John James Dewitt was born Feb. 19, 1920 at Franks, a township of about 500 people in east central Arkansas. His mother, Luella Doss Dewitt, was a homemaker, and his father, Onley Dewitt, a farmer.
By the time of the spring 1940 Census, John, the eldest of four children, was still at home with his family, which also included a grandmother. John and his brother Lawrence, 17, were identified as timber workers — most likely for one of the Depression-era federal jobs programs. John, who completed 7th grade, earned $200 for 30 weeks’ work in 1939.He enlisted in the Navy on June 7, 1940, and was a coxswain and petty officer third class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
Sources: The South Bend (Indiana) Tribune; Census; Navy muster roll. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.