere else, but I was unable to locate such a place.  You also can see that this marker includes a memorial to their son, Harvey.

I did manage to discover two addresses that Rosa’s family once occupied, and I was also able to find present-day photos of houses as they look now.  I am amazed by how small these homes were for a family with several children.  The thumbnails are clickable.


This story is only attached to our local history by a thread.  However, it gave me an opportunity to do something I really enjoy.  I like researching history that goes beyond the boundaries of the East Perry County area.  And I especially enjoy looking at the history of our military.  As recently as 2017, the story of the demise of the USS Turner has been in the news.  You can find one such article by clicking on the link below.


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