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First Name: John

Last Name: Roberts

Birthplace: Boaz, Marshall, AL, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: AL
Middle Name: Quincy

Date of Birth: 02 September 1914

Date of Death: 05 June 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 04 June 1942

Rank or Rate: Ensign

Years Served: 1940-1943
'Red, J.Q.'

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


John Quincy Roberts

Ensign, United States Naval Reserve

Navy Cross & Purple Heart

John Quincy Roberts was born on 2 Sept 1914 in Boaz, Marshall, Alabama the son of John Grover and Deany Frances (Kelley) Roberts who married on 29 Jan 1911 in Etowah County, AL. His siblings were Guy M. and Edna Raymond Roberts. Three months after Edna was born on 24 April 1917, a domestic dispute erupted between John and Deany involving a third party, Mr. Earl Luttrell, and his alleged relationship with Mrs Roberts. On Saturday evening, 21 July 1917, John was shot to death and his wife wounded in her arm in their home in South Guntersville, AL. Mrs Roberts stated that Roberts shot her then himself. No one else was present. A corner's jury found that Mrs Roberts unlawfully killed her husband. They further stated that Mr. Luttrell was an accessory before the fact. John's brothers claimed his remains the following day. Two of the three children, Guy and John Q., went home with their uncles. Mrs Roberts and Mr Luttrell were jailed several days later charged with complicity in the murder of Grover Roberts. At the preliminary hearing on 31 July 1917, the judge set bail at $2000. It was learned that the pistol that killed Mr. Roberts belonged to Mr. Luttrell. Both defendants made bond and were released from jail. Mrs Roberts was indicted on murder in the first degree. On Friday, 19 Oct 1917, the trial of Mrs Roberts concluded. Mrs Roberts was declared not guilty and acquitted by the trial jury.

Now Deany had to support three children under the age of six. She married on 9 Aug 1919, Oscar S Lybrand, who was 26 yrs older than she. They were divorced by 1930. Deany worked as a salesperson at a bakery in Birmingham to support her family. Mrs Lybrand changed her name back to Roberts by 1940. The little family remained together during the Great Depression, and by 1940 Mrs Roberts continued working as a salesperson in the bakery. She married a Mr. Garner about 1943. Deany and her daughter are buried together under the surname of Roberts in Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, Jefferson, AL. Her son Guy and a cenotaph to John Quincy are also in that cemetery.

Johnny "Red" Roberts, graduated from West End High School, Birmingham, in 1934, where he was a football star and made all county and a 11-state football ratings. He won a scholarship to the University of Alabama for his outstanding work at that high school. At U of Alabama John was a student, an athlete, and assistant coach. He made an outstanding contribution to the field of Alabama sports, for while John could not be classed as the best athlete ever to play at the Capstone, he certainly was one of the most popular. A fine tackler on the squad of the Crimson Tide in 1935, 1936, 1937, he was a member of the team that played in the Rose Bowl that year. In the summer of 1937 he was named to the National Amateur All-Star team and played in the national meet. He was a varsity boxer, and was an even better baseball player than football player. As a star third baseman he was a team hitter and base stealer. To those who knew him John was characterized as having a generous and manly spirit, a genuine friendliness, and strong loyalty to his home ties, his alma mater, and his friends. He was a member of Theta Chi, a social fraternity, the Cotillion Club, the Inter fraternity Council, and was president of the "A" Club, a varsity letter-man's organization. John graduated in May 1939 with a B.S. degree in physical education.

John Q. Roberts, applied for Aviation Training in the U.S. Naval Reserve (V-5) in the late summer of 1940. The application process consisted of writing a personal resume, providing all high school and college transcripts, submitting to a police background check, a physical exam, providing a recent photo of himself, a copy of his birth certificate, obtaining at least three character references, and finally he had to sit for an interview with the Naval Reserve Flight Selection Board who would determine his suitability as a future naval officer and pilot. If the applicant was deemed acceptable the board would nominate the applicant to the Navy Department for selection consideration. John was so nominated and selected.

