Asia Li’Nay Griffey, a member of the Fuquay-Varina High School Class of 2013, joined the FVHS Family History-Genealogy Club in the fall of 2011.
Her maternal family is from Lowndes County, Ala. She traced her lines back through the Civil Rights Movement, both World Wars and the Great Depression to the days of slavery. She has connected two of her lines to their origins in Africa.
One of Griffey’s cousins, Susie Mushatt Jones, currently is the oldest living American in the state of New York at the age of 113.
While researching in the State Library and Archives in December 2011, Griffey discovered that her great-grandfather, Fletcher Boyd Sanders, Sr., had been wounded in action during World War II. He served at a time when African-Americans and Filipinos were limited to serving as stewards aboard ships. There was no record that he ever received a Purple Heart, any campaign medals or the World War II Victory Medal.
Later research showed that in May 1944, Fletcher Sanders was assigned as a Steward’s Mate aboard the USS Terror, a minelayer stationed in the Pacific Theater. He was promoted to the rank of Steward’s Mate First Class on Oct. 1, 1944.
Minutes before 4 a.m. on May 1, 1945, as the USS Terror lay at anchor in Kerama Retto, a kamikaze plane dove toward the ship. It came in so rapidly that only one of the minelayer’s stern guns opened fire. As the plane crashed into the ship’s communication platform, one of its bombs exploded. The other penetrated the main deck before it, too, exploded.
The aircraft’s engine tore through the ship’s bulkheads to land in the wardroom. Fire flared immediately in the superstructure but was soon controlled and, within two hours, was extinguished. Flooding of the magazines prevented possible explosions, and no engineering damage occurred, but the kamikaze had exacted its toll. The attack cost the USS Terror 171 casualties: 41 dead, seven missing and 123 wounded.
Griffey’s great-grandfather was one of those wounded. He was next listed as a patient aboard the hospital ship, USS Samaritan, on May 8, and then transferred to the navy hospital on Saipan in the Marianas Islands. He remained in the hospital until July and was eventually returned to his ship. He left the Navy in October 1945.
This past April, Griffey wrote to President Obama to request help in obtaining her great-grandfather’s medals from World War II. She was contacted by the Military Personnel Records Center of the National Archives on May 16 and was told that the Navy Department would issue her great-grandfather’s medals to her and her mom, posthumously.
Griffey is the daughter of Falicia Sanders of Willow Spring. She plans to attend N.C. State University to study chemistry.