SMN Phillip Zane Darch

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Phillip Zane Darch

Also Known As: "Philip"
Birthplace: Massachusetts, United States
Death: December 07, 1941 (14-23)
Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, HI, United States (Aboard the USS Arizona)
Place of Burial: USS Arizona Memorial Honolulu Honolulu County Hawaii
Immediate Family:

Son of Phillip J "Cook" Darch and Lucy Myrtle Darch
Brother of Doris Virginia Darch; Barbara J Darch; Aida Mae Darch and Ruth Darch

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About SMN Phillip Zane Darch

Philip Zane Darch: Seaman 1st Class, Selfless Hero

by Cristopher Patvakanian (Grade 11)

I have lived on Philip Darch Road my entire life. Every time I passed my street’s sign on the way home, I never gave a second thought as to why it was called Philip Darch. Recently, I decided to give the sign a closer look and the discoveries sparked from that one name transpired far beyond anything I could ever imagine. It turned out to be no coincidence that Philip Darch, who served in the Navy, was the name given to the street that would house veterans who had returned from World War II. Unfortunately, Darch himself never had the chance to live in the Veteran housing because he was among the 2000+ victims of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. Nevertheless, I find that Darch was a particularly important member of Watertown because his service and sacrifice to protect America answered the call to action when it was needed most. It takes a very brave and selfless person to enlist in the Armed Forces, and Philip Darch was just that kind of young man when he decided to leave his life behind to join the Navy.

Before I began my research on Philip Darch, I found it important to explore his family’s history in order to get a better understanding of what factors and experiences might have influenced his home environment. Darch’s father, Philip James Darch, was born in Kilkenny, Australia, a suburb of the city Adelaide, on May 15, 1893. I was unable to determine how long he continued to live there after his birth, but according to naturalization papers filed in 1927, Darch Sr. moved to the United States in 1912. The documents show that Philip James travelled by train (most likely the Canadian Pacific Railway) from Vancouver, Canada to Sweet Grass, Montana. This meant that sometime between 1893 – 1912, he must have moved from southern Australia to Canada, although no records document this journey.

After living just five years in the United States, Philip James Darch traveled to California and joined in the Navy to fight in World War I. His enlistment documents incorrectly stated that his place of birth was in Arizona, U.S.A., which led me to believe that either Darch deliberately gave false information because his origin did not qualify him to serve or that there was some sort of clerical error in processing his papers from the Navy’s side. Either way, Darch Sr. served as Boatswain’s mate second class from 1917 to 1919, until being honorably discharged. That same year, Philip Darch Sr. married Lucy Myrtle Robinson, who was two years younger than him.

Lucy Myrtle Robinson was born in Robbinston, Maine in the year 1895 to parents who had long established their roots in the northeast. Her mother, Agnes Bowden, had generations of family living in Maine, but her father William John Robinson and his parents were all from Canada. My guess is that somewhere along the course of Darch Sr.’s journey from Australia to the U.S., he met the Robinson family in Canada or Maine, and had arrangements to marry Lucy set up during that time. According to the 1920 Census, the Robinsons were living in Watertown, and Philip and Lucy Darch were listed as boarders in the household, which is the first documentation of them living together and being in Watertown. Later on, the couple would have their own home and Darch Sr. would work as a bricklayer for contractors while Lucy worked as a Forelady at the Hood Rubber Factory. Starting with the birth of their only son, Philip Zane Darch, the Darch’s would have five additional daughters throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

On October 21, 1921 Lucy gave birth to Philp Zane Darch in Watertown. Not much is known about Philip Zane as a child, but he was baptized by the Methodist Episcopal Church on April 5th 1931, when he was ten years old. That ceremony entitled him to receive full membership in the Church when “the requirements of the Discipline shall have been met”, something that I don’t know if Darch ever got a chance to fulfill. One thing that was known, however, was that Darch Jr. was a student in the Watertown Public School system, and completed his education up until Watertown High School. According to the 1940 Census, he left high school after completing one full year. He would never end up graduating, as Philip Zane Darch left his sophomore year to serve in the Navy on April 23, 1940.

For parents who have children going into the Armed Forces during times of peace, the stress and anxiety is already a large burden, but with the tensions of WWII spreading globally, the pressure on Lucy and Philip Sr. was undoubtedly agonizing. It must have been even more unbearably difficult for Doris, Barbara, Aida Mae, Ruth and Shirley, Philip Jr.’s five younger siblings (whose ages ranged from just 5 years old to 16) to see their only big brother leave the house at just 19 years old.

