John A. Austin

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John A. Austin

John Arnold Austin (born August 30 1905 in Warrior; died December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii) was a U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer killed in the Japanese attack that prompted the United States to enter World War II.

Austin enlisted in the Navy in November 1920, when he was 15 years old and reenlisted four times. He was appointed a Carpenter's Mate 3rd Class in July 1935 and served on the submarine tender U.S.S. Canupus in the Asiatic Fleet. That august he was detached for duty on the cruiser U.S.S. Augusta where he was given his warrant as a carpenter. In September 1937 Austin was assigned to the battleship U.S.S. Tennessee for two years. In July 1939 he reported to the destroyer tender U.S.S. Rigel for 14 months. He began serving on board the battleship U.S.S. Oklahoma, based at Pearl Harbor, in October 1940 and was there commissioned a chief carpenter.

On December 7, 1941 the Oklahoma was moored at Ford Island. It was hit by several torpedoes during the surprise Japanese attack and was soon capsized. Austin, trapped below deck, managed to open a porthole below the waterline. He assisted 15 sailors in making their escape, but did not himself get out.

Austin was awarded a posthumous Navy Cross for actions. His citation reads in part, The conduct of Chief Carpenter Austin throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country."

The escort destroyer U.S.S. Austin (DE-15) is named in his honor. Austin's remains were originally among those buried in the nearby Halawa and Nu’uana cemeteries. After the war concluded, those remains were disinterred as part of an effort to identify individuals. Still unidentified, his were among the remains of 45 crew from the Oklahoma that were reinterred at the National Cemetery of the Pacific. New forensic technologies led to the resumption of efforts to identify those remains in 2015. Austin's remains were identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in September 2018.


  • Gore, Leada (January 9, 2019) "WWII remains identified: Alabama sailor John Austin credited with saving 15 lives at Pearl Harbor." The Birmingham News
  • "John Arnold Austin" (January 10, 2019) Wikipedia - accessed January 11, 2019