Captain John “Jack” W. Crawford, Jr., USN (Ret.) was born in New Hampshire. In 1938, he accepted a commission at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Graduating just twelve days after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Crawford headed to Pearl Harbor where he snatched up the opportunity to serve on Yorktown’s next mission. Little did he know it would be one of the most significant naval battles in United States History…Midway.
The following oral history interviews were conducted by Dr. David Winkler in March 2017 at the home of Captain Crawford in Bethesda, MD.
PART I: The Academy
Captain John W. Crawford, Jr., a native of New Hampshire, entered the U.S. Naval Academy in the class of 1938. In this introductory video, Captain Crawford discusses his roundabout journey to the Naval Academy and the experience of graduating less than two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of War.
PART II: Orders at Pearl
Although originally ordered to USS Oklahoma, Crawford is assigned as an assistant to a Lieutenant at Pearl Harbor. He seized the opportunity to join Yorktown as she limped back into Pearl following the Battle of the Coral Sea, despite the misgivings of a reluctant Captain who gave him his orders.
PART III: The Right Dope
Aboard Yorktown, Crawford is assigned as an officer of the deck for watches. As Yorktown inches closer to Midway, he describes the astonishing calm displayed by the aviators on the night before the fateful first attack.
PART IV: First Strike
Standing watch at 4 a.m. the morning of 4 June, Crawford was one of the first sailors to hear the incoming message, “Many planes headed Midway.” Off duty, he stood on the hangar deck as he watched several waves of Japanese planes inflict crippling damage to the structure of Yorktown, causing many casualties.
PART V: Abandon Ship
Crawford recalls the “huge tremor” that rocked the ship after the second wave of attacks left Yorktown dead in the water, forcing the crew to abandon ship. After he was rescued by the destroyer USS Russell, Crawford returned safely back to Pearl Harbor.