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Navy officer's remains, identified almost 75 years after Pearl Harbor, to be buried alongside his Gold Star mother

Navy officer’s remains, identified almost 75 years after Pearl Harbor, to be buried alongside his Gold Star mother

May 1942: Thelma B. England of Alhambra is a new Gold Star mother. Her son Ensign John C. England was lost at Pearl Harbor aboard the battleship Oklahoma.

Thanks to DNA testing, the U.S.military’s POW/MIA Accounting Command has identified the remains of  Navy Ens. John C. England of Alhambra, more than seven decades after he died saving shipmates in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He will be buried at 10 a.m. Aug. 13 at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colo., alongside his parents, Thelma B. and Harry B. England.

Staff writer Richard Simon in a report on March 14, 2014, told the story of relatives of Pearl Harbor victims who were pushing the military to identify their remains.

Thanks to reader Ronbo400 for his comment providing this new information.

The photo above was published on May 10, 1942 — Mother’s Day — on the front page of the Los Angeles Times local news section.

The report began:

It’s not so pleasant this first Mother’s Day of wartime America; particularly for the mothers.

For instance, there’s little Mrs. Harry B. England of … Alhambra. Back in Missouri 20 years ago last Dec. 11, she became the mother of a fine son she named John Charles England. When John was 6 the family came here.

John was an honor student at Alhambra High School where he was president of the senior class and yell leader, and he was yell leader at Pasadena Junior College, where he was graduated in June two years ago. A year later he won a commission as a Navy ensign and reported aboard the battleship Oklahoma in San Francisco last September.

You may guess the rest.

This morning there is pasted on the front window of the England home a service flag bearing a gold star. It’s the only visible reminder of a sturdy, pleasant boy who used to play on the lawn of that comfortable, once happy home.

England also left a wife, the former Helen Elaine Jennerich, and a 3-week-old daughter, Victoria Louise, when he died.

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, England survived the capsizing of the battleship Oklahoma, but three times he reentered the vessel to save three men. On his fourth rescue attempt, he did not return.

For his heroism, the Navy named two ships after him. The first England, a destroyer escort, was launched Sept. 26, 1943. His mother christened it with a bottle of Champagne.  In 1944, the England sank six Japanese submarines in 12 days, earning a Presidential Unit Citation. In 1945, the ship was heavily damaged by a kamikaze aircraft and was never repaired.

The second England, a Leahy-class guided missile cruiser, was commissioned in 1963 and decommissioned in 1994.

The USS England website is dedicated to both warships and the memory of Ensign John Charles England.

The Gold Star tradition started during World War I. Army Capt. Robert L. Queisser designed a banner to honor his two sons serving in the war. The tradition caught on, and families began displaying the service flag decorated with a blue star for every family member in service and a gold star for each family member lost.

The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed shortly after World War I and is active today.

Sept. 26, 1943: The first USS England is christened by Thelma B. England, mother of Ensign John C. England, the ship’s namesake, during launching ceremonies at the Bethlehem Steel Co. shipyard in San Francisco. Credit: U.S. Navy/National Archives

Middle photo above: Family portrait of John Charles England provided by his mother in 1976 to the Naval History and Heritage Command. 

UPDATES

Aug. 2, 2016, 7:05 a.m.: This article was updated with the positive identification of the remains of Ens. John C. England.

This article was originally published on June, 27, 2012.

8 Comments

  1. June 27, 2012, 7:16 am

    Wonderful!

    By: rafaelc@racen.com
  2. June 29, 2012, 7:52 am

    Wonderful tribute to an American hero!

    By: rafaelc@racen.com
  3. July 1, 2012, 9:14 am

    They truly were the "Greatest Generation".

    By: res1b1lf@verizon.net
  4. July 30, 2016, 9:43 pm

    For 75 years JC England remained in a mass gave on Oahu as just one of the USS Oklahoma Unknowns. In 2015 the remains of those sailors were disinterred for possible identification and in early 2016 his remains were finally were. On August 13, 2016 Ensign John Charles England will finally be put to rest next to his parents in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His daughter, the one he never met, passed away some time ago and her cremated remains will also be interred with her father.

    By: Ronbo400
  5. July 31, 2016, 9:55 am

    Thanks for the new information.

    By: Scott Harrison
  6. August 2, 2016, 7:07 pm

    Thanks for the sacrifices of Ensign John England that we can enjoy the freedom that we all enjoy today.

    I thank also his mother Thelma England for her dedication.

    etibanez
    yorba linda, ca

    By: etibanezcpa2002
  7. August 2, 2016, 8:22 pm

    This shows us how short life really is. 75 years, A whole lifetime ! In an instant, He gave everything he had to save his comrades. I didn't know him,but I feel like I did. How can anyone doubt it ? They will always be our "GREATEST GENERATION" . RIP John

    By: GIF16
  8. August 3, 2016, 12:00 am

    After all these years, Ensign J.C. England will finally rest in peace. Thank you for reporting this heartwarming and amazing story. As a graduate of AHS, I remember during Senior Awards Night the honor and the respect that the J.C. England Memorial Scholarship carried with it. This report reminds me of just how special the award symbolized this courageous man, and what a great man he was. A true American Hero. God Bless him. M.S. – AHS Class of 1983.

    By: mash-ola@excite.com

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