John enlisted in the (V-5) USNR aviation program (NSN: 407-41-02) on 14 Oct 1940 in Birmingham, AL as a Seaman Second Class (S2/c) for four years. The next day he reported for temporary active duty under instruction to the Naval Reserve Aviation Base (NRAB), Miami (Opa-Locka, FL) for 30-day elimination flight training. On 14 Nov 1940, he successfully completed that training that included a short aircraft solo flight. He was discharged from temporary active duty under instruction and returned home to await further orders. He received new orders via mail from the Secretary of the Navy the following month to report to the Commandant, Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, FL to begin flight training under instruction as a Naval Aviation Cadet. He arrived at NAS Pensacola and was discharged from active duty enlisted status on 17 Jan 1941. The following day he took the oath of office and accepted the appointment as a Naval Aviation Cadet. His date of rank was 15 Jan 1941. Aviation Cadet Roberts was assigned to the 86 aviation cadet-strong class 160-C that formed during the first week of February 1941. While at flight school John also played baseball for the NAS team.

He completed his primary flight training and received his designation as a naval aviator in the summer of 1941. He then detached from NAS Pensacola and transferred to the NAS, Miami (Opa-Locka) for 4-6 weeks of training with the Advanced Training Specialized Carrier Group. This training was specifically for pilots who were to fly carrier borne aircraft. While at Miami John took the oath of office and accepted his commission as an Ensign, USNR, A-V(N) on 27 Sep 1941. His date of rank was 5 Sep 1941. After a period of leave, Ens. Roberts reported in Oct 1941 for temporary duty with the Advanced Carrier Training Group (ACTG) in Norfolk, VA for 6-8 weeks of training in fleet-type planes and carrier-landing qualification. The culmination of the training was to become "carrier qualified" by making three carrier landings in a Vought SB2U on board the USS Long Island (CVE-1) -- first of the escort "Jeep" carriers -- while she plied around Chesapeake Bay.

Ensign Roberts was originally ordered to duty with Scout-bombing squadron 42 (VSB-42) attached to the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV- 4) for duty involving flying. However, likely in response to President Roosevelt's 27 May 1941 proclamation of an unlimited national emergency, many new aviators' orders were changed from East coast assignments to the West Coast. The Pacific was now the priority. Ens Roberts' original orders to VSB-42 were cancelled. Upon completion of training with the ACTG (mid-Feb 1942), he was to immediately proceed with other ACTG pilots via rail to San Francisco and then embark on the transport ship S.S. President Hoover for transit to Hawaii and assignment. After a weeks steaming, the Hoover reached Honolulu about 01 Mar 1942 where the thirty or so ACTG graduates including Ensigns John Quincy Roberts, John Butler, John Lough, Elmer Maul, Frank O'Flaherty, Raymond Miligi, John Bridgers and Carl Peiffer were transferred across the Island of Oahu to NAS, Kaneohe Bay. The group's assignments were spread around to various squadrons. Ensign Roberts (and the previous named seven) was temporarily assigned as a replacement pilot to USS Saratoga's shore-based Bombing Squadron Three (VB-3) for duty under command of LCDR Max Leslie.

