Frank Harwood Pennybacker was born in 1923 in Tennessee, the son of Albert Mitchell Pennybacker and Agatha Lewis Walker. Brother of Will and Albert Pennybacker.

KIA 8 May 1942, Battle of Coral Sea.

Frank Harwood Pennybacker shipped aboard the USS Lexington CV-2. On 15 April The Lexington sortied from Pearl Harbor and joined up with USS Yorktown and Task Force 17 TF 17 on 1 May. TF 17 was tasked with blocking the Japanese expansion into the South Pacific that would cut off supply routes to Australia.

On 7 May searchplanes located a Japanese Carrier Task Force, and Lexington’s air group flew a strike against this Task Force sinking the Light Carrier Shoho. Later attacks by Japanese aircraft were intercepted before they reached the Lexington. On 8 May Enemy aircraft penetrated to the air defense to the American carriers at 11h00, and 20 minutes later Lexington was struck by a torpedo to port and a few seconds later a second torpedo struck to port below the bridge. At the same time Lexington was struck by three hits from dive bombers, producing a 7 degree list and fires. By 13h00 the ship was able to get underway at 25 knots and recover her planes when gas fumes exploded below decks.

The Lexington was abandoned at 17h07 and all survivors picked up immediately. At 19h56 she was sunk by torpedos from destroyer USS Phelps. She is considered a war tomb in the ocean.

Father: Mr. Albert Mitchell Pennybacker 2324 Windsor Court, Chattanooga

The Chattanooga Daily Times, 14 June 1942
Frank Harwood Pennybacker, 20-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Pennybacker, of 3324 Winsdso court, was killed in action aboard the aircraft Lexington presumably during the Coral sea battle, according to a notice received yesterday from the navy department. Young Pennybacker’s family is well known in Chattanooga. His father is executive director of the Y.M.C.A. and a leader in the First Christian church. The body studied at McCallie school and Chattanooga High School before enlisting in the navy in September, 1940. On Thanksgiving day, 1940 he was assigned to the Lexington and served aboard her until she was sunk during the Coral sea battle last month. At the time of his death, Pennybacker was a first-class seaman and a third-class shipfitter. He received his navy training at Norfolk before joining the Lexington in San Diego.

The Chattanooga Daily Times, 14 June 1942
The war comes home to a town when a youth with the background of Frank H. Pennybaker dies for the country. Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Pennybaker had heard several times that the Aircraft Carrier Lexington, on which Frank served, had been sunk, and each time the report had proved false. But official confirmation was given only Thursday that the great craft had indeed been lost, and yesterday the Navy Department informed the General Secretary of the Chattanooga Y.M.C.A. and Mrs. Pennybacker that their son had perished. The uncertainty, which is a terrible part of war, is ended, but the loss of so strong a son is a blow which forever leaves its mark. Frank Pennybacker was blad to served the country. How such men die was revealed  in a letter which Ed Petway, one of Sewanee’s bright former students, left for his mother, to be opened only in the event of his death in the country’s cause. Yount Petway, aged 23, was killed in action a few weeks ago, as was Frank Pennybacker, and the letter was opened. It is given a place of honor in the Sewanee Purple, student publication at the University of the South, and it should give a degree of solace to mothers everywhere who lose their sons.

In the picture Frank Pennybacker is shown as winner of the Bicycle as first prize in the Volunteer Stores-Proctor & Gamble popularity contest in 1933.

  • Rank: Shipfitter Third Class
  • Date of death: 8 May 1942
  • County: Hamilton
  • Hometown: Chattanooga
  • Service Branch: Navy
  • Division/Assignment: USS Lexington (CV-2)
  • Theater: Pacific
  • Conflict: World War II
  • Battles: Coral Sea
  • Awards: Purple Heart
  • Burial/Memorial Location: Manila American Cemetery, Fort Bonifacio, Manila, Philippines
  • Location In Memorial: Pillar XI, Top Panel
  • Contact us to sponsor Frank H. Pennybacker

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