Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: James

Last Name: Moberley

Birthplace: Montgomery county, KY, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)

Rating: Water Tender Petty Officer 2nd Class

Home of Record: KY
Middle Name: Grubbs

Date of Birth: 13 May 1915

Date of Death: 25 November 1945 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 01 March 1942

Rank or Rate: Petty Officer Second Class

Years Served: 1934-1945

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


James Grubbs Moberley/Moberly was the eldest of five children born to Thomas James “Tom” and Mary Belle (Swetnam) Moberley who married 31 Dec 1912 in Clark county, KY. Some sources say 01 Jan 1913. His siblings were Jeane Moberley Thomas, Evelyn Moberley Murphy, Thomas Earl “Tommy,” and Virginia Moberley.

Thomas J. Moberley was a representative of an old and honored Kentucky family and was one of the alert and successful farmers of the younger generation in Montgomery county, where he was engaged in progressive agricultural and live-stock enterprise on the old home farm which was the place of his birth. Thomas supplemented the disciple of the public school by attending the Kentucky Wesleyan College at Winchester, KY.

Belle received excellent educational advantages, including those of a private collegiate institute, in which she was graduated, and prior to her marriage she had been a successful and popular teacher in schools of Montgomery County.

James decided before he graduated from high school that he would enlist in the US Navy. During the Great Depression, many of the young men turned to the military to help support their families, learn a trade and travel. James was no different. In early May 1934, James submitted an application for enlistment into the US Navy at the US Navy Recruiting Station (NRS), Lexington, KY. After completing qualifying general aptitude examinations; submitting personal references, completing administrative paperwork, passing background checks and physical and dental examinations, in addition to securing his father's permission, James G. Moberley was accepted for enlistment.

James graduated from Mt Sterling high school in Mt Sterling, KY in early June 1934. On 22 Jun 1934, at the Naval Recruiting Station in Louisville, KY., James G. Moberly of Mt Sterling, enlisted in the US Navy (NSN:287-11-44) as an Apprentice Seaman (AS) for a period until his 21st birthday. With five other navy recruits, James boarded a train and left later that day for the Naval Training Station (NTS), Norfolk, VA for 10 weeks of recruit training. After recruit training, AS Moberley was granted 10 days of “recruit” leave before returning to NTS, Norfolk where he received orders to his first ship in the West coast fleet. Not long after arriving at his ship, AS James was advanced in rate to Seaman Second Class (S2c). Shortly thereafter, he request permission to change his rate to Fireman third class (F3c).

F3/c Moberley advanced in rate to Fireman Second Class (F2/c). In May 1936, F2c Moberley extended his enlistment for a period of three years. During that time, F2c Moberley advanced to Fireman First Class (F1c). He was honorably discharged at the end of his enlistment about May 1939. Over the summer of 1939, with war clouds quickly approaching in Europe, James decided to return to naval service.

On 14 Sep 1939, James G. Moberley reenlisted as a F1c at the NRS, Lexington, KY for four years. Later that day, F1c Moberley boarded a train for the Naval Receiving Station (NRS) at the Naval Operating Base (NOB), Norfolk VA. He arrived the following day and received an assignment to the destroyer, USS Hatfield (DD-231). Moberley detached from NRS, Norfolk on 25 Sep 1939 and proceeded to the NRS, Philadelphia Navy Yard (NY) arriving the following day. The Hatfield was recommissioned at the Philadelphia (NY) on 25 Sep 1939. F1c Moberley reported for duty on Hatfield on 27 Sep 1939.

After a brief period of refresher training, Hatfield was assigned to the Atlantic Neutrality Patrol until August 1940. Hatfield departed 2 Aug for the West Coast where she was assigned to the defense force of the 13th Naval District. On 12 Nov 1940, F1c Moberley was admitted to the US Naval Hospital, Bremerton, WA for medical treatment. He was released on 22 Nov and returned to his ship for duty. Also in Nov 1940, F1c Moberley advanced two rates to Water Tender Second Class (WT2).

