OC2c David Andrew Johnson Jr.

David Johnson from USS Arizona

OC2c David Andrew Johnson Jr.

David Andrew Johnson Jr. was born April 19, 1912 to David Johnson Sr., a farmer, and Nellie Hunter Johnson, a homemaker. 

He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was a standout football player. He attended New York University for two years, then quit to enlist in the Navy in 1933.

Mr. Johnson was an officer’s cook and petty officer second class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

His position was one of few open to African-American men in the segregated Navy since the Wilson Administration. Most were messmen — men who cooked, cleaned, and performed other services. A small number were advanced to the position of officer’s cook or officer’s steward, but not beyond promotion to petty officer first class. They were prohibited from doing higher skilled and better paid jobs.

Mr. Johnson was among the most educated sailors on the battleship. He was a high school graduate, something less than half of Americans could claim in 1940. And just six percent of American men had a college degree.

Mr. Johnson was one of two Booker T. Washington graduates killed on the Arizona. Irvin C. Anderson was a messman first class.


Sources: the Norfolk (Virginia) Journal and Guide; Census; Navy muster rolls; Virginia death certificate; Department of Defense. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona

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