John Arnold Austin

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John Arnold Austin
Born (1905-08-30)August 30, 1905
Warrior, Alabama
Died December 7, 1941(1941-12-07) (aged 36)
Killed during the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1920–1941
Rank Chief Carpenter
Unit USS Oklahoma (BB-37)
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Navy Cross

John Arnold Austin (30 August 1905 – 7 December 1941) was a United States Navy sailor in World War II, who received the Navy Cross (awarded posthumously) for his actions during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Naval service[edit]

Austin was born in Warrior, Alabama. He enlisted in the United States Navy on 20 November 1920 at age 15. Between that time and 26 July 1935, he served four successive enlistments. On that date, Austin accepted an acting appointment as a Carpenter's Mate 3rd Class (Petty officer third class) and reported on board the submarine tender Canopus then serving as a unit of the Asiatic Fleet. On 8 August, he detached from the tender and reported for duty on Augusta. On 4 December 1935, Austin received a permanent warrant as a carpenter (warrant officer, W-1). He left the heavy cruiser on 13 July 1937 and reported on board Tennessee on 10 September 1937. He served in that battleship until detached on 14 June 1939 to proceed to further assignment to Rigel reporting on 18 July 1939. After 14 months on that destroyer tender, Carpenter Austin departed on 21 September 1940 bound for duty in Oklahoma and reported on board the battleship on 5 October 1940. In October 1941, Austin he received a commission as a chief carpenter (chief warrant officer, W-2).

Death at Pearl Harbor[edit]

The heavily-damaged Oklahoma capsizing during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

On the morning of 7 December 1941, Chief Austin was on board Oklahoma. The battleship, which was the first to be attacked by the Japanese on Battleship Row, capsized in only 15 minutes due to damage it received from torpedoes and bombs. Austin along with many crew members were trapped within the ship as it keeled over. After searching for a means of escape, he found a porthole beneath the surface that offered a way out. He assisted 15 sailors in escaping from the sunken Oklahoma. However Chief Carpenter Austin failed to get out.


The citation for his posthumous Navy Cross reads:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Chief Carpenter John Arnold Austin (NSN: 75565), United States Navy, for exceptional courage, presence of mind, and devotion to duty and disregard for his personal safety while serving on board the Battleship U.S.S. OKLAHOMA (BB-37), during the Japanese attack on the United States Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on 7 December 1941. When the U.S.S. OKLAHOMA capsized, Chief Carpenter Austin and a number of the crew were entrapped in one of the ship's compartments. By his efforts, a porthole which was under water was located and he assisted fifteen of the crew to escape. 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.[1]


The escort destroyer USS Austin (DE-15) was named in his honor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "John Arnold Austin". Military Times. Retrieved May 17, 2015.