Pacific gunman to ‘The Flag Man,’ Lee Warren remembered

Pearl Harbor survivor Lee "The Flag Man" Warren. L: at Armed Forces Celebration, Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, St. George Municipal Airport. St. George, Utah, May 11, 2013. R: Pearl Harbor 1940 | Left photo by A.J. Mellor, St. George News; Right photo courtesy of ourlocalveterans.com, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Lee Warren, 96, Pearl Harbor survivor, and well-known Southern Utah public figure nicknamed “The Flag Man,” passed away Wednesday.

Pearl Harbor survivor and veteran Lee Warren arrives at the Southern Utah Veterans Home's Pearl Harbor survivors ceremony, Ivins, Utah, Dec. 8, 2013 | Photo by Scott Heinecke, St. George News
Pearl Harbor survivor and veteran Lee Warren arrives at the Southern Utah Veterans Home’s Pearl Harbor survivors ceremony, Ivins, Utah, Dec. 8, 2013 | Photo by Scott Heinecke, St. George News

Since Warren’s World War II Navy tour of duty as a battleship fire control operator, he returned to the southwestern United States and has been relentlessly handing out American flags to anyone and everyone. This charity mission evolved after Warren returned from 12 years at sea where he shot torpedoes, guns and depth charges from destroyer ships. During that time he fought enemy dive-bombers, torpedo planes, battleships and land attacks.

Warren was born and raised in Price, Utah, where he worked in coal mines until joining the Navy in 1940 just before Pearl Harbor, according to interviews done by Our Local History, an organization that records and publishes local War Vet stories.

Lee Warren was assigned to the USS Macdonough (DD-351) at Pearl Harbor after finishing Boot Camp in San Diego, Calif. | Photo courtesy of ourlocalveterans.com, St. George News
Lee Warren was assigned to the USS Macdonough (DD-351) at Pearl Harbor after finishing Boot Camp in San Diego, Calif. | Photo courtesy of ourlocalveterans.com, St. George News

In 1941 Warren was stationed at Pearl Harbor and was walking to church when the Japanese attacked and he had his first experience with battle.

“For a few moments I could hardly believe it was happening,” Warren said. “Immediately we all ran to general quarters, and my ship was able to shoot two of the planes down.”

Japanese ships, dive bombers, torpedo planes and fighter escorts continued to attack as Warren’s ship launched with a group of other destroyer ships. Because half the crew had been on leave at the time, Warren’s ship launched without them and spent three-and-a-half months at sea in the Southwest Pacific hunting for the Japanese task force, Warren said.

Chief Petty Officer Lee Warren 1945  | Photo courtesy of ourlocalveterans.com, St. George News
Chief Petty Officer Lee Warren 1945 | Photo courtesy of ourlocalveterans.com, St. George News

Later, Warren’s ship was rammed on its way to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where the Japanese task force had landed. His ship had to go back to California for repairs and he was assigned to another ship, he said.

His new assignment led him to several more engagements with Japanese aircraft during Hiroshima.  That ship was put out of commission in 1946.

Warren was then put on reserve until the Korean Conflict in 1950 where he was active for two years. During a battle Warren was fighting in, six other ships were lost and his ship was directly hit six times, although miraculously it didn’t sink.

During his service, he advanced up the ranks from seaman to chief petty officer, and retired.

After his Navy service he founded the Lee Warren Flag Foundation. Since then, every year, he had been handing out over 10,000 little flags during seasonal events and parades. He also had been giving out large flags when requested. He had been driving around town in a well-known white patriotic car for years.

“I’m The Flag Man, I give away lots and lots of flags to everybody,” Warren said in a previous interview by St. George News.

Services Monday Feb 3.

  • Visitation: 9-10:30 a.m. | Metcalf Mortuary, 288 W. St. George Blvd.
  • Funeral Mass: 11 a.m. | St. George Catholic Church, 259 W. 200 N.
  • Burial: Following the Catholic church service | Tonaquint Cemetery 1777 S., Dixie Dr.
  • Escort: There will be a motorcycle escort and a missing man formation following the service. Staging will be at the Catholic church at 10:30 a.m.
  • The memorial is open to the public.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

Email: dallred@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

Pearl Harbor survivor Lee "The Flagman" Warren. L: at Armed Forces Celebration, Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, St. George Municipal Airport. St. George, Utah, May 11, 2013. R: Pearl Harbor 1940 | Left photo by A.J. Mellor, St. George News; Right photo courtesy of ourlocalveterans.com, St. George News
Pearl Harbor survivor Lee “The Flagman” Warren. L: at Armed Forces Celebration, Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, St. George Municipal Airport. St. George, Utah, May 11, 2013. R: Pearl Harbor 1940 | Left photo by A.J. Mellor, St. George News; Right photo courtesy of ourlocalveterans.com, St. George News

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4 Comments

  • James & Annettie Cannavale February 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you Drew Allred and St. George News for this terrific story on a true American hero and gem of the local community. We greatly appreciate him being recognized.

    RIP Lee Warren

  • Debbie Kitchen February 2, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Just learned of Lee’s passing. A great man who will surely be missed by those’s hearts Lee touched. I was greatful to know him as my neighbor, making sure my flag was always out and as a huge asset to our Military. Thank You Lee and God Bless you. R.I.P.

  • George Roberts February 5, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Lee was a great American. I was fortunate to meet him many times since he was my fathers first cousin. They both entered the service during World War II. The 2 most Patriotic men I have ever known. I will miss him.
    RIP Lee.

  • Severance May 25, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    My Father also served on the USS MacDonough at Pearl Harbor. He passed away in 1963. Sorry for your loss.

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