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Ensign John Charles England

PCC logoJohn Charles England was born in Harris, Mo., on December 11, 1920. His family then moved to Alhambra, Ca. 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, were he was in the cast of their annual fall presentation of, "Bachelor Born". J.C. was also a member of Delta Psi Omega, a national honorary dramatics fraternity which he acted in their annual spring production, "Outward Bound". J.C. graduated in spring, 1940. 

  
J. C. England in Bachelor Born, J.C. on left


J.C. England member of Delta Psi Omega, J.C. second row, middle


The England Home as it looks in today at
1708 Fourth Street, Alhambra, CA

He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve as an Apprentice Seaman at Los Angles on September 6, 1940  After active duty training on board the 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. 

 

He was next assigned duty under instruction at the Naval Radio School, Norton Heights, Connecticut, reporting June 20, 1941. Upon detachment from school, he reported on September 3, 1941 to the USS Oklahoma at Pear Harbor.


USS OKLAHOMA BB-37

During this period he had also married and in early  December he was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his wife and three week old daughter (Victoria Louise England) who were do to arrive in a few days.  He had never seen his daughter. 

On the morning of December 7, 1941, just four days from his 21st birthday John C. England volunteered to work in the ships radio room for a friend so that he might have more time with his family when they arrived. That morning the Japanese attacked Pear Harbor and the USS Oklahoma was one of their first targets.

Oklahoma was moored Battleship Row 7, outboard alongside Maryland.  USS Oklahoma took 3 torpedo hits almost immediately after the first Japanese bombs fell. As she began to capsize, 2 more torpedoes struck home, and her men were strafed as they abandoned ship. Within 2O minutes after the attack began, she had swung over until halted by her masts touching bottom, her starboard side above water, and a part of her keel clear.

Ensign England survived the initial attack and escaped topside as the ship was capsizing. He remembered the men still in the radio room. He returned three times to the radio room, each time guiding a man to safety. He left to go back below decks for the fourth time and was never seen again. He was one of twenty officers and 395 enlisted men were killed on board USS Oklahoma that morning. Ensign England's gallant effort saved three, but cost him his life.

His family would hear of his death by Postal Telegram sent by Rear Admiral Nimitz on December 16, 1941.


Postal Gram Informing Harry and Thelma England of their son's death
Click image for full size image.

In 1943 the USS England DE-635  was named to honor John Charles England and his heroism.  His mother Thelma cracked the ceremonial bottle of champagne on England's bow n San Francisco Harbor on September 26, 1943. Lennie England served as maid of honor and kept the ribbon wrapped bottle until her death in 1995.

Alhambra High School continues to award the John C. England award to their most outstanding senior each year. 

John England Artifacts On this Site:

  • Launching of a Legacy, an article from Trail-Plus, January 21, 1994, on the occasion of the decommissioning of CG-22. It has information about DE-635 and John C. England.

  • Sun City, AZ - News Sun Article about Harry and Thelma England going to the commissioning the USS England DLG-22