For the next month VB-3 provided a much need training ground for the rookie pilots who had never flown (or seen) the Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bomber. On 18 March, VB-3 was directed to temporarily replace Scouting Squadron Six on board USS Enterprise (CV-6). On 08 April 1942, VB-3 flew on board the Enterprise as she steamed out of Pearl Harbor on a secret mission. Five days later, Enterprise executed a rendezvous with USS Hornet (CV-8) and her deck-full of Army B-25 bombers. Together the two Tokyo-bound carriers and escorts crossed the International Date Line on 14 April. At 0508 on 18 April, Enterprise launched the morning CAP fighters. They were followed by three SBDs of VB-3 to conduct a two-hundred mile search to the west. A fourth Dauntless piloted by Ensign John Q. Roberts was launched for an inner-air patrol to the westward. Less than an hour later, one of the three SBDs made contact with a small Japanese patrol craft forty-two miles from Enterprise. At 0738, Hornet lookouts spotted the ninety-ton whale catcher No.23 Nitto Maru just ten miles away. She was heard sending out a radio report of an American carrier sighted. By 0744, Enterprise lookouts spotted No. 23 just five miles off her port quarter. Halsey ordered Hornet to prepare the B-25s for immediate launch. Meanwhile, Wildcat fighters from Enterprise's Fighting Six began strafing Nitto Maru and a second fishing boat, Nanshin Maru, spotted by Ens. Roberts of VB-3 at 0745. Roberts tried to dive on the 125-foot-long metal boat but had to abort his first run when a Wildcat got in his way. His second run with a 500 lb bomb sailed about one hundred feet over the target. Coming around for the third time, Roberts and AMM2 Clarence Zimmershead, the rear-seat radioman/gunner, strafed the ship with bullets.

Doolittle's raiders took to the cloudy skies shortly after 0900 on 18 April 1942 delivering a surprise "gift" to Japan. During the return transit to Pearl Harbor, Lcdr Leslie of VB-3 used the opportunity to carrier-qualify some of his rookie pilots including Ensigns O'Flaherty, Lough, Bridgers and Peiffer. Shortly before Enterprise and Hornet returned to Hawaii on 25 April 1942, VB-3 flew off from Enterprise and returned to NAS Kaneohe Bay. Shortly after VB-3 landed, Ensigns Peiffer, Roberts, O'Flaherty and Lough were transferred to Scouting Squadron Six on Enterprise to replace pilots lost or transferred.

Underway on 30 April, Enterprise and USS Hornet received their squadrons from bases on Hawaii. VS-6 had replaced VB-3 on Enterprise. It was to be a badly needed training cruise, however, several days later Enterprise and Hornet were directed to the South Pacific to assist aircraft carriers USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) engaged in the battle of the Coral Sea. The battle was over before they could arrive on-scene. Enterprise was then directed to perform a feint towards Nauru and Banaba (Ocean) islands which caused the Japanese to delay Operation RY to seize the two islands. Enterprise returned to Pearl Harbor on 26 May and began intensive preparations to meet an expected Japanese thrust at Midway Island.Underway from Pearl Harbor on 28 May 1942, Enterprise and USS Hornet (CV-8) steamed toward a point Northeast of Midway called "Point Luck." USS Yorktown (CV-5) followed a short time later.

Early on the morning of 4 Jun 1942 the Enterprises' air group along with those from the USS Hornet (CV-8) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) launched their strike packages to intercept and attack the Japanese carrier fleet approaching the Midway Atoll. The Commanding Officer of VS-6, Lt Wilmer Gallaher, led his squadron from the first division in SBD 6-S-1. VS-6 strike package was comprised of three divisions for a total of 14 SBD dive bombers. Ens Roberts and his rear-seat gunner, Aviation Ordnanceman First Class Thurman Randolph Swindell, were in the first division flying SBD 6-S-3. Second Division was led by Lt Clarence Dickinson in 6-S-10, and the third division led by Lt Charles R. Ware in 6-S-4. At 1022, the fourteen VS-6 bombers began their attack on the Japanese aircraft carrier Kaga. Within moments the Kaga was struck by many bombs that set her afire from bow to stern. Ens. Roberts was sixth to dive on Kaga. His aircraft, 6-S-3 was damaged by flak during his dive, but he was able to release his bomb. Roberts had sworn, according to members of his squadron, that he would score a hit even if he had to take it aboard. His plane was seen to slam into the water several hundred yards to starboard of Kaga. Many newspaper accounts of the day, desperate for a headline or a hero, wrote that Roberts crashed into a Japanese battleship sending her to the bottom. The truth will never be known whether Roberts intentionally tried to crash into the Kaga after his plane was hit by flak or simply crashed where it did because he had lost control of it. His squadron mate, Ens. Eldor "Rodney" Rodenburg (6-S-9) said, "We all believe he kept his word." In any case Ens. John Q. Roberts was a hero nevertheless, but he didn't sink a battleship, but he might have helped to sink the Kaga.

