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.
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.
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.
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
Thanks to Mr. Vincent L. Anderson of the Lexington’s Marine detachment for additional information.