SF1c John Anthony Lipple

Unknown Sailor

SF1c John Anthony Lipple

John Anthony Lipple grew up poor and joined the Navy in April 1936, soon after graduating from Patton High School in Cambria County, Pennsylvania about 90 miles east of Pittsburgh.

He was a shipfitter and petty officer first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Mr. Lipple earned $860 in 1939 as a welder. That may seem modest today, but by the standards of the Great Depression it was good money. In that same year, his father, Anthony, was unemployed. One sister earned $360 as a stenographer at a doctor’s office, and another earned $680 in a government jobs program.

Years later his youngest brother, Joe, recalled that “John was like just about every other guy in those days. He loved his country… but he was there because he was trying to make his way in the world.”

Both Joe and another brother, Paul, also served in the Navy during World War II and survived.

Paul was at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, on a destroyer, the Reid. It was berthed for repair about 4,400 feet north of the Arizona but the U.S.S. Solace, a large hospital ship, and Ford Island blocked much of his view of battleship row. About half an hour after the second wave of the Japanese attack, the Reid managed to get underway and headed to open water. Paul left Pearl Harbor without knowing that John was dead on the Arizona. He even wrote to their mother, Caroline, asking whether she’d heard from John.

John’s birth date is uncertain. Both the Veterans Administration and the Defense Department list it as Aug. 9, 1917. However, an application filed after the war by his father said he was born Oct. 9, 1916. John worked as a boy, picking berries and hunting for ginseng. He’d dry it and sell the roots. “Nobody had any money,” brother Joe recalled of their boyhood in central Pennsylvania.

John Lipple Post 4315 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was established in 1945 in Ashville about 9 miles southeast of Patton. The post created a documentary film about him and showed it for the first time on Dec. 7, 2012. There is a cenotaph in his memory at Saint Thomas Cemetery in Ashville.


Sources: The Altoona (Pennsylvania) Mirror; The Altoona Tribune; The Tribune Democrat of Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Census; Navy muster rolls; U.S. Veterans Administration; Defense Department; U.S.S. Reid Action Report on the Pearl Harbor attack. 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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