Lost at Sea

Lost at Sea, Somewhere, 1780…….

Last week we all gave thought to the thousands of Americans that charged ashore on the beaches of Normandy.  Places like Sainte-Mere-Eglise, Dog Red, and Pointe Du Hoc are all indelibly connected with their sacrifice.

But I want to highlight a broader view of Americans in Wartime that you might not think about.  The many that have served, and sometimes given their lives for America, that are just “Lost at Sea.”

This blog post had its genesis last week in a dinner with a former US Ambassador.  An incredible gentleman, he told many a story—large and small—over a dinner of “stuffies” and seafood.  As he spoke of his many different postings in foreign lands, I started to do the math in my head of his years of service to the country.  I stopped at 30+.

His time was not in uniform and he wasn’t armed with a rifle, but nonetheless, he faced danger and gave to his country.  He represented America in crisis and in times of peace.  He was part of the US diplomatic corps—our colleagues at State Department who tirelessly work on a different aspect of national security than our men and women in uniform.

The Ambassador was so disarming about his service, I was determined to further explore the contribution of his colleagues, dating back to the very formation of the United States of America.  I found a page associated with the American Foreign Service Association.

On their site, they have a Memorial List of all the State Department personnel that have given their lives.  As I started to scroll down that list, I noticed the first date…1780.  Wow, nearly 170 years before D-Day.  The list kept scrolling, and at the very bottom was a notation that as of May 2018, the list had 250 souls on it.  I was embarrassed to admit that I had no clue of the size of the sacrifice of our State Department.

I was drawn back to the first entry tho.  When I clicked on the name of William Palfrey, his bio came up.  I have reproduced it below in its entirety because of the last line.  Americans of ALL service to our country deserve to have their history known, and not be “never heard from again”.


William Palfrey
Lost at Sea — 1780

William Palfrey was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1741. He was an active participant in the American Revolution, serving as chief clerk to John Hancock, as aide-de-camp to George Washington and, later, as a paymaster-general of the Continental Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

In 1780, the new United Stated Congress unanimously appointed Palfrey as U.S. consul general to France. He began his sea voyage on December 20 of that year on the ship Shillala but was never heard from again.

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