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From the Archives: Gold Star mother

From the Archives: Gold Star mother
May 1942: Mrs. Harry B. England of Alhambra is a new Gold Star mother. Her son Ensign John. C. England was killed at Pearl Harbor aboard the battleship Oklahoma. (Los Angeles Times)

On Mother's Day 1942, the Los Angeles Times recognized Thelma B. England of Alhambra. Her son Ensign John C. England died at Pearl Harbor aboard the battleship Oklahoma.

The photo appeared in the May 10, 1942, Los Angeles Times. The accompanying story reported:

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.

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

Ensign John C. England, USNR, (1920-1941) Who lost his life in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor,
Ensign John C. England, who lost his life in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. US Naval History & Heritage Comm

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 destroyer escort England 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, a Japanese kamikaze attack heavily damaged the ship. The ship was decommissioned in 1945 and sold for scrap in 1946.

In 1963, the Leahy-class guided missile cruiser England was commissioned. The ship served until 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.

Thanks to DNA testing, in 2016, the military's POW/MIA Accounting Command identified the remains of England. He was buried on Aug. 13, 2016, at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colo., alongside his parents, Thelma B. and Harry B. England.

This article was originally published on June 27, 2012.

Sept. 26, 1943: The first USS England is christened by Thelma B. England, mother of Ensign John C. E
Sept. 26, 1943: The first warship England is christened by Thelma B. England, mother of Ensign John C. England, during launching ceremonies at the Bethlehem Steel Co. shipyard in San Francisco. U.S. Navy/National Archives
Ship named for Ensign John C. England. Feb. 9, 1944: The USS England off San Francisco, CA. In 1944,
Feb. 9, 1944: The England off San Francisco. In 1944, the destoyer escort sank six Japanese submarines in 12 days. On May 9, 1945, she was struck by a kamikaze dive bomber, killing 37 crewmembers. The England was not repaired and was scrapped in 1946. U.S. Navy/National Archives

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here

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