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Arkansans Behind the Flag: Glenn Tipton

Our museum tells stories using a lot of artifacts, but sometimes we do it through pictures. And, this time, we are highlighting the picture of Henry Glenn Tipton.

Tipton was born in Ravendon, Arkansas to Lilye and William Tipton. At 11, his mother died in childbirth leaving a great hole in his family. Life was difficult then, not only because of the loss of his mother, but also due to the Great Depression. The family struggled to survive. There was even one time when Glenn’s father gave his kids a choice. They could either go to see a movie at the local theater or have supper. They did not have enough for both. The kids chose to see the movie! As Americans today, we have a difficult time imagining such poverty and struggle. However, the hard times gave Glenn a strong character preparing him for the bigger events facing him.

At 17, Glenn moved to Texarkana finding a job as an insurance agent. He was able to provide for himself and even his family for a time. While he enjoyed the steady paycheck, he longed for more opportunities. Glenn Tipton decided that the U.S. Navy was his ticket to adventure.

February 5, 1940 he enlisted. The Navy sent him to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where he was stationed on the USS Oklahoma-the first oil-burning battleship in the U.S. Navy. The Oklahoma had served in World War One, modernized in the 1920s, and finally stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1937.

Glenn found himself on deck 3 years later. He loved the Navy and wrote his family of his plans to make a career out of it so that he “could retire, build a house with a porch, and sit there smoking a long stem pipe with plenty of Sir Walter Raleigh”. He wanted the simple life.

However, like many of the Greatest Generation, Tipton had to say goodbye to his dreams.

December 7, 1941-eighty-one years ago-Pearl Harbor was attacked early in the morning by the Imperial Japanese Empire. They hit “Battleship Row” first dropping torpedoes into the harbor. The USS Oklahoma was hit by eight torpedoes. The last delivered the crushing blow which would sink her. She capsized trapping 429 souls inside-one of which was Glenn. Back in Arkansas, Glenn’s family heard over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been hit. As the announcer listed the damages, they heard the name of Glenn’s boat. While they did not get the official word until much later, they knew that Glenn was never coming home. Saying goodbye would have to wait. For 77 years. Glenn’s step brother-Kenneth Tipton- petitioned the Department of Defense to attempt to find and return Glenn’s body home. In 2015, Glenn was identified and in 2018, he returned home. His family could finally say a proper goodbye. His country could give him the honors that he deserved.

The goal of our museum is to highlight stories like Glenn’s. Stories that remind us that the price of freedom has always been high. But when the time arrived, there were men like Glenn Tipton who were ready to pay that price. They gave up their dreams, so that ours could be fulfilled. They left their families, so that we can be with ours. They gave up everything for us. As you’re enjoying your weekend, please remember those like Glenn, and also, say thanks to those service members who are continuing to make our nation safe.

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