After pulling out of their attack dive, VS-6 aircraft were attacked by Japanese fighters. Already low on fuel they were forced to employ evasive maneuvers to avoid their attackers as well as a hail of anti-aircraft fire from the ships. Ens Peiffer survived the initial assault on Kaga and joined with Lt Charles Ware in 6-S-4, VS-6 third division leader, and Ensigns James Shelton (6-S-6), Frank O'Flaherty (6-S-5), John C. Lough (6-S-14) and John McCarthy (6-S-15). After clearing the battle area Lt Ware led his group toward Midway per previous instructions. He assembled the six planes into 2 three plane sections. Section 1 was himself, Ens. Shelton and Ens. Peiffer. The second section comprised Ens. McCarthy, Ens. O'Flaherty and Ens. John C. Lough.

Shortly after they started for home Ens. O'Flaherty was forced to ditch because of fuel exhaustion. He was last seen getting into his life raft with his gunner Bruno Gaito. As the Ware group continued onward they were sighted and attacked by several enemy planes from a Japanese attack group from Hiryu that was counter-attacking Yorktown. Although no American planes were shot down during this encounter they were forced to use up vital fuel supplies to avoid their attackers. Ware and McCarthy "discussed" the best way home. Each decided on a different course. Along with Lt Ware, Ensigns Shelton and Peiffer followed one course and Ens. McCarthy and Ens. Lough took another. After about 15 minutes the two groups lost sight of each other. It was the last time anyone ever saw Ware, Lough, Shelton and Peiffer. Also lost were their gunners RM3 Jeck, RM2 Hansen, ARM1 Stambaugh and RM3 Craig. Their remains were unrecoverable.

Ensign John Quincy Roberts was reported missing on 04 June 1942. His mother received a telegram from the Navy Department on 18 June informing her that John was missing in the service of his country. He was presumed dead on 05 Jun 1943. His remains were unrecoverable.

Roberts was awarded the Navy Cross, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation w/ribbon, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze battle star, and the World War II Victory Medal.

According to WWII Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Casualty list, Ensign John Quincy Roberts, USNR. Mother: Mrs Deany Frances Roberts Garner, 8000 North 8th Ave. Birmingham, AL


Navy Cross


The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to John Quincy Roberts, Ensign, U.S. Naval Reserve, "For heroism and courageous devotion to duty while piloting an airplane of a scouting squadron in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of Midway during the period June 4-6, 1942. Participating in a devastating assault against a Japanese invasion fleet, Ens. Robert, with fortitude and resolute devotion to duty, pressed home his attacks in the face of a formidable barrage of anti-aircraft fire and fierce fighter opposition. His gallant perseverance and utter disregard for his own safety were important contributing factors in the success achieved by our forces and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service."

[Original citation from newspaper article]

Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 309 (December 1942)


USS Enterprise Presidential Unit citation (1942)

For consistently outstanding performance and distinguished achievement during repeated action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific war area, 7 December 1941, to 15 November 1942. Participating in nearly every major carrier engagement in the first year of the war, the Enterprise and her air group, exclusive of far-flung destruction of hostile shore installations throughout the battle area, did sink or damage on her own a total of 35 Japanese vessels and shot down a total of 185 Japanese aircraft. Her aggressive spirit and superb combat efficiency are fitting tribute to the officers and men who so gallantly established her as an ahead bulwark in the defense of the American nation.

