On November 13, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal, USS Juneau (CL-52) was hit by several torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-26 and sank. All but ten men died, some in the initial sinking and others while waiting for rescue, succumbing to the elements. Among those who lost their lives was Eugene Straub, a gunner’s mate second class who had already served one stint in the Navy when he decided to re-enlist after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

USS Juneau (CL-52), October 1942

USS Juneau (CL-52), October 1942

 

Belated Honors for Eugene Straub

One of the honors awarded to Eugene Straub was the Purple Heart

One of the honors awarded to Eugene Straub was the Purple Heart

After the passing of decades without formal recognition, on July 31, 2018, Straub’s daughter, Marjorie Lagana, was finally presented with the medals owed to her father. Among the long-overdue awards was a Purple Heart, Combat Action ribbon, American Defense Service medal, American Campaign medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, and an Honorable Service lapel.

At the time of Straub’s death, Lagana was only six months old, but she grew up knowing her father through the stories shared by those who knew him best. His sacrifice was noted by United States Representative Chris Collins, who spoke at the ceremony. “Eugene Straub made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II and we honor his brave service to our nation,” the congressman said on presenting the medals to Lagana.

 

An Unexpected Connection

Lagana wasn’t the only family member of Straub’s who never got to know him personally. Two weeks before the ceremony at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, a local newspaper ran a story about Andrew Straub, a nephew of Eugene who was born after the sailor’s death.

The story starts with somebody not related to either Marjorie or Andrew: author Rob Thompson, who was in the middle of researching USS Juneau for a book on the Sullivan brothers. In his research, he learned about Eugene Straub, and after the discovery of the Juneau wreckage in March 2018 learned that Eugene had a surviving relative, Andrew.

Thompson started to piece together the Straub family descendants, hoping to reconnect Andrew with relatives he never knew existed. Thompson, used to doing in-depth research for his writing, was able to track down Marjorie Lagana through her mother’s obituary. What started as a keen interest in the Sullivan brothers expanded to include an attempt at reconnecting members of a completely different family.

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