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First Name: David

Last Name: Roche

Birthplace: Hibbing, St. Louis, MN, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: MN
Middle Name: John

Date of Birth: 02 December 1918

Date of Death: 05 June 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 04 June 1942

Rank or Rate: Ensign

Years Served: 1939-1943

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


David John Roche was the son of Carrie Mekash Dolezel and David Andrew Roche, her second husband, who married 03 Jun 1912. John's seven siblings were Francis Joseph, Marie Agnes, Henry Andrew, George Gerald, Clarence Edward, Richard and Dorothy Roche. Carrie's first husband was Mr. Dolezel. His brother, Joseph George Dolezel married Carrie's older sister, Mary Ann Mekash. Carrie and Mr. Dolezel were the parents of a son, Arnold Dolezel.

David John graduated from Hibbing High School in June 1936. After high school, he completed two years of college. He applied for the Naval Reserve Flight training program (V-5) in the later summer of 1939. He completed a physical exam, personal interview with the Naval Reserve Flight Selection Board, provided a resume and character recommendations before he was accepted into the program. David enlisted in the US Naval Reserve (V-5) Aviation Cadet program as a Seaman 2/c on 13 Nov 1939. He was transferred to the Naval Reserve Air Station, Grosse Ile, MI (NRASGI) for elimination flight training in late Nov 1939. He successfully completed his elimination flight training in Dec and was sent home to await orders.

The Secretary of the Navy sent orders to David in early February 1940 for him to report to NRASGI where Roche was honorably discharged from enlisted status on 25 Feb to accept an appointment as an Aviation Cadet (AVCAD) in the US Naval Reserve. The next day, 26 Feb 1940, he accepted the appointment and executed the oath of office as an AVCAD. His date of rank was 15 Feb 1940. He also received orders to proceed to the Naval Air Station (NAS), Pensacola, FL and report to the Commandant for active duty undergoing training.

After completing his Primary and Intermediate flight schools in Pensacola, FL he was transferred to the Advanced Training Specialized Carrier Group at NAS Miami for another month. He was designated a naval aviator (heavier-than-air) on 14 October 1940. A week later on 21 October 1940 he received a commission as an Ensign, USNR, AV-(N). He then reported to NAS San Diego and the Advanced Carrier Training Group for additional flight related training. Following that duty he reported for duty to Torpedo Squadron Three (VT-3) on 01 Dec 1940. VT-3 was embarked on the aircraft carrier, USS Saratoga (CV-3).

Saratoga was in a refit/overhaul status most of 1941, therefore, her attached squadrons, including VT-3, were based at various Naval Air Stations in Hawaii or the west coast. On 07 Dec 1941, Saratoga was entering San Diego to embark her air group, which were ashore while she was undergoing refit. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Saratoga became the flagship of an unsuccessful American effort to relieve Wake Island. A few weeks later on 11 Jan 1942 Saratoga was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. She steamed to Pearl Harbor for temporary repairs arriving on 13 Jan 1942. She returned to the Bremerton Navy Yard for permanent repairs on 09 Feb 1942. During the yard period Saratoga's embarked squadrons were transferred elsewhere. VT-3 was assigned first to NAS Pearl Harbor at Ford Island then to NAS Kaneohe Bay on Hawaii.

On 28 May 1942, the squadron was temporarily reassigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown (CV-5). Aviation squadrons from Air Group Three flew aboard Yorktown shortly after she got underway from Pearl Harbor in company with the USS Hornet (CV-8) and USS Enterprise (CV-6). They steamed to a point on the navigation chart nicknamed "Point Luck" to await the arrival of the Japanese Striking Force which was steaming from Japan to attack Midway Island.

About a week later on 4 June 1942, Ensign Roche and his gunner ARM3 Charles Lee Moore, launched from the flight deck of USS Yorktown (CV-5) with other elements of the Yorktown air group to attack the Japanese Striking Forces approaching Midway. Although they had some friendly fighter protection enroute to their targets VT-3 had to thread their way through a gauntlet of swarming enemy fighters and a hail of anti-aircraft fire. Of the twelve VT-3 torpedo planes that took off from the Yorktown that morning only two survived the attack. The two aircraft made it back to the vicinity of friendly forces, but had to ditch in the sea.

Ens. Roche and Petty Officer Moore did not return from this mission, and they were listed as missing in action on 04 Jun 1942. Their remains were unrecoverable. The Navy Department notified Roche's family via telegram that he was missing in the service of his country. On 5 Jun 1943, Ensign Roche was presumed dead.

Ens. Roche was awarded the Navy Cross, Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal with "Fleet" clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/one bronze battle star, and the World War II Victory Medal. [The only award that wasn't posthumously presented was the Navy Cross. When it was awarded, Ens. Roche was still missing in action and not presumed dead.]


The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Ensign David John Roche , United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Torpedo Plane of Torpedo Squadron THREE (VT-3), attached to the U.S.S. YORKTOWN (CV-5), during the "Air Battle of Midway," against enemy Japanese forces on 4 June 1942. Participating in a Torpedo Plane assault against Japanese naval units, Ensign Roche, in the face of tremendous anti-aircraft fire and overwhelming fighter opposition, pressed home his attack to a point where it became relatively certain that, in order to accomplish his mission, he would probably sacrifice his life. Undeterred by the grave possibilities of such a hazardous offensive, he carried on, with extreme disregard for his own personal safety, until his squadron scored direct hits on two enemy aircraft carriers. His self sacrificing gallantry and fortitude were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

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


His family also received a commemoration from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It reads: In grateful memory of David John Roche, who died in the service of his country, SEA, Pacific Area, ATTACHED TORPEDO SQUADRON THREE, 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 of America


USS Roche (DE-197) was a Canon-class destroyer escort built by the Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company of Port Newark, NJ; launched on 09 Jan 1944, sponsored by Mrs Carrie M. Roche, the mother of the late Ensign Roche; and commissioned at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on 21 Feb 1944. She spent most of 1944 and the first five months of 1945 escorting convoys to the Mediterranean. On 1 July 1945 she was steaming to the Pacific through the Panama Canal. She performed escort and anti-submarine patrol duties. On 22 Sept while escorting the Florence Nightingale (AP-70) the Roche struck a floating mine and suffered severe damage but remained afloat. On 18 Oct 1945 a board of inspection and survey concluded that the Roche was beyond economical repair and recommended that she be cannibalized for parts. Subsequently decommissioned, Roche was sunk off Yokosuka on 11 March 1946. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 5 June 1946.


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 #173 compiled by Gerry Lawton (GML470/G47)]

Find A Grave Memorial #55926930

Honoree ID: 100858   Created by: MHOH




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