Three days before Christmas 1941, just two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Ennis Lee Roberts of Flowery Branch wrote what would be his last letter home.
Telling his parents his ship was about to head out for an unknown destination, he wrote, "You might not hear from me for a long time.”
“It was like a premonition,” said Sean Childers, Roberts’ great-nephew, in an interview with The Times this week.
A month later, Roberts was one of 20 killed aboard the Coast Guard cutter Alexander Hamilton and became Hall County's first casualty of the war. He was 24.
Roberts’ legacy was reaffirmed on Thursday, Nov. 4, when a plaque honoring him was unveiled in Flowery Branch City Hall’s City Council meeting room. Mayor Mike Miller also read a proclamation honoring Roberts.
The plaque is a carryover from the old City Hall building on Main Street where it had been a fixture since July 1992. The new City Hall opened on West Pine Street in 2018.
“With the redevelopment of Main Street and the construction of the new City Hall, the mayor and council wish to continue the community’s remembrance and appreciation of the sacrifice made by Mr. Roberts and his family by rededicating this plaque,” the plaque states.
The plaque remembers Roberts as a machinist’s mate 2nd class who had served since 1935 and was stationed in the North Atlantic at the time of his death. The Alexander Hamilton was struck by a torpedo fired from a German U-boat.
Roberts’ mother, Maude Roberts, wrote in her diary that a telegram had arrived informing them of her son’s death. His body was never recovered.
When he enlisted at 17, his father had to sign for him to enter the service because he was underage, Childers said.
Not much else is known about Roberts, who never married.
Surviving twin brother Aubrey Roberts “would reference, but he didn’t talk much about him,” said Sean Childers, who is Ennis Roberts’ great-nephew.
Ennis Roberts “was a free-spirited guy from what we’ve been able to gather,” Childers said.
Aubrey Roberts, a two-time Purple Heart recipient, also talked little about his own service.
When he died in 1987, much of the history died with him.
In 2008, three of his family members, including Childers, retraced his service in the Marines to Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
Aubrey Roberts suffered lifelong pain from injuries at Iwo Jima “but never complained,” Childers said. “He never thought that anybody, including the government, owed him anything. It was just his duty.”
“The whole family was proud of both (brothers),” he said. “None of us ever knew Ennis, but we felt like we did through his sacrifice. That's why in our family, we’re as patriotic as anybody.”