WT2 Moberley detached from Hatfield on 27 Dec 1940 and transferred to the NRS, Puget Sound Navy Yard (PSNY) at Bremerton, WA for assignment by Commander, Base Forces (ComBasFor). On 28 Dec, Moberley transferred to the aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CV-6) for temporary duty and assignment by Commander, Destroyer Battle Forces (ComDesBatFor). Moberley departed Enterprise on 21 Jan 1941 his temporary duty completed. Later that day in Pearl Harbor, he reported to the destroyer, USS Downes (DD-375) for duty. Moberley served on board Downes until he received orders to report to Asiatic Station (ASTA) in Manila, Philippines for assignment. He detached from Downes on 20 Nov 1941 (less than 3 weeks later Downes was wrecked in the attack on Pearl Harbor.) and reported on board the transport ship, USS Chaumont (AP-5) for his ride to his new duty station. It would be an epic trip.

The Chaumont got underway on 29 Nov 1941 from Pearl Harbor and joined eight other ships that comprised the convoy. The flagship was the troop transport, USS Republic (AP-33).

That convoy, generally known as the Pensacola Convoy for its escort ship, the heavy cruiser, USS Pensacola (CA-24) (also seen by the US Army as the "Republic Convoy"), included the gunboat, USS Niagara, US Navy transports USS Republic and USS Chaumont, the US Army transport USAT Willard A Holbrook and USAT Meigs; the US Merchant ships Admiral Halstead and Coast Farmer, and the Dutch merchant ship Bloemfontein.

After war broke out, and Japanese forces attacked the Philippines, the convoy diverted to Brisbane, Australia. On board the convoy were 2600 US Army Air Forces personnel some of whom would come in contact with WT2 Moberley on board the USS Edsall in late February 1942. On the Bloemfontein were eighteen crated Curtiss P-40 pursuit planes of the 35th Pursuit Group (PG) while forty-eight pursuit pilots of the 35th PG were embarked on the Republic and thirty-nine newly graduated but as yet unassigned pilots were on board the Holbrook. The presence of these planes and pilots would impact the destiny of the seaplane tender, USS Langley (AV-3), and the USS Edsall.

On 09 Jan 1942, WT2 Moberley and 11 other sailors with orders to the USS Edsall (DD-219) disembarked from Chaumont in Darwin, Australia and reported for duty on board Edsall later that day. Those eleven sailors who reported on board the destroyer, Edsall (DD-219) on 09 Jan 1942 were; MM1 Horace Wilbern Andrus, TM3 Howard Fritz Baumgarten, CBM (PA) Feliciano Calpo, MMC Guy N. Cantrall, YnC Arthur J. Giese, GM2 Raymond Latham, QM1 Linwood Muir, CTM Walter Prouty, Ck2c Ruperto Sanares, WTC Elton Smith, and EM3 Lloyd Stover. All perished when Edsall was sunk on 01 Mar 1942 except MM1 Andrus who was rescued by the Japanese cruiser Chikuma. Andrus was taken prisoner by the Japanese and later executed.

USS Edsall and the Prelude to War

In July 1941, Japanese aggression in the western Pacific intensified with their move south into lower Indo-China. Admiral Hart warned his officers that he had no doubt that war would come although he didn't know how or when it would start. Hart trained his destroyer crews hard keeping them on a war-footing for extended periods and away from Cavite naval base as much as possible exercising his "defensive deployment."

Ordered south to comply with the Adm. Hart's "defensive deployment," units of the Asiatic Fleet including destroyer tender USS Blackhawk (AD-9), USS Edsall (DD-219) and other ships of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 57, got underway on 25 Nov 1941 and set a course south. They steamed into port on the morning of 29 Nov 1941 in Balikpapan, a major oil port on the eastern coast of Borneo.

On 8 Dec 1941, Edsall, a ship of Destroyer Division 57 (DESDIV), was enroute to Batavia (Djakarta) when word of the attacks on Pearl Harbor was received. The division altered course to Singapore to act as ASW screen for Force Z. From Singapore, Edsall was directed to search for survivors of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, sunk off Malaya on 10 Dec. No survivors were found. It was learned later that other ships had retrieved the survivors. For the next month, Edsall and other units of DESDIV 57 were used to escort shipping to and from Australia. It was at the conclusion of one of those escort trips that Edsall returned to Darwin, Australia on 05 Jan 1942. Later that week, a large number of new crewmen (including WT2 James G. Morberley) embarked on Edsall on 09 Jan. It was on another one of these escort trips later that month that Edsall participated in the sinking of IJN submarine (I-124) off Darwin. Several days later, Edsall was damaged during another attack on a suspected submarine. One of Edsall's depth charges exploded prematurely in shallow water damaging one of her propeller shafts. This damage would play an important role in her eventual sinking.

