John C. England
John Charles England
|Born||December 11, 1920|
Harris, Missouri, US
|Died||December 7, 1941 (aged 20)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1940–1941|
|Unit||USS Oklahoma (BB-37)|
|Battles/wars||World War II
Ensign John Charles England (December 11, 1920 – December 7, 1941) was an officer in the United States Navy. He died on the USS Oklahoma after it was torpedoed and sank in the Japanese Empire's attack on Pearl Harbor. He died under heroic circumstances, and is the namesake of two U.S. Navy vessels; but he was awarded only a Purple Heart. His remains were identified and returned home after seven decades and an intense inquiry.
John Charles England was born in Harris, Missouri, on December 11, 1920.[upper-alpha 1] His family then moved to Alhambra, California. He attended Alhambra High School, as did his sister Lennie England (Bemiss). He was president of his graduating class in 1938, acted in the senior play, was a member of the Light and Shadow drama club and Senior Hi-Y. He was voted Yell King of his senior class according to his sister Lennie. He later attended Pasadena City College, Pasadena, California graduating in 1940. He was a Yell King on the Pep Commission, a member of the Players Guild, where he was in the cast of their annual fall presentation of, "Bachelor Born." He was also a member of Delta Psi Omega, a national honorary dramatics fraternity performing in their annual spring production, "Outward Bound." J.C. graduated in spring, 1940.
He enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve as an Apprentice Seaman at Los Angeles on September 6, 1940. After active duty training on board USS New York from November 25, to December 21, 1940 he attended Naval Reserve Midshipman's School, New York, N.Y. and was appointed Midshipman, USNR, March 6, 1941. He completed his training on June 5 and was commissioned Ensign, USNR, June 6, 1941.
In early December he was anticipating the arrival of his wife (Helen Elaine England, "Lennie") and three-week-old daughter (Victoria Louise England). He had never seen his daughter. In December, 1941 his wife and daughter were scheduled to arrive in Oahu.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, just four days from his 21st birthday John C. England volunteered to work in the ship's radio room for a friend so that he might have more time with his family when they arrived. That morning the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and USS Oklahoma was one of their first targets. Oklahoma was moored at Battleship Row 7, outboard alongside USS Maryland. USS Oklahoma took 3 torpedo hits almost immediately after the first Japanese bombs fell. As she began to capsize, two more torpedoes struck, and her men were strafed as they abandoned ship. Within 20 minutes after the attack began, she swung over and capsized until her turtling halted when her masts touched bottom — her starboard hull above water, and a part of her keel clear.
England survived the attack. Amidst smoke and flame, without regard for his personal safety and survival, "the young officer refused to leave without helping others trapped in the depths of the battleship." Despite the order to "Abandon ship", he was able to return into the ship and back to the radio room three consecutive times, saving a shipmate each time. He died during a fourth attempt.[upper-alpha 2] 
His family learned of his death via a postal telegram sent by Admiral Chester Nimitz.
James R. Ward and Francis C. Flaherty were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their heroic actions on the USS Oklahoma. Although his actions are noted here and there, England received only a Purple Heart.
His remains were recovered in 1949. He and four others were buried together as unidentified[disambiguation needed] at the Punchbowl Cemetery, more formally called the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
A total of 429 crewmen were killed aboard the USS Oklahoma. "No single vessel at Pearl Harbor, with the exception of the USS Arizona, suffered as many fatalities."From December 1941 through June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of those who perished, interring them in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries in Hawaii. In September, 1947, the remains were disinterred by the American Graves Registration Service, and transferred to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Only 35 men were identified. The unidentified 400 were buried as Unknowns in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In 2003, a Pearl Harbor survivor, Ray Emory, resulted in the exhumation of a single casket associated with the Oklahoma loss. DNA evidence and anthropological research revealed that remains are "extremely commingled" — at least 95 individuals were within in the first disinterred casket based on mitochondrial DNA results. In September, 1947, the remains were disinterred by the American Graves Registration Service, and transferred to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
Only 35 of the 429 sailors and Marines who died on Oklahoma were identified in the years following the attack. The remains of 388 unidentified sailors and Marines were first interred as unknowns in the Nu'uanu and Halawa cemeteries, but were all disinterred in 1947, in an unsuccessful attempt to identify more personnel. In 1950, all unidentified remains from Oklahoma were buried in 61 caskets in 45 graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The unidentified 400 were buried as Unknowns in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In 2003, a Pearl Harbor survivor, Ray Emory, resulted in the exhumation of a single casket associated with the Oklahoma loss. DNA evidence and anthropological research revealed that remains are "extremely commingled" — at least 95 individuals were within in the first disinterred casket based on mitochondrial DNA results.[upper-alpha 3] "In 2015, as part of the USS Oklahoma Project, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, through a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, exhumed all of the unknown remains from the USS Oklahoma. Through December 2017, DPAA made their 100th identification from the ship’s casualties. The Oklahoma Project is centered at Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base. Despite the passage of seven decades, "fully two-thirds of the 2,400 American casualties are what the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency describes as “unresolved.” The bodies of most of those killed were never recovered, or they were recovered but not identified. Unidentified remains were buried in Hawaiian cemeteries in graves marked “unknown.”
