Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Social Media

Facebook is that social networking phenomena that has grabbed the world’s attention. From its humble beginnings in a Harvard dorm room Facebook has grown to more than one billion users. I have used Facebook as a tool to advance my family trees by searching for possible living descendants. My Dollen cousins and I have had success in reaching out to several unknown, living cousins.

Who would think a Navy attack cargo ship that has been sold for scrap would have a Facebook page? The U.S.S. Washburn does. My Uncle Dick Dollen was an apprentice seaman aboard the ship at the time of his death.

Wishing to learn more about the incident, my sister, Nancy, volunteered to contact the owner of the Facebook page. She privately messaged him, received a prompt reply with the promise of putting out the word and assisting us in learning more about our uncle’s death. The next day Nancy received an email from a gentleman nicknamed Red who served aboard the U.S.S. Washburn from 1950-1953.

Red tells us that the U.S.S. Washburn was in dry dock for routine maintenance when word was passed down of someone falling to the deck of the dry dock; which is concrete. Our uncle was cleaning and scraping the port side aft (Left side and back) of the ship at the time of his accident. Red went up to the deck and looked down at our uncle prone on the dry dock deck with hospital corpsmen tending to him. Words such as these are painful today and I can only imagine how painful they must have been in 1952. I am so very sorry for my grandmother, my mother, and our family's loss.

Red offered to contact other shipmen with the hope of someone knowing more about what happened. A promise was made to mention our uncle at the U.S.S. Washburn reunion this fall. Our family is grateful.

I write quite often about my Uncle Dick Dollen as his death caused considerable pain for my grandmother and mother. Conversation about Dick was kept guarded and minimal. Curiosity keeps me searching for more information about the man and his untimely death.

Uncle Dick ended his last letter home with these prophetic words:

“I still love you all and don’t you ever forget it.”

We haven’t forgotten, Uncle Dick.



  1. Beautiful and poignent story, Linda. Facebook really can be an amazing tool eliminating distance and time as barriers to connections. Great job tracking down this lead!

  2. I was pretty excited to have made these connections. I am grateful to the men who were so willing to help. I think of him often and wish we had him in our lives.