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Memories of War: The first Oklahomans to die

Oklahomans died at Pearl Harbor, the first salvo in what would become a 4-year-journey into war. But then the draft began. And then later, the deployments started. Those were followed by the first casualties. 

Among the first casualties reported by The Oklahoman was Robert C. Florence who died in the Pacific while serving in the Navy. The 25-year-old had been in the Navy two years at the time of his death.

Florence was a Seaman, First Class served on the cruiser USS Houston. That ship ran into trouble in February 1942 in the Battle of the Java Sea when it was attacked by Japanese naval forces. Despite its damage the ship survived to fight on, but was sunk in another attack a month later.

Florence's mother lived to be 96. She died in 1983 and was survived by seven daughters and two sons. Robert was listed in her obituary.

'Memories of War' project seeks readers' help

Seventy-five years ago on Dec. 7, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor prompted America's formal entry in to World War II, a conflict that would transform the nation and along with it Oklahoma and its people.

Almost 5,500 Oklahoma service members would die in the conflict. Those who survived the battles are either long-grayed or gone now.

To commemorate this landmark anniversary, The Oklahoman presents the series “Memories of War,” which will include photos, videos, archival accounts, interviews and other elements that seek to recreate those turbulent times as they unfolded.

More than anything, we want to tell your stories, to share your memories. To do that, we need your help.

Do you have photos, letters, diaries, mementos or a good tale you'd like to share with our readers related to World War II? If so, drop us a line at or

Also, visit the Memories of War special coverage page for all content related to this project.

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Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›