James Edward Cohn was born in Colombia, North Carolina, on January 1, 1904, son of Mrs. A.V. (Lillian Mae Casteen) Deal and the later Dr. B.W. Cohn. He attended Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia, and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, before entering the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on August 17, 1923. He was graduated and commissioned Ensign on June 2, 1927, and through subsequently promotions attained the rank of Captain to date from March 20, 1945.
For four years after his graduation from the Naval Academy, he had duty at sea, serving successively in the USS New York, of Battleship Division 3, Battle Fleet; USS Eagle 58, of Eagle Division 1, Submarine Divisions, Control Force; and the USS Jacob Jones, operating with Destroyer Division 7, Scouting Force. He had instruction in torpedoes at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode Island, from August 1931 to January 1932, and for six months thereafter was a student at the Submarine School, New London, Connecticut. Upon graduation in June 1932, he was assigned to the USS S-14, and for two year continued duty in the submarine, a unit of Submarine Division 6, Submarine Force, Coco Solo, Canal Zone.
Returning to Annapolis in June 1934, he completed the course in Ordnance Engineering at the Postgraduate School in June 1936, and for a year had practical instruction at the Naval Gun Factory, Navy Yard, Washington, DC, and several other ordnance stations, both Army and Navy. He joined the USS Northampton in June 1937, and during his two years duty aboard Gunnery School aboard the USS San F. Division Officer, he attended Gunnery School aboard the USS San Francisco. From June 1939 to June 1941 he served as Ordnance Repair Officer, and Assistant Repair Officer of the USS Medusa (AR.1).
On July 5, 1941 he reported to the Commandant, Navy Yard, Washington, DC, for duty in the Design and Drafting Division. He remained there throughout most of the war period, being detached on May 29, 1944. On July 24, 1944 he joined the staff of Commander Cruiser Division Six (USS Wichita and USS San Francisco, flagships, consecutively). He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V,” for meritorious service as Chief of Staff and Operations Officer on the staff of Commander Cruiser Division Six, during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War Area from July 1944 to June 1945…” The citation further states:
Demonstrating outstanding skill…. Captain Cohn Contributed materially to the success of ships operating under his division commander during campaigns resulting in the capture of Guam in the Marianas Island, the occupation if islands in the Western Carolina, the capture of the Philippine Islands, and the capture of Iwo Jima, and positions in the Okinawa Gunto…”
After two months service as Operations Officer for Amphibious Group 2, during that groups formation, he served on the staff of Commander Task Force 73, on the Yangtze River, from August 27, 1945 until December 3, 1945. “For meritorious achievement as Acting Chief of Staff and Operations Officer on the staff of Senior Officer Present Afloat in Shanghai, during the occupation of Shanghai Harbor by an Allied Task Force from September 7 to December 1, 1945…” he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the second Bronze Star Medal. The citation states that he “rendered invaluable service in the tremendous task of making the facilities of the Port of Shanghai, available to merchant shipping… (and) worked tirelessly to insure the safe passage of Naval and Merchant vessels in that area…” During this period, Captain Cohn was attached to the USS Nashville and USS St.Paul.
He returned to the United States in the USS Anzio in December 1945 and, reporting to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department Washington, DC, he was ordered to the USS Yancey (AK 93) which he commanded from January 1946 to July 1947. During the next three years he was on duty in the Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department, and after a course in Artic Geography at McGill University in Quebec, Canada, he assumed command of the USS Tanner (AGS-15), on September 28, 1950. He again served in the Bureau of Ordnance from January 1952 to January 1953, when he assumed command of the USS Helena (CA 75). During this period Captain Cohn made one expedition to the Antarctic and two to the Artic. Later, he served as Deputy Chairman of the Arctic and Gold Weather Coordinating Committee of the Navy Department.
Ordered to the Officer of the Secretary of Defense Washington, DC, he reported on June 28, 1954 for duty with the NATO Standing Group. He is now under orders of June 10, 1955 to be detached in September for duty as Commanding Officer, Office of Naval Research Branch Office, Chicago, Illinois.
In addition to the Bronze Star Medal with Gold Star and Combat “V,” Captain Cohn has the American Defense Service medal; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; the China Service Medal; and the National Defense Service Medal.