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John Martin Howard

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John Martin Howard (20 August 1917–11 June 1942) was a United States Navy officer from Pennsylvania who served during World War II as a Naval mine disposalman. He died during an accidental mine explosion and was the first U.S. Navy mine disposal personnel killed in the war. The USS John M. Howard (IX-75) was named in his honor.

Early life[edit]

Howard was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, and enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve on 22 June 1935.[1] In June 1937 he reported to the Naval Academy; he resigned on February 7, 1939.[2] After the completion of training from 1940-1941 at the Naval Reserve Midshipman's School, Howard was appointed Ensign on 28 February 1941.[3]

On March 7, 1941, Howard graduated from the third class at the Advanced Mine School, later renamed the Mine Disposal School at the Naval Gun Factory (Washington Naval Yard). Howard was among the select members of that class that were sent to England to observe and gain experience with Royal Navy and Royal Engineers in mine disarming and disposal. He was assigned to the Royal Navy shore establishment, H.M.S. Mirtle, in an abandoned quarry designated a Mine Investigation Range where enemy mines and other ordinance were brought to be examined in detail.[4]

Naval mine accident[edit]

A German moored magnetic mine, TMA-1 came ashore at Corton Sands, England and Lcdr. Roy Berryman Edwards,RN, DSO, BEM took the assignment to disarm the mine. Howard was to observe the operation. Edwards requested permission from the Admiralty in London to go ahead as he had successfully disarmed a similar mine earlier but was told to await an officer with current intelligence on German mines. Edwards called again asking permission as he felt fully qualified and, on 11 June proceeded with Howard observing. Observers on the cliff, at a safe distance, observed Edwards removing the mechanism plate with Howard close by. The mine's 470 lb charge detonated killing Howard and Edwards and scatted debris for two hundred yards in each direction along the beach. Ensign Howard was the first U.S. Navy mine disposal person killed.[4]

Investigation by the officer intended to assist, if Edwards had waited, revealed that the mine did not have a new anti-tampering device, but an old and previously unknown one. The U.S. Navy Bomb Disposal Intelligence Bulletin published 1 November 1944 noted that regardless of mechanical events "the fact remains that the tragedy can be definitely and directly attributed to an utter disregard for established and proven RMS Procedure."[4]


Howard was buried at sea and is commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in Coton, Cambridgeshire, England. Both Howard and Edwards were commemorated on a special plaque in the St. Nicholas minster church in Great Yarmouth, England.[5]

The USS John M. Howard (IX-75) was named in his honor.[3][4]


  1. "ENS John M. Howard". www.eodwarriorfoundation.org. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  2. "JOHN M. HOWARD, ENS, USNR". USNA Virtual Memorial Hall. Run To Honor, Inc. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "John M. Howard (IX-75)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command. 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Bartleson, John D., Jr. (1995), History of U.S. Navy Mine Disposal, Washington, DC: United States Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Association, pp. 46–49, LCCN 96170065
  5. "Ens John Martin Howard". www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 2 November 2018.

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