The decision to enlist must have been equally if not more challenging for Darch Jr., but the underlying love for his country and desire to protect the republic pushed him to take on that duty. I also believe that Philip Sr. serving in the Navy during WWI had a profound influence on his son’s continuation with the same branch of the Armed Forces. Perhaps the desire to carry on the legacy or inspiration from war stories were motives behind the choice to pick the Navy, but what is for certain that is what Darch Jr. was prepared to invest his future. He did however have different positions than his father, and served as both a seaman first class and also, according to a newspaper article, a radioman first class. As a seaman first class, Philip Zane Darch would have been performing duties and tasks meant to help him learn the basic skills needed on a Navy ship. As a radioman first class, he might have been in charge of receiving and organizing the ship’s important messages that came in alphanumeric coding via radio transmissions. Since it was his first experience ever in the Navy, it is understandable that Darch Jr. did not have any of the extremely powerful or popular positions that were reserved for the more tenured and trained men. It’s quite possible that as a newcomer, Darch was just among those who assisted in the organization and cleanliness of the ship, waiting to gain experience and later on rise up through the ranks. What happened exactly in that time period he served is impossible to trace, but the descriptions of those duties from other military personnel potentially capture what life could have been like for Darch Jr. starting out as a lower class Navy man.

Philip Zane Darch had been assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona, which would be the first and last place that he served in the United States Navy. On December 7th, 1941 the Japanese Forces attacked the U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor, where the U.S.S. Arizona was stationed. Four bombs hit the ship and Darch Jr. was among the 2,403 Americans who lost their lives on that tragic day. When word came to Watertown that he had died in action, the town held a memorial service on January 27, 1942 inside St. John’s Methodist Church. Many people including “relatives and friends, members of the American Legion, and a group from the Watertown High School” attended the service that day, as Philip Zane Darch had been the first Watertown resident that died fighting in WWII.

Years later, after the war had finished, the town acquired a portion of land off of Lexington Street in December of 1949 to create Veteran housing for all of the soldiers that had returned. The initial plan was to create 168 brick units on streets that would be named Darch Street, after Philip Zane Darch, and Robert Ford Road, after another soldier who had died in action in 1944. The shorter version of Philip Darch’s name, however, was later petitioned on April 13, 1959 by a man named Francis Lightbody. Francis Lightbody, the Commander of the Veterans’ Post and also on the Housing Committee, was cited as seconding a change to have the full name for the street in Article 51 of The Annual Reports of Watertown 1959. His suggestion, out of the two others given, was the only one that got approved, and thus the street name changed to Philip Darch Road, as it is to this day.

Philip Zane Darch was not just some World War II casualty Watertown has a street named after. He was an older brother, a son, a friend, and inspiration to his community. Darch Jr. was important to this town because he didn’t cower away in fear and panic during one of the darkest times of humanity, but he rather choose go in the Navy to protect the people and country he loved. The determination Philip Zane Darch had to do what was difficult but right is something that everyone can learn from today in this community and country as a whole. Philip Darch let go of his personal life and said goodbye to 5 sisters and his parents, knowing very well there might be a chance that he would never see them again. But he also knew that he was doing the right thing by answering the call to action, which allowed him to put his personal priorities aside. Society today tends to sometimes approach political, social, and economic issues from a one sided perspective, with individuals hoping to gain the most for one group rather than achieve justice for all. Philip Zane Darch’s service is a shining example of the important contributions to society that people who separate themselves from their personal wishes can accomplish.

References Cowdrey, Nathan Luke. "SMN Phillip Zane Darch." Geni_family_tree. Geni, 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 01 June 2015. "Phillip Zane Darch." , Enlisted from Massachusetts, World War II Casualty. Honor States, 2015. Web. 03 June 2015. Town Of Watertown. The Annual Reports of Watertown 1959. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Watertown: Town of Watertown, 1959. Print. Town Of Watertown. The Annual Reports of Watertown 1951. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Watertown: Town of Watertown, 1951. Print. United States of America. U.S. Cenus. Middlesex Country, Watertown. 1940 Census. 1940 Print.

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SMN Phillip Zane Darch's Timeline

Massachusetts, United States
December 7, 1941
Age 19
Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, HI, United States
USS Arizona Memorial Honolulu Honolulu County Hawaii