On November 7, 1944, an American submarine, the USS Albacore, was lost in the Pacific Ocean near Northern Japan. The actual fate of the submarine and crew members, along with the final resting place of the presumed wreckage, had remained a mystery, leaving family members to grieve with no real closure. One of those family members was Father Flanagan, who was listed as the next of kin for Boys Town Alumnus, Seamen, First Class Patrick (Pat) K. McKenna, a young man with a promising future who was a member of the submarine's crew.
Fast forward nearly 80 years. On February 13, 2023, the Naval History and Heritage Command sent a letter to Boys Town regarding Seamen McKenna, confirming that the wreckage of his submarine had been located off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan, and the process of identifying the remains of the lost had begun. The letter stated, “It is our hope that the known location of the Albacore provides some measure of closure to you and your family as you continue to grieve the loss of your loved one."
To fully understand, we need to start at the beginning of the story. Pat arrived at Boys Town as an orphan from Missouri in September of 1936 and his brother, Terry, joined him in 1937. In his years at Boys Town, Pat was actively involved in government, football, baseball, boxing and later became the editor of the Boys Town Times. He also served two terms as a city commissioner and was a member of the board of directors of the Boys Town Junior Chamber of Commerce.
In a tribute to Father Flanagan that Pat wrote on behalf of the graduating class of 1941, he concluded, “With tranquil mind and composure, the seniors of the class of 1941, are ready to be a credit to America and the world, through the opportunity that has been afforded us by the one and only OUR Father Flanagan."
After graduation, Pat was one of three Boys Town boys selected by FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, to serve in a clerical position with the FBI, while attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C. His education was cut short when he joined the U.S. Navy and was selected to attend a special submarine school. This newly launched program was attended only by a select group who had successfully completed a battery of mental, physical and psychological tests. Pat was assigned to duty on the ill-fated USS Albacore submarine in the South Pacific, where he later lost his life.
Pat is one of hundreds of Boys Town citizens who enlisted in the armed forces during World War II and named Father Flanagan as their next of kin. This led to Father Flanagan earning the title of “America's No. 1 War Dad," in recognition of the tremendous sense of patriotism, love of country and commitment to service he had instilled in his boys. A display of interesting artifacts, including a Memorial to Pat McKenna, Father Flanagan during the World War II era and stories of other Boys Town Alumni who bravely served our U.S. Military, are on display at the Boys Town Hall of History.
The Naval History and Heritage Command's letter honoring our own Pat McKenna ended with, “The service of your family member will always be remembered, honored, and valued." Today, we salute Pat McKenna and all our Boys Town Alumni who have bravely served and remember that Boys Town family is forever.