As the captain of the basketball and football teams at Gardner High School in Gardner, North Dakota, it was natural for John Marvin Emery to become the captain of the U.S.S. Arizona‘s football team. Jack, as he was known to his family and friends, also made the first Navy team, which played frequently at Pearl Harbor.
Gunner’s mate and petty officer third class John Emery was born in the small town of Gardner north of Fargo on April 26, 1919, to Carl, a farmer, and Sweden-born Freda, a homemaker who was proud of her American citizenship. He was the oldest brother to Carl “Bob” Robert, Betty Anne, Helen, Esther, and Jean.
The population of Gardner was 103 when John Marvin enlisted in the U.S. Navy and boarded the Arizona after graduating from the Naval Training Station at Great Lakes, Illinois in March 1940. As a gunner’s mate his duties were to take charge of gun and crew, assemble and fire all types of guns, and handle ammunition, mines, and depth chargers.
Mr. Emery’s sister Betty remembered her big brother sending her $10 from boot camp, which led her to spend a full day shopping for a red dress and a pair of shoes. His last letter to Betty was postmarked October 17, 1941, and asked if their mother still did not have a washing machine. He wanted to surprise her with one for Christmas. He also wrote that he was heading out to sea but would return to port in November, and that he would probably be home for Christmas.
Emery was on board the Arizona when Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor in the early morning hours of Sunday, December 7, 1941. He and 1,176 men on the ship died.
In 1942, Mr. Emery’s younger brother Bob was drafted into the Army. Congress had not yet passed the law forbidding the sole surviving son from being drafted. He was killed in June 1944 in the Normandy invasion, age 23.
Parents Carl and Freda both died in the late 1960s. Their tombstone bears the name “Emery” across the top. On the lower half, in between the words “Mother Freda A.” and “Father Carl C.” are engraved the words “Son John M.” Bob Emery’s grave is nearby. They are together once again in memory.