Previous posts in this discussion:
PostLt Edwin O Johnson (Mike Bonnie, USA, 09/08/15 4:47 am)
The indignities of war occur on and off the battlefield. I wasn't specifically looking for this one. Back on April 16th I sent a story of the death of a family member serving aboard the USS New Orleans during "WWII; Lt Edwin O. Johnson; ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition'" http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=93024&objectTypeId=77721&topicId=165
I bring this up again because after months of waiting, I've received the military records of Lt. Johnson from the Department of the Navy Personnel Records Center, some one hundred and forty pages. My hope in requesting the records was to find some note of valor or recognition for outstanding service or further details of the battle in which Johnson perished. What I found was about thirty pages of enlistment statements, vessel assignment, a promotion to Lieutenant (junior grade), a family request for Lt. Johnson's records and Gold Lapel pins, notice of awards of the American Defense Service Medal, WWII Victory Medal and Purple Heart, a copy of the dreaded Telegram families received notifying them of the death of a relative, and notice of a gratuity of $1,100. The only information redacted in the records is Johnson's birth date. He just turned 24 years old. My surprise was in the other ninety-some pages.
The bulk of Lt. Johnson's military record is a three-year running letter debate between the Johnson family and officers of the US Navy, ending with the following (October 1, 1945):
"A careful check of the records of the Navy Department reveals that Lieutenant (jg). Johnson was officially reported Dussing [missing] as of 30 November 1942. A further check of the records reveals the following reported information regarding the USS NEN ORLEANS [sic]:
'At 2328 [11:28 pm], after she had effectively fired on two enemy ships, the NEW ORLEANS was struck by a torpedo on port bow. At 2330 the vessel set course for Tulagi. At 0104, 1 December 1942, escort vessels stood by and escorted her to port. At 0610, 1 December 1942, the NEW ORLEANS arrived at her berth in Tulagi Harbor.'
"The officers with his date of rank were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 1 December 1942, but officers in a missing or prisoner of war status prior to promulgation of the promotion authority were specifically excepted [exempted] from promotion thereunder.
"Since he was missing in action on 30 November 1942, he did not become eligible for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant [senior grade] and is being carried on the records as a Lieutettant (jg)[sic]. Therefore, no gratuity would be payable in the rank of Lieutenant."
In essence, Edwin had been promoted from Lieutenant (junior grade) to Lieutenant (senior grade). Had his ship been attacked and he killed 33 minutes later, the promotion would have taken effect. The Johnson family was given a greater gratuity recognizing the higher rank until a further review uncovered the time discrepancy. A small part of me would like to interrogate the officer or seaman who was watching the clock instead of the battle.
JE comments: The bureaucracy of war. What harm would it have done to promote Lt Johnson posthumously? Such promotions used to be fairly common:
My thanks to Mike Bonnie for uncovering this poignant story of WWII.