From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

John Isham '38

Date of birth: March 27, 1916

Date of death: November 13, 1942

Age: 26

Lucky Bag

From the 1938 Lucky Bag:


John was lost when USS Atlanta (CL 51) was sunk on November 13, 1942 during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

(Note one other report indicates he was aboard USS Juneau; will retain him as aboard USS Atlanta, as is reported in the listing of overseas losses of the Navy, until other evidence emerges.)

His wife was listed as next of kin.

He is buried in Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.


From the November 28, 1942 issue of The San Bernardino County Sun, San Bernardino, CA, p. 10:

26-Year-Old Officer Engaged in All Major Pacific Battles Since War's Beginning

Lieut John Christian Isham, of Redlands, yesterday was announced by the U. S. navy department having been killed in action while in performance of his duty with the American fleet in the Pacific. News of the 28-year-old officer death came to his parents, Mr. and Mr. Arthur E. Isham, of 832 Alvarado street, in a telegram from Washington, D. C. The message was explicit in stating that the lieutenant' post and the location of his death should not be divulged because the information might be of use to the enemy.

Ironically, young Isham was killed after he had been granted leave, which would have permitted him to visit his wife in Honolulu. The order to give him liberty was in a mail sack aboard the U. S. S. Astoria when the Japs sunk this ship at Tulagi on Aug. 9. The mail bag floated to the surface and was recovered. Meanwhile, however, Lieutenant Isham had been transferred to another cruiser and could not be released when his new ship went into Solomon islands action.

The officer's parents had been hoping in recent weeks that the furlough would permit him to visit Redlands.

Isham had been a participant In every major naval engagement since the outbreak of war in the Pacific. He was cruising at sea when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but later he engaged in the Americans' raid on the Marshall and Gilbert islands, the battle of the Coral sea, the great Midway island victory over the Jap fleet, and various fights in the Solomons area. As gunnery officer, on the heavy cruiser Astoria, he was with a landing party that set up a fire control station on Tulagi when the Astoria was sunk. A shell that demolished his quarters on the Astoria would have killed him if he had been there. He lost all of his possessions as It was. Immediately young Isham was assigned to another heavy cruiser, on which he probably was serving at the time of his death.

In the navy for eight years, Isham had achieved conspicuous success. He was graduated from the United States naval academy, Annapolis, Md., with the class of 1938. He went to the Astoria immediately as assistant navigation Officer. Two later promotions advanced him to the rank of lieutenant, senior grade.

On June 2, 1940, he was married to Marion Donahey, daughter of Ohio's Senator Vic Donahey. She has been residing in Honolulu. Senator Donahey is a former governor of Ohio. The lieutenant was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Isham. The eldest, Major Carl Isham, is with an armored force last reported to be at Fort Knox, Ky., preparing for overseas action. Paul Isham is first engineer on an armed cargo vessel plying the Pacific, now presumed to be in the Alaskan area. Earl Isham is an engineer in charge of tool design for the Northrup aircraft plant at Hawthorne. Their sister, Mary Jane Isham, works in the dispatcher's office of United Air Lines at San Francisco.

John Isham was born in Redlands on March 27, 1916. He was graduated from Redlands High school in 1933, having distinguished himself as a musician and scholar. He played center for two years on the Redlands high football team, and at Annapolis he led the orchestra. Also, at the naval academy, he made the highest grade in the entire class in navigation and seamanship, and finished among the highest of his class.

From The Winchester Star on April 23, 1943:

An athletic trophy will be awarded in memory of Lt. John Christian Isham, killed in action on the U.S.S. Juneau while acting as flag lieutenant to Rear Admiral Norman Scott, who was killed in the same action.

Commander William Eaton '21 was honored at the same ceremony; both had served with Captain Preston Haines (commanding officer of the Tufts NROTC unit) for two years aboard USS Astoria.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

July 1938

Ensign, USS Astoria

January 1939

Ensign, USS Astoria

October 1939

Ensign, USS Astoria

Others at this command:

June 1940

Ensign, USS Astoria

Others at this command:

November 1940

Ensign, USS Astoria

Others at this command:

April 1941

Ensign, USS Astoria

Others at this command:

Others at or embarked at this command:

LTjg Allan Edmands '35 (Cruiser Scouting Squadron (VCS) 6)

Class of 1938

John is one of 72 members of the Class of 1938 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of the alumni in Memorial Hall.