All Over The Map: World War II Kirkland yearbook mystery

Billy Holmgren is a kangaroo. He lives in Kennewick in eastern Washington, but graduated in 1993 from Lake Washington High School at Rose Hill in Kirkland.

About 20 years ago, Holmgren came into possession of a 1941 yearbook of Kirkland High School – that’s what Lake Washington High School was originally called when it was located in downtown Kirkland at the beginning of the 20e century in the late 1940s. Although the school moved to the hill and changed its name in 1949, Lake Washington High School retained the same mascot: kangaroos, or Kangs for short.

The Holmgren yearbook was originally owned by a sophomore from Kirkland named Harry Rae, who had a twin brother named Harvey Rae. Although it’s over 80 years old, it contains everything you’d expect to see in a typical yearbook: photos of children and teachers, advertisements for local businesses, and all sorts of signatures and listings. personalized. Anyone who attended high school in the United States in the 20e century would probably recognize this artifact and immediately know what it was.

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However, there are at least a few things that make this particular book stand out from other annuals of a more recent vintage. First, it’s from the late spring of 1941 – about six months before the United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Second, and what really distinguishes the old yearbook are the notes that Harry Rae took there some years after 1941. This was during wartime, of course, and before Harry or his twin brother Harvey could officially graduate from Kirkland High School, Harry was in the Navy, and Harvey was in the Army. Both men survived the war and remained in the Seattle area for the rest of their lives.

And although he was serving in the navy, what Harry Rae managed to do in 1944 and 1945 was to follow the fate of other Kirkland High School classmates who had also joined the army or had been enlisted. Specifically, he took notes on those who were POWs or killed in action overseas by annotating his 1941 Kangaroo Yearbook.

On the old black-and-white pages, pictures of particular classmates are circled, and Rae wrote detailed notes in the margins about who, essentially, were Kirkland teenagers he knew — just kids, really. – who went to war 80 years ago. .

And that’s why Billy Holmgren contacted KIRO Newsradio.

“I didn’t want it to just be hidden away and forgotten,” Holmgren said by phone a few days ago. “This individual spent so much time documenting the lives of each of these young people and where they ended up giving their lives during World War II – down to where, what branch of the military they belonged to, what day of the year.”

“I just felt they deserved to be held in the face and honored for their ultimate sacrifice,” Holmgren said.

Holmgren is not related to Harry Rae. A friend of Holmgren’s found the 1941 yearbook at the old Midway Drive-In swap meet in the 1990s. Now Holmgren wants to find it a good home — ideally with a member of the Rae family.

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Based on newspaper clippings and other online sources found by Matthew McCauley and Loita Hawkinson of the Kirkland Heritage Society – after KIRO Newsradio asked them for help – we know that Harry Rae died in 2000, and it appears that he and his wife (who died in 1999) had no children; his twin brother Harvey died in 1995. On Thursday — based on those old newspaper clippings — KIRO Newsradio left phone messages for five separate people in western Washington who may be Harry Rae’s nieces and nephews.

Along with photos of the Rae twins in their second year at Kirkland High School, Harry Rae’s notes on his classmates reveal tantalizing bits of stories about the personal sacrifices made during World War II by his fellow Kirkland Kangs.

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One of Harry’s friends in the yearbook is Jack McKenna, who graduated from Kirkland High School in 1941. He signed his picture for Harry. A search of the journal’s archives reveals that McKenna earned a scholarship to Harvard and enrolled there in the fall of 1941. After two years at Harvard, he joined the army and went overseas at the end of 1944. Then, in Germany in March 1945, McKenna was killed while rescuing a fellow soldier and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

A Seattle Times article published on May 23, 1945 describes how on March 4, 1945, “Sergeant McKenna, then Private First Class, distinguished himself by gallantry in battle beyond the call of duty as his unit established a bridgehead [probably “bridgehead”] on the Kyll River in Germany, helping an injured man to safety despite constant machine gun and mortar fire.

Harry Rae’s notes name three other classmates who died in World War II, including David Bartley and Don Biggs (who were also sophomores in 1941) and Fred Brown, who was a junior. Additionally, Rae notes that his classmates Babe Takeoka and Kiyoshi Yabuki were both Japanese Americans and were members of the legendary 442.n/a Regimental Combat Team. They were both wounded in France, probably in 1944.

If you know of any member of the Rae family, or perhaps parents of Kirkland High School students who served in World War II who were friends of Harry Rae, please contact me through my details below.

Nothing would make Billy Holmgren happier than to see the 1941 yearbook regain its rightful place within the Rae family.

“I’ve always considered myself Harry’s yearbook keeper,” Holmgren wrote in an email to KIRO Newsradio on Thursday. “Fearing that it would get lost in the dark corners of a dusty archive led me to reach out [to KIRO Newsradio]. Closing the loop and being able to pass it on to the Rae family, where it truly belongs, would be amazing!

It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from another kangaroo.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him hereand subscribe to The Resident Historian podcasthere. If you have a story idea, please email Felikshere.

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