On December 7th, 1941, Ensign John Charles England perished during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Just four days shy of his twenty-first birthday, England was working in the radio room of the USS Oklahoma when Japanese bombers started hitting their targets. After multiple torpedoes struck the Oklahoma, she capsized into the waters of the harbor, killing England and 428 others.
The Ship That Bore His Name
Though England didn’t survive to play a role in World War II, his memory lived on and the vessel that bore his name is actually credited with sinking the most submarines in the shortest amount of time. On December 10th, 1943, just three days after the two-year anniversary of the attack that drew the US into the war, the USS England (DD-635), a Buckley-class destroyer escort, was commissioned into the United States Navy.
Like the sailor for whom she was named, the USS England proved to be a formidable addition to the US Navy. During the war, she served as an escort for multiple convoys traveling in the South Pacific. As an escort, the England wasn’t expected to have a notable battle record and yet her crew was credited with sinking six Japanese submarines in a 12-day span, something no ship had done before or since.
It was an incredible feat and was even more unbelievable because she wasn’t one of the largest vessels. From May 13, 1944 to May 26, 1944, the USS England engaged six different Japanese submarines and, without suffering any serious damage, was able to sink all of them. Submarine warfare was still a fairly new concept, but Japan had used it throughout the war, as early as the mini-subs that attempted to access Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.
Kills of the USS England
The submarines that the England sank in that 12-day span were I-16, sailing to the southern coast of Bougainville Island to deliver rice; the RO-106, which was caught north of the Admiralty Islands; the R-104, which was tracked in the dead of night by the crew of the England and her sister destroyers the Raby (DE-698), and the George (DE-697); the RO-116, which sank on the 24th of May; the RO-108, which was spotted by an American hunter-killer group seeking out all enemy submarines; and the RO-105, which was fired upon by the Raby, the George, and the Spangler (DE-696) before the England landed the fatal hit.
In May of 1945, the England came under fire by Japanese dive bombers. The kamikaze attack resulted in the loss of 37 men and required immediate repairs to the vessel. Before her upgrades and permanent repair could be completed, however, the war ended.
Still damaged from the attack, the England was never fully repaired and, on October 15th, 1945, she was decommissioned. On November 26th, 1946, she was broken down and sold for scrap.