|Birth: ||Nov. 11, 1909|
|Death: ||Mar. 17, 1943, At Sea|
John was actually born in the Imperial Calcasieu Parish along with his twin sister Julia Evelyn. Beauregard Parish was established from a part of Calcasieu on 1 January 1913 with DeRidder as the parish seat. John moved around a bit, but he and his wife Florence called Johnson City, Washington County, Tennessee home before he set out on his final sea voyage during World War II.
John's love for the sea finally came about when he enlisted in the United States Navy. After completing basic training, he served as a Fireman aboard the USS Roper (DD-147) a Wickes-class Destroyer before being discharged on Halloween, 31 October 1930. After a while, he settled down in New Orleans, Louisiana and did work at the sea port and harbor. John applied to the United States Merchant Marine and received his Seaman Certificate / Credentials on 12 September 1938 at New Orleans with service number Z-97086. He was an unlicensed Qualified Member of the Engineering Department (QMED) and rated as a Fireman, Water tender and Oiler by the United States Coast Guard.
John was promoted to Third Assistant Engineer aboard the SS James Oglethorpe for his tenth and final cruise. Prior to this, he served aboard six other Merchant Marine ships: SS Wacosta; SS Arizpa; SS Seatrain Texas; SS Robin Locksley; SS Bellingham and the SS Ponce de Leon completing nine full cruises in the positions of Water tender, Oiler or Fireman and at times in two if not all three positions. Three of these cruises were Coastwise; ones that went from different coastal ports in the United States and seven were Foreign cruises to ports in England, Russia and South America.
On John's eighth cruise he survived the sinking of the SS Bellingham (Convoy QP-14) on 22 September 1942 that was returning from Archangel, Russia in the Greenland Sea by German Submarine U-435. The Bellingham was also hit by a dud torpedo dropped by a German aircraft on the way in with Convoy PQ-17 on 7 July 1942. Another fellow lad from Johnson City was not as lucky in this convoy and Jones Caldwell Hine went down on the SS William Hopper on 4 July.
John's tenth and last cruise was also the SS James Oglethorpe's maiden voyage after she did her “slid down the ways” into the Atlantic Ocean at Southeastern Shipbuilding in Savannah, Georgia on 20 November 1942. She was also the first Liberty Ship to be built in Savannah. During what is now known as the Battle of St. Patrick’s Day (Convoy HX-229) was steaming for Liverpool, England, from New York Harbor, New York on 8 March 1943 with 50 ships loaded with lend lease war supplies. They did a stop over at St. John's, Newfoundland to pick up five armed escort ships for the crossing. John was one of many who lost their lives when the convoy was attacked by three German Wolf Packs consisting of 41 German Submarines on the evening of 16 March. The Oglethorpe was making 12 knots when she was struck by a torpedo on the starboard (right) side at the forward section of Hold #2 by U-758. After putting off some of the crew, she was last seen trying to make steam back to St. John’s, Newfoundland. She was never seen again and is said to have come under the guns of U-91 in the Mid-North Atlantic, 440 miles south south east of Cape Farvel (Farewell), Greenland on 17 March 1943. John was lost at sea this day, as well and declared missing in action. He was 33 years old.
John was the son of Reverend Lewis Madison "Matt" Cole, a Baptist Minister and Nancy Louisa "Lula" Gandy. He was married to Florence R. Gregory. Florence enlisted in the United States Army with the Women's Army Corps (WACs) on 15 January 1945 from Johnson City.
Note 1: Just to show how in harms way these convoys were in and around the time frame of 16-19 March 1943. Convoys HX-229 lost 13 ships and SC-122 lost 9 for a total of 22 ships during those four days and the Germans only one submarine.
Note 2: After nearly 72 years, John finally has a memorial marker placed to honor his sacrifice to us and our nation. The marker rests at Mountain Home National Cemetery, Tennessee in the Memorial Circle. Mountain Home is a Veterans Administration Hospital and Cemetery that’s located inside the city of Johnson City. John’s memorial service was conducted on Saturday, 14 March 2015 at 11am at the cemetery and in attendance was John's twin sister's two sons: Ben and Cole.
Lewis Madison Cole (1868 - 1934)
Nancy Louisa Gandy Cole (1871 - 1954)
Daniel J. Cole (1900 - 1945)*
Ruth Cole (1904 - 1906)*
Ruby Cole (1904 - 1906)*
Mary Louise Cole McKellar (1908 - 1986)*
Julia Evelyn Cole Swayze (1909 - 1988)*
John Edward Cole (1909 - 1943)
Lula Mae Cole Bonney (1913 - 2013)*
Mountain Home National Cemetery
Plot: Section MA, Site 55
Created by: Allen D. Jackson, USAF (...
Record added: Jul 19, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 93848708
Nephew Ben Swayze and wife Ann|
Added: Mar. 16, 2015