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The Navy's Largest Family

Iowans are justifiably proud of the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo who served and gave their lives for their country in the Navy during World War II. Iowans should also be proud of the nine members of the Patten family who served their country in the Navy during the same war.

The Patten family was living on a farm in Cook township near Odebolt when they attracted nation-wide attention for having six sons in the Navy. Two more sons and the father, Floyd Patten, joined later on, making a total of 9 members from the same family to serve at once in the U.S. Navy.

The editors of the Odebolt History Pages are proud to present history, photos and information on this famous family and have been working with Dale Sporleder, a nephew of the brothers, for several years to make this information available. 

October, 2006
Book on the Patten Brothers Now Available!

    Clarence Floyd Patten, III (Col., U.S.M.C., retired) and Dale E. Sporleder, nephews and grandsons of the Patten brothers and their father have published a book, 124 Years Before The Navy Mast - The Patten Family.
     The book fuses history and genealogy in a scholarly manner with engaging storytelling  including an account of their ancestors coming to America, orphan trains, life during the Depression, and Navy episodes and escapades. The book intertwines family lore narratives with historical battle accounts to amplify an understanding of history and the Patten family.

The book may be ordered over the Internet at
    Or from
     Huntington Publications
     5089 Huntington Drive
     Carmel, IN 46033.

Printable 2-page .pdf order form

Dale Sporleder may be contacted at 317-508-7761.  Other information on the Patten family is available at .


(Posted with permission from Odebolt's newspaper, The Chronicle, and the author, Dale Sporleder, nephew of the Patten brothers.  Those wishing reprint rights should contact The Chronicle, Box 485, Odebolt, Iowa 51458; phone 712-668-2253, or via email at .)

The Chronicle, Vol 113, Number 33. Thursday, August 12, 2004

Patten Brothers are Remembered after 62 Years

The following article was submitted by Dale Sporleder.  It deals with the eight Patten brothers and their father's Navy experiences during World War II.  It will be 62 years this summer when they were in Des Moines on a war bond drive.  They lived in the Odebolt area for several years and were neighbors to the Carstensen family.  Recently, the Odebolt newspaper published the obituary on one of the brothers, Allen Patten, who passed away in Alaska in February. 

Iowans are justifiably proud of the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo who served and gave their lives for their country in the Navy during World War II. Iowans should also be proud of the nine members of the Patten family who served their country in the Navy during the same war. This July [July 2004] will mark 62 years since the father and eight Patten brothers came to Des Moines to be honored as the Navy's largest family.

The history of the Patten family begins in 1909 when Floyd Patten married Anna Billotte. They lived on a farm in Carroll County south of Lake City. The first child was Martha, and in rapid succession she was followed by Gilbert Russell, Marvin Kenneth, Clarence Floyd ("Bick"), Allen Mayo, Myrne Roosevelt ("Ted"), Ray Hart ("Bub"), and Bruce Calvin.

In 1923, the family moved to a farm near Lamar, Chase County in the extreme southwest corner of Nebraska. There Wayne Henry was born, as well as Hazel Grace, who died in infancy. In 1927, Anna died unexpectedly and the family returned to Iowa to live with their grandparents, Albert and Mary Patten, who lived on a farm south of Lake City. Martha became the brothers' surrogate mother to help care for them.

In 1934, the Patten brothers began joining the Navy, until by September 1941 seven of them were serving on the battleship Nevada.

During this time the family lived on the farm south of Lake City until the fall of 1936, when Floyd, Ted, Bub, Bruce and Wayne moved to Odebolt. Floyd leased land from J. A. Reik, allowing the Patten family to harvest lumber and sell it in the local market. Their neighbors included the Nick and Mary Carstensen family, who had children similar in age to the Patten brothers.

The photo from left to right is Nick Carstensen, Jr., Wallace ("Wally") Carstensen, Wayne Patten, Marvin Patten, Sidney Carstensen and Bruce Patten in front of a 1939 Ford. A younger brother, Leonard, and Wally [Carstensen] continue to live in the Odebolt area. While there, Ted and Bub [Patten] joined the Navy.

In May 1940, the Patten family moved to Ridgefield, Washington, where Bruce joined the Navy in December. In September 1941, the Navy waived the age limit, allowing Floyd to join at age 52. In October, Ted completed his tour of duty on the Nevada and was discharged.

On December 7th, fate would find the Nevada anchored next to the battleship Arizona at Pearl Harbor. Normally, the Nevada docked where the Arizona was located, but for that fateful weekend and for eternity, they traded places.

When the Arizona exploded and sank in the initial Japanese attack, the Nevada's captain ordered her to prepare to get underway. Gilbert, Marvin, Bick, Allen, Bub and Bruce Patten were assigned to the engine room and worked feverishly with their fellow sailors to bring up the ship's boilers. Several minutes after the attack, the Nevada was underway. In their second wave, the Japanese pilots spotted the Nevada and attacked her, hoping to sink her in the entrance to block the harbor. The captain, realizing that the Nevada could not reach the open sea, rammed her on a sandbar, saving the crew's lives. The six Patten brothers survived.

Afterward the same six Patten brothers were assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington. Ted Patten immediately rejoined the Navy, but was assigned to another ship. In May 1942, the Lexington was dispatched to the Coral Sea to stop Japan's plans to expand into the area northeast of Australia as a prelude to a possible invasion of the island-nation. The Lexington was joined by the aircraft carrier Yorktown to oppose three Japanese carriers. Both sides were supported by cruisers and destroyers.

On the morning of May 7th, the U.S. scouting plane found the Japanese carrier Shoho. Planes from both the Yorktown and Lexington attacked and sank her in minutes. Lt. Commander Robert E. Dixon radioed back "Scratch one flattop. Dixon to carrier. Scratch one flattop."

