In 2009, a Chief Petty Officer while serving at the Joint Analysis Center (JAC) Molesworth noticed an older man standing outside the Base Exchange at RAF Lakenheath with the distinctive belt buckle of a Navy Chief. He went up to the man and addressed him as “Chief.” The surprised man said it had been many, many years since anyone had called him that.
Thus began a lasting bond between a generation of JAC sailors and Chief Joe Pearson. The Chief was invited to Navy events and even bought a new uniform to wear at JAC Navy Balls. He counseled new Chiefs during their initiation and told amazing sea stories to young sailors.
Joseph “Joe” Frank Pearson was born on October 18, 1923, to Frank and Eva Pearson in Buck Creek, Indiana. At the age of 18 years old, in May 1942 Joe enlisted in the United States Navy. After finishing bootcamp in Great Lakes, Illinois he reported to the Naval Radio and Electronics school in Evanston, Illinois where he earned the Radioman rating.
Chief Radioman Pearson’s first operational assignment was aboard the Tank Landing Ship USS LST-306. While assigned to LST-306, from November 1942 to December 1944, Chief Pearson participated in the North African Campaign and the Invasions of Palermo Sicily, Salerno Italy and Normandy France.
It was during this assignment at the age of 22 that Chief Radioman Pearson landed under enemy fire on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944 as part of Operation Neptune, the Navy portion of Operation Overlord. After landing troops, his ship, the USS-306, retrieved British and American wounded and returned them to England. He earned a Letter of Commendation for his “actions while under enemy fire and air attack” during the Italian invasion and follow up convoys.
Chief Pearson’s next assignment was aboard the USS SATYR (ARL 23), which participated in the occupation of Japan, while anchored in Tokyo Bay. Following this short assignment Chief Pearson reported to the USS MOUNT McKINLEY (AGC 7), which served as the flagship for the atomic bomb testing, known as Operation Crossroads, at Bikini Atoll. From November 1946 to February 1948, Chief Pearson served with Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet, sailing between Okinawa, Guam, and China aboard the USS SKAGIT (AKA 105).
In February 1948, Chief Pearson reported to his first shore assignment at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida where he worked in the Operations Tower. Two years later he was sent back to sea, serving aboard four ships while assigned to Commander Service Squadron One in San Diego, California. This tour was interrupted by the outbreak of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula. This time Chief Pearson was sent to the Ammunitions Ship USS MOUNT KATMAI (AE 16), which received the Navy Unit Commendation for, amongst other things, being the only ammunition ship rearming the fleet during the first three months of the Korean War. Chief Pearson was initiated to Chief Petty Officer aboard the MOUNT KATMAI while in port Sasebo, Japan in 1951.
In November 1951, Chief Pearson was once again assigned to Commander Service Squadron One, serving there for two years. In December 1953, he returned for duty in the Korean War aboard the Refrigeration Supply Vessel USS ZELIMA (AF 49). From February 1954 to December 1957, Chief Pearson was an instructor in both the basic and advanced courses at the Radioman School located at Port Deposit, Maryland. In January 1958, Chief Pearson reported to the USS ALDEBARAN (AF 10), his second supply ship, for duty along the U.S. East coast, West Indies and the Mediterranean Sea.
Chief Pearson’s last sea duty tour was aboard the brand new Ammunition Ship USS PYRO (AE 1) from July 1959 to December 1960. The PYRO provided underway replenishment services to various units of the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific. In December 1960 Chief Pearson reported to Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet Headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia for staff duty. He retired from the Navy in May 1962 after completing 20 years of honorable Naval service.
On May 3, 2009, Chief Pearson passed away recently at the age of 85. JAC Commander, Marine Corps Colonel Peter H. Devlin, JAC Deputy Commander Navy Captain Henry J. “Harry” Babin, and JAC Senior Enlisted Leader Navy Master Chief John C. Frakes led JAC Chiefs and sailors at services for Chief Pearson.
Chief Pearson’s ashes were released into the sea off Normandy, France, per his wishes by the destroyer USS PORTER (DDG 78) on June 7, the day after the 65th anniversary of his first visit to Normandy on D-Day 1944.
Chief Pearson has received the following medals, ribbons and awards: Combat Action Ribbon (1 Gold Star), Navy Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal (1 Silver/1 Bronz Star), China Service Medal (2 Bronze Stars), American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Area Medal (4 Bronze Stars), Asiatic Pacific Medal (Asia Clasp), National Defense Service Medal (2 Bronze Stars), Korean Service Medal (3 Bronze Stars), Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, United Nations (Korea) Service Medal.
Note: Although Chief Radiomen Pearson was not a cryptologist, his rate was the genesis of the communications technician (CT) rate, known today as the cryptologic technician (CT) rate. Near the end of his life, RMC Pearson found himself in company with cryptologists and intelligence specialists at JAC Molesworth, mentoring Sailors in our community.