John Morgan Meares was born January 6, 1916 in Anderson County, western South Carolina. His parents, Sarah Reynolds Meares and Thomas Meares, were hardworking people. Thomas was a postman on a rural route near the cotton mill town of Pelzer, while Sarah was a homemaker, taking care of their home and children.
John was the youngest of three children, and he grew up watching his parents work tirelessly to provide for their family. Sadly, when John was just eight years old, his father passed away, leaving Sarah to raise their children on her own. Despite the hardships they faced, Sarah was determined to provide her children with the best life possible.
By 1930, Sarah and John were living in Williamston, two miles south of Pelzer. John had completed high school and was working at a mill by the time of the spring 1940 Census. However, the war was brewing, and John felt compelled to do his part in serving his country. On September 17, he made the decision to enlist in the United States Navy.
John’s naval career brought him to the USS Arizona, where he served as a seaman second class. He was proud to be part of the crew of such a prestigious ship, and he worked diligently to do his part in defending his country. However, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and the USS Arizona was hit by multiple bombs. The ship quickly sank, taking the lives of over 1,000 sailors with it, including John.
The news of John’s death was a devastating blow to his family and community. They mourned the loss of a young man who had so much potential, but who had given his life in service to his country. Though they held out hope that John’s remains would be recovered, that hope was never realized, and his body remains entombed within the wreckage of the USS Arizona.
Today, there is a cenotaph in John Morgan Meares’ memory at nearby Williamston Memorial Park where his parents are buried. The cenotaph stands tall and proud, serving as a reminder of the sacrifice that John made for his country and of the countless other brave men and women who have given their lives in service to the United States. Though John may be gone, his legacy lives on, inspiring us to honor the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. He will always be remembered as a true American hero, and his memory will forever be etched in our hearts.