The next morning planes from Yorktown, joined later by planes from the Lexington, hit the Skokaku. They damaged this Japanese carrier to the extent that she could not launch her planes. She retired from the battle and headed for her homeport.

Planes from the third carrier, Zuikaku, then attacked both the Yorktown and Lexington. The Yorktown was damaged and forced to retire from the battle. The Lexington handled the initial hits. Later in the day, fires and further explosions made it impossible for the Lexington to survive. She stayed afloat, but she could not make it back to port. A decision was made to "abandon ship."

Allen, Marvin and Bub went overboard and were rescued by the destroyer Morris. The cruiser New Orleans saved Bick, Bruce and Gilbert. Neither set of brothers knew the whereabouts of the other until both ships reached Tonga Island. At 2200 hours the destroyer Phelps fired several torpedoes into the Lexington until she sank, to prevent the ship from falling into enemy hands.

On May 12th, the six Patten brothers reunited in Tonga Island off the coast of Australia. Then they traveled on the troop transports George Fox Elliot and Barnett to San Diego in ten days, arriving on June 4th.

The seven Patten brothers, including Ted, joined their father in Portland, Oregon. Wayne had graduated from high school in May and decided to join the Navy. The afternoon of June 25th, there was a parade in Portland. Floyd and the eight brothers marched in the parade. Each carried a sign with his name and number; e.g., Gilbert was 2, Marvin 3, etc., with Floyd in the lead as "Pop" Patten, Number 1. Wayne had not officially enlisted and his sign read, "Wayne, Patten Pending." When the crowd saw the Patten family they gave a big rousing cheer. When Wayne appeared, the crowd went wild with enthusiasm.

familypatten.jpg (70290 bytes)In July, the Patten family went to Des Moines, Iowa to be honored for their contribution to the war effort and for a war bond drive. There they met with their sister and her family. Martha had married Ernest Sporleder and they lived on a farm near Fonda.

In the photo from left to right are Bick, Bub, Gilbert, Ted, Floyd, Allen, Wayne, Bruce and Marvin [Patten]. On the sofa from left to right are [the Sporleder family] Henry, Elmer, Martha holding Dale and Ernest holding Ann. [Click the photo to see an enlargement.]

While in Des Moines, the Patten brothers and their father raised millions of dollars by promoting war bonds, but soon it was over and they had to go back to regular duty. Wayne was assigned to "boot camp" and the other brothers were sent to different ships. In the photo [below] at the bus station left to right are Gilbert, Bruce, Floyd, Wayne, Bub, Allen, Ted, Marvin and Bick.

Gilbert, Allen and Bub were assigned to the escort carrier Altamaha. After he finished his Navy training Wayne became the fourth brother assigned to the Altamaha. Marvin, Bick, and Bruce were sent to the troop carrier Monticello. Ted was on the troop carrier J. Franklin Bell.

After the cruiser Juneau was torpedoed in November 1942, killing all five of the Sullivan brothers, the Navy changed its policy, and no longer allowed brothers to be assigned together on the same ship. As a result, the Patten brothers were completely separated for the remainder of the war.

Gilbert continued on the Altamaha until he was given shore duty in Philadelphia, then Hingham, Massachusetts. After it was discovered that he had tuberculosis ("TB"), he was sent to the hospital in Walla Walla, Washington. There he remained until the end of the war.

After he left the Monticello, Marvin was assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington II. Later, he served on the cruiser St. Paul until the end of the war. Bick remained on the Monticello for the duration of the war. After Allen left the Altamaha, he was assigned to the escort carrier Pybus. Later, he served on the aircraft carrier Enterprise for the duration of the war.

As mentioned, Ted's first ship was the J. Franklin Bell. His second ship was the destroyer Ammen. His third was the destroyer Wren. His fourth ship was the escort carrier Kwajalein. He ended the war on the James E. Kyes.

After Bub left the Altamaha, he was assigned to the oil tanker Enoree and later the escort carrier Munda until the end of the war. After Bruce left the Monticello, he was assigned to the Wren for the rest of the war. Wayne was transferred from the Altamaha to the escort carrier Natoma Bay. Then he was stationed on Guam and finally on Iwo Jima at the end of the war.

The Patten brothers were involved in several major naval battles in the Pacific area, including the Battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf. Marvin and Bruce, who were present at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, were also present later at Tokyo Bay on September 2nd, 1945 when the Japanese surrendered.

All of the brothers survived the war without injury. However, their father was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 1944 and died in March 1945.

At the end of the war, Marvin, Bruce and Wayne were released from active duty with the Navy. Gilbert received a medical discharge. Bick, Allen, Ted and Bub continued with their Navy careers. Marvin was recalled to active duty during the Korean Conflict.

In total, the eight brothers and their father served their country for 124 years. The Des Moines reunion in July 1942 was the last time that the Patten family was together.

Iowans should continue to remember that the five Sullivan brothers served their country and made the ultimate sacrifice. Iowans should also proudly bear in mind that the Patten family served with honor and valor.

Dale E. Sporleder is a semi-retired corporate attorney.  He and his cousin, Clarence Floyd Patten III, are authoring a book on the Patten family, soon to be published.  Also, Allen Patten authored his memoirs in 2000 in his book entitled "Pearl Harbor & Other Memories".  More information on the book can be found at the North Books website.    

Dale Sporleder may be contacted at 5089 Huntington Drive, Carmel, Indiana 46033, or via email.

Newspaper Articles on the Patten Brothers
Patten Family Photo
Dec.7th, 1941 Was a Day of Infamy for Iowa’s Six Patten Brothers

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