First Posted: 1/15/2009
It is almost unbelievable that three cousins, close and close in age, would grow up on one farm in St. Pauls and would each perish in the US Navy in World War II. Even more incredible is the fact that they each died aboard and were entombed in vessels that sunk beneath Pacific waves, never to be raised again. Yet, that is exactly what happened.
Seaman Robert Lewis Carroll was 20 when he died aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.
Chief Motor Machinist Mate Thomas Judson McGill, Jr. was 24 when he died aboard the submarine USS Wahoo on October 11, 1943 in the Sea of Japan.
Chief Electrician Mate John Richard Johnson was 25 when he died aboard the submarine USS Lagarto on May 4, 1945 in the Gulf of Thailand.
History books tell that the Arizona rests underwater in Hawaii as a permanent memorial to those who died there on December 7, 1941.
Modern technology has just recently discovered and identified the Wahoo and the Lagarto.The Lagarto has been memorialized by the United States with a plaque lowered onto the submerged vessel. The Wahoo awaits to be memorialized in a similar way.
There are no more family members of Robert Lewis Carroll in St. Pauls to mourn him. But Mr. McGill and Mr. Johnson each have a sister here who have followed the discovery of the submarines that are the final resting places of their much beloved brothers.
For Marian Jackson, the August news of the discovery of the USS Wahoo, her brother TJ McGill’s ship, brought back loving memories that never faded.
For Marie Foley, the news of the June discovery of the USS Lagarto, her brother Johnny Johnson’s ship, unleashed an emotional response.
Mrs. Foley said, “I held out on hope that he would someday, somewhere be found alive. I knew a miracle was possible–until we got the word of the ship’s discovery. It broke me. But he’s at peace now, and we’ll go on. He’s always been a guardian angel to me and now I know he really is.
“Johnny was next to me in age, six years older, and he went into service when I was in high school. I did get to see him a couple of times in Connecticut, at New London where he was stationed before shipping out. My husband, Gary and I were at New Haven Air Base, so we were able to visit. When Johnny left New London, that was the last time I got to see him. He was my life, my life, my life… I would not give him up. I absolutely would not give him up…”
Mrs. Jackson said, “TJ was my oldest brother, always there for me. What he did was right!
“When TJ came home on leave, we really enjoyed our time together, but we had no idea it would be the last time we’d be together. I’m just thankful to God that they found him. Now I know where his body is. It gives closure to me.”
The three first cousins were the grandsons of Charles Lewis and Mary (Molly) Odom Johnson. They lived in three houses in a row on the Johnson family farm, which is still located along Great Marsh Church Road, and which has been home to five generations.
That one family, from one farm in one small town, gave so much, is a tragic yet proud story. Each new chapter rewrites history.
“When Johnny shipped out,” Mrs. Foley said, “everything was in their favor. It was a brand new sub, on its second patrol, with a great captain. But it was just not in God’s plan. We know now each of the cousins’ resting places, and that they are peaceful. The Arizona memorial is beautiful and moving, and now there are wonderful memorials on the subs. So no one can bother them again.”