On December 7, 2007, the 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a memorial for the 429 crew members who were killed in the attack was dedicated on Ford Island, just outside the entrance to where the battleship Missouri is docked as a museum. Missouri is moored where Oklahoma was moored when she was sunk. The USS Oklahoma memorial is part of Pearl Harbor National Memorial and is an arrangement of engraved black granite walls and white marble posts. "In 2015, as part of the USS Oklahoma Project, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, through a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, exhumed all of the unknown remains from the USS Oklahoma. Through December 2017, DPAA made their 100th identification from the ship’s casualties. The Oklahoma Project is centered at Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base. Despite the passage of seven decades, "fully two-thirds of the 2,400 American casualties are what the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency describes as “unresolved.” The bodies of most of those killed were never recovered, or they were recovered but not identified. Unidentified remains were buried in Hawaiian cemeteries in graves marked “unknown.”
In April 2015, the Department of Defense announced, as part of a policy change that established threshold criteria for disinterment of unknowns, that the unidentified remains of the crew members of Oklahoma would be exhumed for DNA analysis, with the goal of returning identified remains to their families. The process began in June 2015, when four graves, two individual and two group graves, were disinterred. In December 2017 100 had been identified; at the end of fiscal year 2018, 181 Oklahoma unknowns had been identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. On 26 February 2019, the 200th unknown was identified. On 6 December 2019, the US Department of Defense announced that 236 remains had been identified from Oklahoma and that 152 had yet to be identified As of Fiscal year 2020, 267 missing crew have been accounted for.
In 2016, the United States Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency resolved to identify the Oklahoma crew using DNA testing. England's remains were found within the grave of unknown soldiers at the National Cemetery of the Pacific. The Department of Defense used Mitochondrial DNA to make the identification. Upon identification, he was reburied with full military honors next to his parents, Sam and Thelma England, in the Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. His mother attended the funeral, which included a large procession. There was an "impressive motorcade and the services" were covered by the Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel, who were aggregating film footage for the 2016 75th Anniversary coverage of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Namesakes and honors
In 1943, destroyer escort USS England (DE-635) was named in his honor. At the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation shipyard in San Francisco, California, his mother Thelma (Mrs. H. B. England) cracked the ceremonial bottle of champagne on England's bow in San Francisco Harbor on September 26, 1943. She was commissioned on 10 December 1943, with Commander W. B. Pendleton in command. Lennie England served as maid of honor and kept the ribbon wrapped bottle until her death in 1995. That ship sank six enemy submarines in 12 days in May 1944, a feat unparalleled in the history of antisubmarine warfare. That performance caused the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest King, to declare in a rhetorical flourish that "There’ll always be an England in the United States Navy." DE-635 was decommissioned in 1945.
As down payment on the promise, the second ship to bear the name, the Guided Missile Cruiser USS England (DLG-22) was launched in 1962. That England served in every major Pacific engagement from Vietnam to Desert Storm, from rescuing pilots, performing as plane guard or picket, to showing force around the globe. England was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon for supporting search and rescue operations in the Gulf of Tonkin from 3 January to 6 June 1966. Originally called a "destroyer leader" or frigate (DLG), in 1975 she was re-designated a cruiser (CG) in the United States Navy 1975 ship reclassification. England was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation a final time for actions performed 2 August to 16 August 1990. She was scrapped in 2004.
Since then, beginning on the 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, a grass roots petition has been circulated to commission a USS England, "to recognize and honor the service and sacrifice of Ensign John Charles England," and to demand fulfillment of Commander Pendleton's promise. 
Alhambra High School continues to award the John C. England award each year to the graduating senior who has “excelled in character, integrity and benevolent service.”
- "The future Navy Ensign was always fascinated with the military and among his dreams was to one day actually serve on the ship for which the state that he considered his home was named, the Battleship USS Oklahoma. His family then moved to Alhambra, California."
- "429 officers and enlisted men abroad the battleship were killed or went missing and 32 were wounded. Many others were trapped in the capsized hull and were saved in heroic efforts by men such as Julio DeCastro, a civilian yard worker who organized a team that rescued 32 USS Oklahoma sailors. Ensign John C. England was another valiant soldier who initially survived the attack, but eventually lost his life after returning to the burning ship to rescue three men who were in the radio room. Two U.S. Navy ships are named after Ensign England."
- "The USS Oklahoma remains have a long and macabre history. Some bodies were recovered from the ship and the waters around it in the weeks after the attack. Others remained entombed in the hull until the battleship was salvaged in 1942 and ’43. The bones of the dead, encrusted in mud and oil, were removed from the ship and buried in two Hawaiian cemeteries. In 1947, the Graves Registration Service undertook a two-year effort to identify the remains. Though they matched names to 27 skulls using dental records, authorities decided to rebury all of the remains because no complete bodies could be identified." In 2015, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency dug up nearly 400 sets of remains from a Hawaii cemetery. Cutting edge forensic science and genealogical help from families were employed to identify the fallen. It is expected that 80 per cent of the battleship's missing crew members will be identified by 2020.
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- "Recently accounted for 2015". Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
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- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
- John C. England at Find a Grave
- "Funeral Escort for Ensign John C. England, USN WWII Veteran" (Video). August 16, 2016. Text "via YouTube" ignored (help)
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