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Veteran honored
Korean War veteran Johnny England, a Fairview community resident, served his country from 1955 to 1959. He's been recognized by the state for exemplary service.

A Warren County veteran has been recognized by the state for service to country during the Korean War. 

Johnny England, 85, was presented the honorary title of Tennessee Colonel Aide de Camp. The honor is given by Gov. Bill Lee, at the request of the Tennessee General Assembly, to residents who have served the state in an exemplary manner.

England enlisted in the Navy in January 1955 and served until January 1959.

“It’s an honor for the governor of Tennessee to recognize I was in the service,” said England. “There probably aren’t many of us left.”

Bootcamp training was in San Diego, followed by assignment on the USS Saint Paul, a Baltimore-class heavy cruiser. Length was 673.5 feet, beam was 70.9 feet, draft was 24 feet, and displacement was approximately 17,000 tons fully loaded. It could hold a crew of 1,700.

“It was like a big city on water,” said England. “I worked my way up to second class petty officer as damage control.”

Damage controlmen are the Navy’s and Coast Guard’s maintenance and emergency repair specialists. They perform the work necessary for damage control, ship stability, firefighting, fire prevention, and chemical, biological and radiological warfare defense. 

“Anytime we had a helicopter come in, we had to be up and ready just in case there was a fire,” said England. “If we had any actual battle or anything, I was in the bottom of the ship. Damage control would be the last ones to leave the ship.”

Motion sickness was common in the Navy.

“We had a lot of rough waters in the heavy cruiser, but I only got seasick once and it wasn’t on ship,” said England. “It was on a Sunday and we were in port and I had to get on a boat to repair it. The water was so rough that I got sick, but it didn’t last long. We had a detachment of Marines. Every time they went out, they got seasick.”

There was one tense moment that England didn’t mind sharing.

“We were out there and sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to come across.  We were in darken ship. No lights on whatsoever. A lot of times you have to do that when you’re expecting the enemy. We came across a ship and every light on it was on. All our American ships encircled it. Some of us boarded it. It was a bunch of Frenchmen on the ship drunk.”

England laughed, recalling the memory of what could have been and what it turned out to be. 

“Being in the Navy was really a good experience,” said England. “I enjoyed my service. It would be good if our young people today would realize it’s an honor to serve the United States. Lee Greenwood said ‘God Bless the USA’ and I can’t say it any better than that.”

England married his bride of 62 years in September 1958, four months shy of his discharge from the Navy. They had two children, Gary and Randy, and currently have two granddaughters and three great-grandchildren. The couple lives in the Fairview community.