Son of farmer Enoch Donovan and Martha K. Steelman, Reuben Donovan (5/24/1915 – 4/6/1945) grew up on a farm between Milton and Georgetown. He married Phoebe Coffin sometime around 1940; it was her second marriage, and the youngest of her children became Reuben’s stepson. By the time Reuben was called up by the draft he was the father of a toddler daughter and twins not yet a year old. The family made ends meet somehow; he worked as a laborer on highway maintenance crews, and she did piecework for a basket manufacturer.
Drafted in 1943, he was assigned to the Navy and underwent training at the Great Lakes Naval Station and later at Bainbridge, MD. In May of 1944, he was sent to the Pacific theater with the rank of Seaman 1st Class and assigned to the U.S.S. Newcomb (DD-586), a destroyer.
On April 6, 1945, the Newcomb, while off Iejima (sometime spelled Ie Shima) in the Ryukyu archipelago, was attacked by multiple Japanese aircraft and hit at least 5 times, including once by a kamikaze that rammed into the ship. The attacks resulted in 18 sailors killed, 25 missing, and 64 wounded. These two sentences do not begin to describe the ferocious struggle for survival against Japanese air attacks that lasted for hours and nearly sank the destroyer. Only the tenacity of the crew, determined to prevent the ship from sinking, ultimately saved her.
Reuben was among the 18 KIA in these attacks. His remains were returned to Milton in April of 1949, and a funeral held on the 13th of that month, with the participation of American Legion Post #20 and the local V. F. W.