Preamble - Program - Fund - Mahalo - Plaques - Survivors - Colonel John H. Earle - L.S. Crawford - Marines - Ultimate Sacrifice


Colonel John H. Earle, Jr., USMC
Commanding Officer, USMC Detachment, USS ARIZONA

Former Marine Colonel Jack Earle, now 90 years young, makes his home with wife Barbara in Honolulu, in a condominium on Wilder Avenue, about two blocks Diamond Head of Punahou School’s main entrance.

Born: 7 January 1915

Graduated in 1932 from Mount Penn High School in Reading, PA, (Reading of Monopoly fame).

Graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1936 where 2nd Lt. Earle turned down a regular army commission and elected to accept a reserve commission in the Marine Corps. His service number was 05339.

While stationed at Marine Barracks Philadelphia (where Officer Basic was then located), he met Barbara Ferry (Drexel College Sigma Cum Laude, class of 1939 while she was tutoring a friend and classmate, Kitty. Embry Rucken, newly commissioned USMC lieutenant, brought Jack Earle to Kitty’s home.

At USMC Basic School, then located at Philadelphia, Jack Earle met Chesty Puller.

2nd Lt. Earle had been commissioned two months prior to meeting Barbara.

Married Barbara Ferry on 21 December 1938 in Willington, Delaware. Wedding was in civilian attire. Barbara was the only married female in her graduating class.

The newly wed couple lived in Quantico, Virginia on the second deck, above Maâ’s Dress Five and Dime, with neon sign shining in their window. They had only one room and shared a bath with several other newly married couples. They traveled cross-country in a new 1939 Dodge coupe they had just purchased, ending up in Bremerton, Washington where we would join the USS TENNESSEE.

Lt. Earle was assigned to 1/E/5 (1st Platoon, Easy Co., 2nd Bn, 5th Marines) for his training as a machine gun platoon commander.

Then Captain Earle had been assigned to the MARDET of the USS TENNESSEE in Bremerton, and sailed to Hawaii to be home ported in Pearl Harbor. He was the MarDet C.O. for about a year prior to his re-assignment to the USS ARIZONA.

He had met Lt. Col. Daniel R. ‘Danny’ Fox, the Landing Force Officer for the flagship, briefly prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, but did not know him well.

While in Hawaii, the Earle’s lived in a second deck termite-ridden apartment at corner of Aloha Drive and Seaside Avenue in Waikiki. Rent was $60 per month. To supplement their income, Barbara Earle worked as a civilian for Naval Intelligence, which then occupied an office on the top deck of the ALEXANDER YOUNG HOTEL on Bishop Street in downtown Honolulu.

The Earle’s would frequently take the train from Pearl Harbor to Chinatown in downtown Honolulu for dinner and sightseeing.
There was much rivalry between the Navy sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor.

Captain Earle reported aboard the USS ARIZONA mid-day on Saturday, 6 December 1941, where he relieved Major Alan Shapley as the Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment. After spending a few hours doing the account turnovers, (gear and lockers) Major Shapley suggested they take a motor launch back into Pearl Harbor Officers Club where his (Shapley’s) men were having a birthday party for one of the officers, and also to toast him (Shapley) “Farewell,” prior to his departure aboard the USS NEOSHO the next morning for further duty in CONUS.

About midnight, Major Shapley dismissed Earle and told him to go home to see his bride and they would continue the turnover later on the morning of Sunday the 7th. After sleeping in late, Jack and Barbara Earle woke up on Sunday 7 December to attack fire and explosions that could be heard coming from Pearl Harbor, 15 miles away. Captain Earle rounded up shipmates from the USS TENNESSEE, his old command, who were ashore and ordered them into a Charley’s Taxi to go to Pearl and see what they could do to assist their shipmates.

In Honolulu, he observed Rear Admiral Bagley with his mouth agape; eyes glassed over and in total disbelief of what was happening. Captain Earle determined that Admiral Bagley was ineffective to provide leadership or assistance.
They (Earle and party) left Merry Point Landing and got to Pearl between the first and second wave attacks.

When they made it to Ford Island, Earle and party found eight of the fifteen USMC survivors (including Corporal Earl C. Nightingale whom Captain Earle had known from Quantico) in a bunker with a shoeless Major Shapley organizing them. The USS NEOSHO, with Major Shapley aboard, actually made it out of the harbor late in the morning of 7 December 1941 They all made a direct path to the USS TENNESSEE, which was listing and pinned by the sinking USS OKLAHOMA to the pier. The Marines walked along a fresh water pipe to get aboard the damaged USS TENNESSEE. Remains of the heavily smoking USS ARIZONA, which had been berthed directly to the TENNESSEE’s stern, and the trade winds covered them with heavy soot.

Captain Earle took a post aboard the TENNESSEE as a lookout, but was not particularly effective because all of the smoke from the USS ARIZONA that was being blown by the trade winds into his and his watch-standers faces. By the night of 7 December, Barbara Earle had no idea as to the fate of her husband. She was picked up that evening by a cab and instructed to report to a Waikiki hotel for duty and told to bring a toothbrush and change of clothes. She remained on duty for the next two weeks, sleeping only intermittently as they expected further attacks On 13 December, Barbara was able to meet Jack at the pier for 15 minutes. He was hardly recognizable due to the smoke still on his face and covering his clothes.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1942, the Earle’s left Pearl Harbor for Pensacola, Florida where Jack was to begin flight school training to become a Naval Aviator.

They transited on a Naval transport to San Francisco where Jack reported in enlisted Service Alpha’s as his uniforms and all his personal gear, Marine Corps sword, et cetera had been lost aboard the USS ARIZONA had not been replaced. They got their now not-so-new 1939 Dodge out of storage and drove across country to Florida.

Jack graduated from flight school and received his gold wings and then went to Dallas, Texas; Cecil Field, Florida; and Jacksonville, Florida for further training. His primary type of aircraft, model and series became the Douglas SPD-4 Dauntless. The SPD-4 carried a pilot and an enlisted gunner.

He was next assigned to Great Lakes Naval Station on Lake Michigan, where he was taught dive bombing techniques and how to land aboard an aircraft carrier. As all major aircraft carriers were committed to the war effort, the USS WOLVERINE and the USS SABLET had small landing decks attached, and in Lake Michigan, just off Chicago, he made his required eight takeoffs and landings to qualify him for carrier duty at sea.

Barbara and their two sons had traveled to upper New York State to live with relatives until the war was over. Jack’s first duty as an aviator was at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal and then on to Bougainville. Next combat duty was in the Philippines, and then finally home in August of 1945.

First son, John Lawrence Earle, became a U.S. Navy Aviator.

Second son, Thomas Earle, attended Marine Platoon Leader’s Class, but did not gain a commission.

Colonel Earle’s last duty station was at Fleet Marine Forces Pacific, Camp Smith, Hawaii, from which he retired in 1961.
He received his Masters Degree and completed most of his Doctorate Degree at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. He taught history there for many years.

Colonel Earle is one of only two living USMC survivors of the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The other one is Pfc. Lamar S. Crawford who currently lives in Tyler, Texas.

See Infamous Day: Marines at Pearl Harbor - 7 December 1941
Preamble - Program - Fund - Mahalo - Plaques - Survivors - Colonel John H. Earle - L.S. Crawford - Marines - Ultimate Sacrifice


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