John Joseph McNabb

John Joseph McNabb was a native of New York City.  He was born on April 25, 1925. His mother, Elizabeth Conlon, was from Ballivor. Elizabeth Conlon was baptised at Ballivor on 22 March 1887, the daughter of John Conlon and Elizabeth Dempsey. The other children in the family with their dates of birth were Patrick 1877, John 1878, Mathew 1881, Michael 1885, Joseph 1888 and Owen 1890. Owen became a Private, Leinster Regiment, 7th Battalion, in World War 1. He enlisted in Trim. He was killed  8 March 1917 and his memorial is K.5; Pond Farm Cemetery.

Siblings Elizabeth and Joseph Conlon arrived in New York in 1913, a few months apart. On the lists of incoming passengers, each stated that they were joining their brother Patrick, and that their nearest relative in their place of origin was Michael Conlon. Joseph and Patrick both married.

Elizabeth married a man named McNabb in 1929. In 1930 they appeared as a household, and young John Joseph was listed as a stepson. By 1939, when Elizabeth Conlon McNabb applied for naturalization, she stated that her husband’s whereabouts were unknown. In the 1940 census, her household was just she and her son. His surname was McNabb then and for the rest of his life.

When he was seventeen John Joseph joined the Navy in New York in June of 1943, likely just out of school. The USS Tang sank 33 ships – more than any other American submarine – before its luck ran out. On Oct. 24, 1944, The submarine was credited with sinking 11 ships during one battle while attacking a Japanese convoy in the Formosa Strait off the coast of China. But USS Tang’s last torpedo turned out to be faulty. It turned around and struck the submarine. His submarine, the USS Tang, was lost on October 25, 1944. During an attack on the enemy, one of their own torpedoes went awry and hit them. There were a few survivors who were picked up and spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp. At the time of his death, his rank was Fireman, First Class.

The ship went down by the stern with the after three compartments flooded. Of the nine officers and men on the bridge, three were able to swim through the night until picked up eight hours later. One officer escaped from the flooded conning tower, and was rescued with the others.

The submarine came to rest on the bottom at 180 feet, and the men in her crowded forward as the after compartments flooded. Publications were burned, and all assembled to the forward room to escape. The escape was delayed by a Japanese patrol, which dropped

charges, and started an electrical fire in the forward battery. Thirteen men escaped from the forward room, and by the time the last made his exit, the heat from the fire was so intense that the paint on the bulkhead was scorching, melting, and running down. Of the 13 men who escaped, only eight reached the surface, and of these but five were able to swim until rescued.

When the nine survivors were picked up by a destroyer escort, there were victims of Tang’s previous sinkings on board, and they inflicted tortures on the men from Tang. With great humanity, O’Kane states, “When we realized that our clubbings and kickings were being administered by the burned, mutilated survivors of our own handiwork, we found we could take it with less prejudice.”

The nine captives were retained by the Japanese in prison camps until the end of the war, and were treated by them in typical fashion. The loss of Tang by her own torpedo, the last one fired on the most successful patrol ever made by a U.S. submarine, was a stroke of singular misfortune. She is credited with having sunk 13 vessels for 107,324 tons of enemy shipping on this patrol, and her Commanding Officer was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

John Joseph McNabbFirst Class Fireman, 708 47 11, was awarded the Purple Heart for his sacrifice. A fireman means a person has a license to operate High Pressure Boilers. A fireman would have worked in the engine room.

Most if not all the men serving the US military in WWII had life insurance payable to their next of kin. Elizabeth went back to Ireland in the summers of 1947 and 1955, quite possibly using some of those funds.