Lieutenant John J. Powers, USN, (1912-1942)
John James Powers was born on 3 July 1912 in New York City, New York. He was appointed to the Naval Academy from that state and graduated an Ensign in 1935. For sea
duty, he reported to USS West Virginia and transferred two years later to USS Augusta. In June 1938, Powers was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade. Remaining at sea, he served on board USS Utah. After completion of flight training at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida in January 1941, he was designated
a Naval Aviator and was assigned to Bombing Squadron Five (VB-5) on board USS Yorktown. In January 1942, he was promoted to Lieutenant and departed that spring to the Pacific war zone.
At the Battle of the Coral Sea from 4 to 7 May 1942, Powers led his squadron in five engagements against Japanese forces. On three missions on 4 May, he successfully hit targets at or near Tulagi. On 7 May, he led his attack section of three Douglas "Dauntless" dive bombers and succeeded to sink the Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho. Dangerously diving to attack the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku the following day, he was caught within the explosion of shell and bomb fragments from the carrier and crashed. He was not recovered. For his "distinguished and conspicuous gallantry" he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. John J. Powers is listed on the American Battle Monument Commission's "Wall of the Missing" at the Manila Cemetery, Manila, Philippine Islands.
USS John J. Powers (DE-528), 1944-1945, was named in honor of Lieutenant John J. Powers.
This page features the only images we have concerning John J. Powers.
Photo #: NH 106574|
Lieutenant Junior Grade John J. Powers, USN
Photographed on 10 April 1940. He would later receive the Medal of Honor,
posthumously, for his "distinguished and conspicuous gallantry" while
serving with Bombing Squadron Five (VB-5) at the Battle of the Coral Sea, 4-8 May 1942
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command
Online Image: 45KB; 580 x 765 pixels
Photo #: NH 106426|
Lieutenant John J. Powers, USN
Halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official
publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 245.
John J. Powers was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for "
distinguished and conspicuous gallantry" while serving as a Pilot with
Bombing Squadron Five (VB-5) at the Battle of the Coral Sea against the Japanese
during 4-8 May 1942.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
Online Image: 34KB; 580 x 765 pixels
Medal of Honor citation of Lieutenant John J. Powers, USN
(as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor,
1861-1949, The Navy", page 245):
"For distinguished and conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and
beyond the call of duty, while Pilot of an Airplane of Bombing Squadron FIVE, Lieutenant
Powers participated, with his squadron, in five engagements with Japanese forces in the Coral
Sea area and adjacent waters during the period of 4 to 8 May 1942. Three attacks were made
on enemy objectives at or near Tulagi on 4 May. In these attacks he scored a direct hit which instantly
demolished a large enemy gunboat or destroyer and is credited with two close misses, one
of which severely damaged a large aircraft tender, the other damaging a 20,000-ton transport.
He fearlessly strafed a gunboat, firing all his ammunition into it amid intense antiaircraft fire.
This gunboat was then observed to be leaving a heavy oil slick in its wake and later was seen
beached on a near-by island. On 7 May, an attack was launched against an enemy airplane
carrier and other units of the enemy's invasion force. He fearlessly led his attack section of three
Douglas Dauntless dive bombers, to attack the carrier. On this occasion, he dived in the face of
heavy antiaircraft fire, to an altitude well below the safety altitude, at the risk of his life and almost
certain damage to his plane, in order that he might positively obtain a hit in the vital part of the
ship, which would insure her complete destruction. This bomb hit was noted by many pilots and
observers to cause a tremendous explosion, engulfing the ship in a mass of flame, smoke and debris.
This ship sank soon after. That evening, in his capacity as Squadron Gunnery Officer, Lieutenant
Powers gave a lecture to the squadron on point-of-aim and diving technique. During this discourse
he advocated low release point in order to insure greater accuracy; yet he stressed the danger not only
from enemy fire and resultant low pull-out, but from own bomb blast and bomb fragments. Thus his
low-dive bombing attacks were deliberate and premeditated, since he well knew and realized the dangers
of such tactics, but went far beyond the call of duty in order to further the cause which he knew to
be right. The next morning, 8 May, as the pilots of the attack group left the room to man planes,
his indomitable spirit and leadership were well expressed in his own words, 'Remember the folks
back home are counting on us. I am going to get a hit if I have to lay it on their flight deck.' He led his
section of dive bombers down to the target from an altitude of 18,000 feet, through a wall of bursting
antiaircraft shells and into the face of enemy fighter planes. Again, completely disregarding the safety
altitude and without fear or concern for his safety, Lieutenant Powers courageously pressed home his
attack, almost to the very deck of an enemy carrier and did not release his bomb until he was sure of a
direct hit. He was last seen attempting recovery from his dive at the extremely low altitude of 200 feet,
and amid a terrific barrage of shell and bomb fragments, smoke, flame and debris from the stricken vessel.
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To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here
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