HONORING A FALLEN HERO
By Brandon Hurley
His mother visited the Churdan post office everyday, eagerly anticipating any inkling of good news.
It never came.
The telegram every military parent fears came in from the Navy at 11 a.m. the morning of Sunday, March 19, 1944 - Harry and Florence’s son was missing at sea.
War War II veteran Edward English went missing nearly 80 years ago, but his legacy forever lives.
The 23-year old was a member of the USS Scorpion submarine crew, tasked with patrolling the waters east of Asia. The ship made four tours, with it’s final trek the most deadly and confounding.
English was born May 20, 1920 in New York City but later moved to Churdan a few weeks later. He later graduated from Churdan High School in 1938.
English didn’t hesitate to join the military ranks, enlisting as an 18-year old fresh out of high school.
Action seemed to follow him. He was also a member of a battle destroyer, USS Porter which was hit by a torpedo 10 days after he joined the crew. The members thankfully abandoned ship before the submarine sank from an onslaught of gunfire.
After English’s initial brush with death he wasn’t the least bit flustered, instead choosing to enroll in submarine school in New London, Connecticut. After graduation he joined the USS Scorpion as a motor machinist First Class, determined to navigate the ship through enemy waters.
English’s last visit home to Churdan was in November of 1942, returning to his post on Armistice Day, November 11, set on helping the United States win a World War.
English’s would-be final communication came shortly after the Christmas holiday in 1943, a letter which he had written on Christmas day.
English and his Scorpion crew mates weren’t officially declared dead until January 11, 1946, nearly two years after the ship went missing.
His brave memory was recently honored during a ceremony Nov. 4 at the Greene County courthouse. He’s now enshrined in the “Remembering our Fallen” display in the lobby, joining two other Greene County residents who were either killed in action or were determined missing in action during war time.
“Paying honor to local service men and woman who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country and having it hit so close to home is truly a reason to pay tribute to our area veterans,” Greene County Veterans Affairs director Michael Bierl said. “This will be one way we can ensure that our future generations may always remember that freedom is not free and the selfless acts of those we revere in our display should never be forgotten.”
The U.S. Military, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command, believe the lost USS Scorpion was either hit by a missile or the ship encountered an underwater mine near the Yellow Sea, causing the ship to explode upon impact. Though, no official reports were ever recorded. The ship is not to believed to have sunk or disappeared without some type of attack - the depth of the water was much too shallow for unclaimed bodies to not turn up or for survivors of a possible ship abandonment to emerge.
Mines were prevalent near the entrance of the Yellow Sea, where the Scorpion was headed.
The Navy believes the chance of hitting said mines was somewhere around 10 percent, as other submarines later patrolled the same area and returned unscathed. But, the Scorpion was one of the first ships to navigate those treacherous waters once the mines were set, which likely meant the explosives had a higher success rate in the initial days and weeks after.
The USS Scorpion was a productive war vessel, sinking 10 enemy ships in three patrols while it damaged two others. The ship first deployed near Tokyo in April of 1943, where she sank a pair of freight ships, two patrol ships and four sampans. Three other tours were conducted that year, with its fourth and final trek beginning in late December out of Pearl Harbor. The Scorpion stopped for fuel at Midway on Jan. 3, heading out into the Ocean. That’s when things started to get a little hairy.
The ship attempted to unload a crew member with a broken arm in early January, but the requested connection with USS Herring could not be completed due to high seas. That rather inconspicuous occurrence would become the final chance for physical interaction with other American entities.
The ship was never seen again.
Scorpion’s last known communication was conducted on February 16 when they were warned of their proximity to a friendly vessel via radio communications. A week passed without any further communications with the Scorpion, nor did it return to dock. The ship was eventually declared lost on March 6, two months after heading out into Pacific Ocean.
Florence, Ed’s mom, visited the Churdan post office on a daily basis, hoping to receive another letter from her son out at sea.
Her prayers were never answered. Hers and Harry’s only child wasn’t coming home.
What the family did eventually receive was a letter of commendation from the U.S. military. It read “as motor machinist’s mate First Class of the USS Scorpion, Edward Joseph English’s performance of duty materially contributed to the success of this vessel against the enemy.
The Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet forwards this commendation in recognition of his splendid performance of duty, which is in keeping the highest traditions of the naval service.”
The Churdan American Legion Post No. 198 is named in English’s honor, dedicated with a placard and photo in 1967, twenty-three years after his vanishing.