Corp. John Russell Martin, USMC

The following letter and pictures were sent to John Garvey, historian for the USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation from Corp John Russell Martin’s nephew, Greg Koenker.


I found your name listed as ‘Historian’ on the website as the person to contact if one has photo’s, stories, or information regarding the USS San Francisco, and wanted to exchange some information.

I am the nephew of Corp John Russell Marten USMC, who was stationed on the San Francisco both at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th, and after through the Guadalcanal period. I have his scrapbook from those days with a number of original messages that the ship received, things such as a Christmas menu, and even a piece of a Japanese plane that crashed into the ship.

I’d be willing to scan some of the items if you’re interested in posting them for those who are interested in the ship, but I was also hoping that you may be able to suggest a worthy museum or organization that I could eventually leave those items to.

Thank you for any help you may be able to provide,
Greg Koenker

I got inspired today and scanned most of the best items I have. Most of the rest are very interesting, but are newspapers (full pages) and clippings from newspapers or magazines and I don’t really have the capability to scan them as some are irregular shapes, and others are too big for my home scanner. If you think you’d be interested in them, I’ll try to figure out a way to scan them… perhaps a kinko’s or some such place has a large format scanner? Anyway, let me know.

I also have some additional photos, but most appear to be official photos with circles and text that indicate battle damage. I suspect they were taken in the ship yard during repairs. I didn’t scan anymore then the 4 or so I’ve attached, but if you want them all, again, let me know.

All the notations on the items were written by my uncle, but I don’t know if they were added during the war, or in later years. Particularly sobering are his notations on the Marine Detachment Roster as to those who were killed or wounded, including his closet friend, Sgt John Egan. My uncle entered the Marines on Oct. 11, 1940 and was discharged on Sept. 21, 1944. FYI, in the photo of the Marines marching, my uncle was in the first rank, second from the right. My mother, his sister, Hazel Koenker, may be able to tell me where and when that picture was taken, which could possibly better tie it to the USS San Francisco. I also included a few things that I thought were just interesting, such as the post card from San Francisco’s Forbidden City, a place he must have visited.

After the Nov 13th battle off Guadalcanal, when the ship returned to the states for repair, my uncle was transferred to more traditional Marine service, hitting beaches in the Pacific. I will update you when I see my mother who has written down all the engagements he was involved with. My uncle very seldom spoke at all of the war, and he was a very patriotic man, but I recall, during the Vietnam era when I was registering for the draft, him commenting, “If they ever want me again, they’ll have to come find me”, which gave me some idea of what he went through during his time in the service.