S1c Joseph John Borovich

Years before John Joseph Borovich was killed on the U.S.S. Arizona, he won brief fame in newspapers around the country because he bit his dog.

Accounts vary slightly. Perhaps the five-year-old teased the pet too much and “Bepp” bit him, or maybe the dog had stolen eggs from the barnyard. Either way, “Baby Joe,” as the family called Borovich, retaliated by biting the dog on the nose. Newspaper editors latched onto the tale as proof of the old journalism saw that “Dog bites man” isn’t news, but “Man bites dog” is news indeed. And “Boy bites dog” was even better.

Mr. Borovich was the subject of a 2004 profile by Martin Cheek in the Gilroy (California) Dispatch. He interviewed relatives for a detailed account of the boy’s upbringing.

He was born on New Year’s Eve 1918, and attended Sacred Heart School and Serra High School in Hollister. He was 6-foot-6 and played football and basketball. He worked as a teen on farms around Hollister, Calif., and once while spraying pear trees got pesticide mist in his face. His vision became blurry and when he tried to enlist in the Navy, he was rejected. Even so, Mr. Borovich stopped at the recruiting depot every time he drove a load of pears to San Jose. 

One day as he was leaving the office, having failed the eye test yet again, the recruiter called out. “Any man who wants to get into the Navy as badly as you do will get right in!”

Mr. Borovich enlisted in July 1940. He was a seaman first class when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

His parents, George and Katie, were immigrants from Yugoslavia. The father was a farm laborer and the mother a homemaker.

Joe Borovich Drive in Hollister is named for him.

Sources: Gilroy Dispatch, Oakland Tribune, Navy muster rolls, US Census, Veterans Administration. Naval History and Heritage Command photo. 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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