On 3 February, Edsall and other American units of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Force (ABDA) moved up to Tjilatjap, Java in order to be closer to the combat theater and refueling facilities. She continued her service as a patrol vessel off southern Java. On 26 February, she steamed from Tjilatjap with her sister ship USS Whipple (DD-217) to rendezvous with the converted seaplane tender, USS Langley (AV-3), carrying P-40E fighters and crews for the defense of Java. On 27 February, the Langley, along with escorts Edsall and Whipple, came under attack by sixteen (16) Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers of the Japanese 21st and 23rd Naval Air Flotillas and escorted by fifteen (15) A6M Reisen fighters. The attack fatally damaged Langley. She had to be abandoned and later scuttled by Whipple. Edsall rescued 177 survivors; Whipple, 308.

On 28 February, the two destroyers rendezvoused with the fuel replenishment ship USS Pecos (AO-6) off Flying Fish Cove, Christmas Island some 250 miles southwest of Tjilatjap. A sudden attack by land based Japanese bombers forced Edsall and the other ships to head for the open sea. They headed directly south into the Indian Ocean for the rest of 28 February in high winds and heavy seas. Early in the pre-dawn hours of 1 March, Whipple and Edsall transferred all the Langley survivors to Pecos.

There were now close to 700 personnel on board the ship. Whipple then set off for Cocos Islands as protection for the tanker Belita sent to meet her there. The Pecos, carrying a large number of survivors was ordered to Australia. Edsall had retained 32 USAAF personnel from Langley needed to assemble and fly an additional 27 P-40E fighters shipped to Tjilatjap on board the transport Sea Witch. Edsall was instructed to return these "fighter crews" to Tjilatjap. At 0830, she reversed course and headed back to the northeast for Java.

At noon that day, planes from Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu attacked Pecos and struck again an hour later. Finally, in mid-afternoon, third and fourth strikes from aircraft carriers Hiryu and Akagi fatally wounded the Pecos. While under attack, Pecos radioed for help. After Pecos sank, Whipple returned to the scene intentionally arriving after dark. She eventually rescued 232 survivors. Many other survivors, although visible to crewmembers on board Whipple, had to be abandoned at sea because Whipple made sonar contact with what was believed to be several Japanese submarines. It was just too dangerous for her to remain in the area. Edsall may have heard Pecos's call for help or she may have been complying with orders to reverse course and steam toward Australia.

For whatever the reason, Edsall reversed course and was never heard from again. The US Navy Department simply said Edsall was lost due to enemy action. The US Navy Department declared all Edsall crewmembers "presumed dead" on 25 Nov 1945. This finding of presumptive death date was fixed in order to take care of settlements and claims. At that point no one suspected that survivors from Edsall were among many victims of war crimes on Celebes.

Mr and Mrs. T.J. Moberly (sic) received a telegram on 22 March 1942 from Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, chief of the Bureau of Navigation of the US Navy. It read: "The Navy Department regrets to inform you that the ship to which your son, James Grubbs Moberly (sic), of the US navy was attached, has been lost in action. Information received indicates there may be some survivors, but no positive information regarding your son has been received." Not long after the parents received this notification from the navy, they received a letter stating that James was made an honorary aides-DE-camp with the rank of colonel by Kentucky Gov. Keen Johnson.

For the next three years in March the Navy sent a letter to the parents to update the status of Chief Giese. In early Dec 1945, the final letter came explaining why WT2 Moberley was being declared "presumed" dead. The official date of his "presumed" death was 25 Nov 1945.

The final muster report for Edsall on 01 Mar 1942 (written several years later) shows that WT2 James Grubbs Moberley was missing in action on 01 Mar 1942 and presumed dead on 25 Nov 1945. His remains were unrecoverable.