Actions of the Enterprise mentioned in the citation include the Gilbert and Marshalls raid of 01 Feb 1942; Wake Island raid, 24 Feb 1942; Marcus Island raid, 04 Mar 1942; Battle of Midway, 4-6 Jun 1942; Occupation of Guadalcanal, 7-8 Aug 1942; Battle of Stewart Islands, 24 Aug 1942; Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, 26 Oct 1942; and Battle of Solomon Islands, 14-15 Nov 1942.


Task Force 16 Citation Recognizing its contribution to the Doolittle Raid, 18 April 1942

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Second World War, it is appropriate that we take time to reflect on the unique and daring accomplishments achieved early in the war by Task Force 16. Sailing westward under sealed orders in April 1942, only four months after the devastating raid on Pearl Harbor, Task Force 16, carrying sixteen Army B-25 bombers, proceeded into history. Facing adverse weather and under constant threat of discovery before bombers could be launched to strike the Japanese homeland, the crews of the ships and LTC Doolittle's bombers persevered. On 18 April 1942 at 14:45, perseverance produced success as radio broadcasts from Japan confirmed the success of the raids. These raids were an enormous boost to the morale of the American people in those early and dark days of the war and a harbinger of the future for the Japanese High Command that had so foolishly awakened "The Sleeping Giant." These exploits, which so inspired the service men and women and the nation live on today and are remembered when the necessity of success against all odds is required.

(Signed) John H.Dalton

Secretary of the Navy

15 May 1995


His family also received a commemoration from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It reads: In grateful memory of John Q. Roberts, who died in the service of his country, SEA, Pacific Area, ATTACHED U.S.S. ENTERPRISE, 5 JUNE 1943 (Presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives -- in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

(Signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt,

President of the United States


U.S.S. John Q. Roberts (APD-94), named in his honor, was laid down 15 November 1943 as DE-235 by Charleston Navy Yard, Charleston, S.C.; launched 11 February 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Deany Roberts Garner, mother of Ens. Roberts; reclassified APD-94 on 17 June 1944; and commissioned 8 March 1945, Lt. Comdr. R. N. Bavier, Jr., in command.

Following shakedown training in the Caribbean, John Q. Roberts underwent amphibious training in Hampton Roads during April. She then got underway from Norfolk to join the Pacific Fleet, sailing 7 May. The ship arrived Pearl Harbor 31 May and trained with underwater demolition team units until proceeding to Leyte Gulf 13 June. In the weeks that followed, the ship escorted convoys and took part in fleet maneuvers in the Philippines preparatory to the anticipated invasion of the Japanese home-islands.

The war over, USS John Q. Roberts departed Leyte 20 August to escort a convoy to Okinawa. From there she was engaged in escort duties between that island and Japan. The ship was at Yokosuka during the historic surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay 2 September, and remained in Japan transporting troops and administrative personnel carrying out occupation duties. After embarking returnees, she departed Nagoya 17 December 1945 and steamed via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor for San Pedro, where she arrived 6 January 1946.

USS John Q. Roberts sailed 25 January for Norfolk, and from there to Green Cove Springs, Florida, where she arrived 17 March 1946. She decommissioned 30 May 1946 and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet; she sold for scrap 29 December 1960 to B. F. Diamond Construction Co., Inc., Savannah, Ga.

Source: Naval History and Heritage Command


Combat Action Ribbon (CR) note:

None of the Navy/Marine flight crews in the Battle of Midway were eligible for or were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon (CR). See Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (SECNAVINST M-1650.1 of 16 Aug 2019, Appendix 2C.1.c (3) Amplifying Guidance). It reads in part, “The CR will not be awarded in connection with aerial flight, . . . “ The CR was established in 1969 and made retroactive to 07 Dec 1941. According to the Awards Manual, when deemed appropriate, the award for aerial combat is the Air Medal.


[Bio #207 compiled by Gerry Lawton (G47/GML470)]

Military Hall of Honor website Honoree ID: 100783

Find A Grave Memorial Page#56120632

Honoree ID: 100783   Created by: MHOH




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