PFC Henry Zemola

Service Number: 305306

Birth and Early Life:
Henry Zemola was the son of Polish immigrants Henry and Victoria Zemola. He was born in Chicago on October 30, 1921, and grew up surrounded by a large family that was supported by their father’s factory work.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Zemola enlisted on March 3, 1941; he attended boot camp and Sea School in San Diego. Following his graduation in July, 1941, he traveled to Pearl Harbor where he was assigned to the carrier USS Lexington.

Wartime Service:
PFC Zemola joined the “Lady Lex” on August 21, 1941. Fortunately, his carrier was away from Pearl on December 7, when the Japanese attacked. Realizing that the coming naval war would focus around carriers and their squadrons, Navy brass put great emphasis on aggressive carrier tactics – while men like Zemola, serving as the first loader of Gun #6 in the #2 Antiaircraft Battery, learned to defend against enemy aircraft.

Date Of Loss:
Zemola and the other men of Gun Gallery #2 were called to their action stations on the morning of May 8, 1942. They were flushed with victory; pilots from their carrier had sunk the Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō and downed nine enemy fighters. The Marines were eager to prove their skill should the Japanese carrier planes come calling. Lexington scrambled her air group to attack another carrier that morning, but was herself spotted by Japanese scout planes. Shortly after 1100 hours, enemy attack planes broke through the screen of antiaircraft fire.

Within a matter of seconds, Lexington was struck by two torpedoes and three bombs. The torpedoes hit right below Gallery #2, and one of the bombs detonated on the after part of the gallery, knocking out guns #4 and #6.

This view of Gun Gallery #2 taken during the afternoon of May 8 shows #2 Gun still manned in the foreground. The bomb impacted near Gun #6 in the background.

Click here for more views of the Marine gun gallery.

PFC Zemola was one of the men killed by the bomb blast; he either died at his station or succumbed to burns at one of the casualty stations. He would be commended with seventeen other men in an official dispatch:

They remained at their posts efficiently performing assigned duties during strafing, explosions of torpedoes in the near vicinity of the battery, and after an aerial bomb had exploded and fired a locker of heavy ammunition at the battery. They extinguished the fire, policed the battery and readied the only remaining serviceable gun for further defense of the ship. As a result of their actions, they efficiently assisted in the defense of LEXINGTON by fast, accurate fire under extremely difficult circumstances.

Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Henry Zemola

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

Thanks to Mr. Vincent L. Anderson of the Lexington’s Marine detachment for additional information.

6 thoughts on “PFC Henry Zemola

  1. My Dad was his youngest brother. We received his records and his Purple Heart and had a letter signed by the President, in 2004. How was this record created? Patricia (Zemola) Erdely

    1. Hi Patricia – this summary was created through available census and muster rolls on ancestry.com, an After Action report from BuShips in 1942, and various other Web resources. It’s necessarily a bit incomplete as I can’t get records for every Marine listed as missing. If you notice any mistakes, or there’s something that should be included, please let me know!

      Best,
      Geoff

      1. Boy, thank you for the swift reply. Your information is actually more informative than what the military provided. He enlisted on 03 Mar 1941, and reported to the USS Lexington on 26 Aug 1941. His remains were unrecoverable, he went down with the ship. He is engraved on the Battle Memorial in the Phillipines.
        Thank you for the honor of having him remembered on this Memorial.

      2. I’m glad to be able to do something to help remember what he gave up for all of us. I’ll add those dates to his memorial right away.

        Here are a few of the links I used – some of them go into a LOT of detail. PFC Zemola’s station was Gun #6, Gun Gallery #2.

        The official report of the loss of the Lexington:
        http://www.fold3.com/image/#268369521&terms=uss+lexington

        The ship’s action report – includes some pictures of Gallery #2 and Gun #6 (the aft-most gun) after the attack.
        http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ships/logs/CV/CV2-Coral.html

        And here, on page 24, is some information on his citation for bravery in the battle:

        Best,
        Geoff

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