Because no known survivors lived to tell the story, the details surrounding the sinking of Edsall remained largely a mystery for more than a half century. Finally, after historians compiled bits and pieces of information from various allied sources over the years, Japanese records and eyewitnesses on the Chikuma recently became available. The new information points to a short but epic battle involving the aging Edsall and one of the world's strongest naval forces of its day.

After Edsall reversed her course on 01 Mar 1942 and steamed away from Java, she stumbled upon Admiral Nagumo's battle force, Kido Butai, that had been prowling the Indian Ocean in search of enemy shipping. Unfortunately, Edsall was spotted first. She was misidentified as a light cruiser of the Marblehead class. IJN battleships Hiei and Kirishima and heavy cruisers Tone and Chikuma were detached from the battle force to attack Edsall with surface gunfire.

The old four-stacker began evasive maneuvers frustrating the Japanese for the next hour and half. However, because of the damage done previously to one of her propeller shafts, Edsall was unable to make top speed or maneuver fully. At one point Edsall turned and launched her torpedoes narrowly missing Chikuma. The Japanese fired some 1400 rounds resulting in only one or two direct hits. The frustrated Admiral Nagumo called upon his carriers to finish off the Edsall. She was attacked by dive-bombers from two Japanese carriers (Kaga, Soryu,) and possibly a third (Hiryu) before succumbing to this devastating attack. The Edsall went down at 1900 hours, 01 Mar 1942, 430 miles south of Java.

Japanese eyewitnesses confirm that at least eight Edsall crewmen from a large number of survivors were fished out of the water and brought on board the Chikuma. The rest of the survivors were left to their fate in the water. Chikuma and the rest of the battle force arrived at Staring Bay anchorage, Celebes on 11 Mar 1942. Three dozen POWs, 8 or more from the Edsall and the remainder from a Dutch ship, were turned over to the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces based at Kendari where they were executed on 24 Mar 1942 near Kendari II airfield.

After WWII ended, an Allied War Crimes Tribunal was convened in Java. During the course of the Tribunal's investigations, an eyewitness to Japanese executions was discovered and interviewed. He testified that he witnessed the execution by the Japanese of a number of POWs in 1942. He led investigators to the Japanese Execution Grounds mass grave, Kendari II, Celebes, N.E.I. Five sets of remains in a group of about 10 were later identified from ID tags as USS Edsall crewmen. The other five were unknown but were later definitely associated with US Army Air force personnel on board Edsall from the Langley. A sixth set of remains were found in another burying ground on Celebes. They were identified by an ID tag as those of Fireman Second Class (F2) Loren Stanford Myers, a crewman from the Edsall.

All these sets of remains were disinterred and reburied in the US Military Cemetery, Barrackpore, India on 12 Nov 1946. After three years, their remains were disinterred again and arrived in San Francisco on board the USAT Sgt Charles E. Mower on 5 Nov 1949. The remains were reburied in a common grave at the National cemetery at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, MO on 20 Dec 1949. The remains of F2 Myers were reinterred according to immediate family wishes in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, HI on 31 Mar 1950. With the discovery of all these remains, their presumed date of death was amended to 02 Mar 1942.


U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012, MM2 J.R. Cameron, USN, died 2 Mar 1942 overseas. Remains returned from overseas WWII. Group burial with MM1 Horace W. Andrus, F1c Sydney Griffith Amory, MM3c Larry Vandiver, and F1c Donald F. Watters at Jefferson Barracks. MO on 20 Dec 1949.


WT2 Moberley was awarded (Posthumously) the Purple Heart Medal, American Defense Service Medal w/Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/Fleet Clasp and three bronze stars, the Philippine Defense Medal w/clasp, World War II Victory Medal. He may have previously been awarded a Good Conduct Medal. He is also eligible for the Combat Action Ribbon (est. 1969 retroactive 07 Dec 1941).


A commemoration sent to his family in honor of WT2 Moberley's service from President Harry S. Truman reads:

In Grateful Memory of James Grubbs Moberley, Who Died In The Service Of His Country At Sea, Asiatic Area, attached U.S.S. Edsall, 25 November 1945 (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.


Harry Truman

President of the United States of America


Bio #308 composed by Gerry Lawton (G47, GML470)

Military Hall of Honor #152467

Find a Grave Memorial 228066482

Honoree ID: 152467   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image