James B Daswson USMC

James Berkley Dawson

The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Margaret Tilford tried to call the president and the commandant of the Marines to ask if her brother, James Berkley Dawson, was alive.

“I was young and naive,” she remembered many years later. “I don’t know what I would have said.”

It was 10 days after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that Mr. Dawson’s family was notified of his death. A Marine gunnery private, he had been blown off his ship, the U.S.S. Arizona, and died of burns.

His body was recovered and buried in Hawaii for the duration of World War II. Afterward, his family had his remains returned home and re-buried at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

Mr. Dawson was born Jan. 27, 1922, to Allen Dawson, a laborer at a chicken farm, and Elena Johnson Allen, a homemaker. The son clerked at a grocery store while attending Louisville Male High School. Mr. Dawson enlisted in the Marines on March 20, 1941.

Sources: The Paducah (Kentucky) Sun; The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky; grave marker; muster roll. Marine photograph. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.