Chief Motor Machinist's Mate Edwin Andrew Johnson, U.S.N.
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I've always been grateful that Dad saved his Navy book, passing it on to me. Although the photos were taken before I was born and before he met Mom, they always remind me of what a good guy he was. He was my hero.

Dad was a quiet man, unassuming, and with the wackiest droll sense of humor. "A swell guy" is how a Navy shipmate referred to him. Although Dad had a difficult childhood, he was gentle, patient, kind and compassionate. Yet he was also a very strong man both physically and of strong character.

His parents died when he was very young. They settled in Michigan when they came to the U.S. from Finland. I know that his mom died in a Tuberculosis Sanitarium and his dad died not long after. Dad grew up in an orphanage for boys. He had an older sister that was sent to another home. Dad witnessed both his older brothers drown in a swimming accident while one tried to save the other. Dad was small and had been separated from the other two by a high fence they had climbed over in order to swim.

Dad was "rented" out by the orphanage to a family to work their land. He suffered beatings and went hungry many a day. This family used to make him sit outside while they ate, feeding him only afterwards with what might be left. Dad joined the Navy to "serve his country while seeing the world."To this day Mom still comments on how Dad loved his children. Dad also loved Hawaii and it was only years later as an adult that I knew the stories he used to make up for me were based on the Great Kamehameha.

Years later when he and Mom flew to Pacific Palisades in California to reunite with a few Navy buddies one of the guys shared that they had been afraid to approach Dad to ask for leave because he was so quiet and looked mean. Dad was surprised and told them he would have given as much leave as possible to anyone who asked for it. (Someone once commented that Dad looked like the meanest guy in a group photo. I never saw it. He never seemed mean to me.)

As a child I once asked Dad why there is war and he replied "It's a shame, but as long as there are two people on the planet there will probably be war of some kind." During his last days when he was in a hospital in Chicago being treated for an infection, I had flown in from Boston and was sitting with him. He hadn't spoken a word to anyone in months. The news was on the TV and the sound was low. Suddenly he said "It's a shame, all this killing." Although he went home and lived a few months more, he never spoke again.

I think what my Mom wrote about him after his memorial service says it all.

"Our memories of him will include those of a man who sought no close friendships but was a friend to all he met - who asked little for himself but gave freely of himself whenever he could - who loved his wife and family but granted each of them their own space and occupied his own with dignity - who bore no ills towards any person - and leaves us with the belief that men like him make this world a better place in which to live. He died as he lived - without fuss or bother to anyone - retaining his wonderful sense to humor to the very end." 

He was my hero and I still miss him every day.
-Janet Cucinotti 2017

Edwin Andrew Johnson enlisted in the United States Navy on July 19, 1938 as a Machinist's Mate 2nd Class. He went through basic training at U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes (Chicago) Illinois. After training he was assigned to USS Dorsey DD-117 (later DMS-1) on June 3, 1939. On Dec. 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor Dorsey was escorting USS Indianapolis CA-35 off Johnston Island, both ships returned to Pearl, Dorsey took up anti-submarine patrol off the entrance to Pearl. Dorsey remained in Hawaiian waters conducting patrols, escort duties and target towing until Sept. 1943. Edwin transferred off Dorsey on June 1, 1942 and was sent to San Francisco, California to become part of the commissioning crew of USS Bogue ACV-9 (later CVE-9). He was aboard on Sept. 26, 1942 when Bogue was commissioned.

Promoted to Machinist's Mate 1st Class Dec. 1, 1942 while in Bogue he remained until Apr. 4, 1943 when he was transferred to NOB Norfolk to attend diesel engine instruction. Before his next sea assignment he was promoted to Motor Machinist's Mate 1st Class.

He joined his last ship on Aug. 30, 1943 when he stepped aboard USS YMS-365 as part of her commissioning crew. The ship conducted sweeping duties in the Lingayen Gulf campaign, Zamboanga, Tawi Tawi, Jolo and at Brunei Bay. Edwin was promoted on Nov. 1, 1944 to Chief Motor Machinist's Mate.

On June 26, 1945 YMS-365 was sweeping mines just off the coast of Borneo in support of the landings at Balikpapan when at 1425 hours a mine exploded amidships under the generator room. In the explosion the ship's mast fell on to the commanding officer, Lt (j.g.) Fred C. Huff pinning him to the deck of the flying bridge. Edwin organized a party of eight men and went to the assistance of Lt. Huff and freed him.

He (Edwin) then went below and secured the engine, which had been running the ship in toward the beach. All this time the ship was well within range of Japanese shore batteries, but fortunately no shells found their mark. He had saved the commanding officer and stopped the ship from running up on to the beach, there was one thing left for him to do.

The ship's mascot, a dog named Doc, was seen on the overturned bow of the ship. After receiving permission Edwin jumped into the sea, swam to the wreck, recovered Doc and returned to the rescue ship. YMS-365 broke in half and what remained above the water was scuttled by gunfire. Lt. Huff, Edwin, Doc and the entire crew survived the sinking.

After the loss of YMS-365 Edwin returned to the U.S.A. and was discharged Sept. 8, 1945.
-Michael W. Pocock 2017

Edwin Andrew Johnson (center) and two unidentified men.

Photo is captioned "Classmates 1938." The names listed are Campbell, Ricker, Adams, Yates, LeBouef, Fargo and Cormier.

1938: Edwin's graduating class at U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes (Chicago) Illinois. Edwin is seen top row, 4th from right.

1939: H. S. Wolfe and W. A. Flory seen at Norfolk, Virginia.

U.S. destroyers in San Diego harbor. The photo is not dated, but is presumably from around 1940. The only ship identifiable is USS Shaw DD-373.

June 1940: Edwin A. Johnson seen at Treasure Island, California.

June 1940: Crewmen from USS Dorsey DD-117 seen at Treasure Island, California.
From left to right are F1c Frank C. Prustman, MM2c Edwin A. Johnson, F1c Edsel Barger, F1c James A. Regan and at bottom Kess.

June 1940: F1c Edsel Barger and Kess seen at Treasure Island, California.

December 1940: Edwin A. Johnson seen outside a barber shop in Oahu, Territory of Hawaii.

December 1940: Edwin A. Johnson seen at Pearl City, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii.
All photos from the collection of CMoMM Edwin A. Johnson, U.S.N.
Courtesy of Janet Cucinotti

This collection of never before published photos was provided by Janet Cucinotti, Edwin's daughter. MaritimeQuest would like to thank Janet for scanning his collection and allowing us to publish it on the site.

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Page published July 4, 2017