Over the past two years, many of us have been stuck in our homes. The heroes we most hear or read about are the first responders, the doctors and the scientists who have worked to discover the COVID vaccines. However a former resident of Rye has gone above and beyond and is a hero. The more I have researched about this hero, the more I have come to respect John Edward Pace.
John Edward Pace grew up in a similar fashion to other kids that graduated from Rye High School. John was born on 12/3/1913 in New York City before moving to Milton Road in Rye. John grew up at 500 Milton Road with his parents and his younger brother George. The Rye Chronicle, the local newspaper which pre-dates the Rye Record, published an article on 10/29/1932 previewing the Rye versus Harrison football game. This game would be the third match-up in the rivalry we all know so well today. In the preview, John Pace’s athletic ability is mentioned through his “brilliant running and kicking was such a potent factor in the last game.” Although Rye was shut out that weekend by our rival, the team would win the first of many in the rivalry a year later by a score of 12-7 which was followed by “post-game hooliganism and fighting” including damage to the high school’s goalposts amounting to $17.79. That amount now is equal to a meal at Jerry’s or Sunrise. The incident caused a three year suspension to the series. The same Rye Chronicle addition had another front page article mentioning how Helen Keller was planning to speak on 11/2/1932 at Rye High School.
On the same day that Rye lost to Harrison on 10/29/32, John Pace was named the third alternate for admission to the United States Naval Academy by Congressman Charles D. Millard. John Pace would first attend Annapolis Prep School before graduating from the Naval Academy in 1937.
Candidate for Annapolis
John Edward Pace, of Milton Road has been named as third alternate for admission to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis next July by Congressman Charles D. Millard.
RYE, NEW YORK, SATURDAY. OCTOBER 29. 1932
After graduation, John Pace married Kathryn Taylor and celebrated the birth of their only child, David Taylor Pace. Soon thereafter, John was stationed at Pearl Harbor commanded anti-aircraft gunners during the attack on that fatal date in American history.
Months later during the War in the Pacific, Lieutenant John Pace was stationed on the U.S.S. Lexington, an aircraft carrier which was sunk on 5/8/1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea. However, the Rye Chronicle wrote an article on 6/19/1942 stating John Pace who “attended Rye High School and was an outstanding athlete” was safe. Due to the lack of modern technology, the news of John’s safety took forty days before the Chronicle could write the article with certainty.
Following the scare on the
U.S.S. Lexington, Pace would serve on the U.S.S George before becoming the commander of the U.S.S. John C. Butler on 3/31/1944. His heroics while commander of the Destroyer during two battles would earn him multiple awards.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, the largest naval battle in history, with over 200,000 naval personnel involved. It was fought in waters near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar, and Luzon, from 23 to 26 October 1944, between combined American and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), as part of the invasion of Leyte, which aimed to isolate Japan from the countries it had occupied in Southeast Asia which were a vital source of industrial and oil supplies.
The first battle began when the Japanese launched Operation Sho to take Leyte in the Philippines during the Battle of Samar. The Japanese decoyed most of the Admiral Halsey’s Seventh fleet away from Leyte and thus a smaller force of destroyers and transport carriers remained to support the American landing on Leyte. However, on the morning of the October 25th, 1944, sixteen U.S. ships, known at Taffy 3, including the U.S.S. John C. Butler, were surprised to see four Japanese battleships heading their direction.
The Japanese had an overwhelming advanyage to destroy the remaining American vessels. The Japanese commander of the Center Force, Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita, ordered his ships to pursue the American fleet. Fortunately for the Americans, the Japanese lost their element of surprise while switching from nighttime to daylight anti-aircraft positions. Due to the courage from leaders such Capital Pace and Admiral Sprague, the Americans attacked which confused the Japanese into thinking they were facing the absent Seventh Fleet. Three destroyers in Taffy 3 carried out torpedo attacks which damaged the Japanese cruiser Kumano.
Shortly after being spotted, Vice Admiral Kurita ordered his ships including the well-known battleship Yamato to open fire on Taffy 3. . During the battle, the John C. Butler escorted the U.S. carrier fleet and laid heavy smoke confusing the enemy. Using the smoke as a decoy, the John C. Butler directly attacked enemy ships with torpedoes and exchanged gunfire with the enemy. At that point, the American vessel was very low on ammunition.
Pace’s leadership caused the Japanese to fire at his vessel rather than the vital American aircraft carriers. The American air support attacked the Japanese forces but weren’t successful. The Americans continued with the offensive which sparked the initiative for a second attack which led to torpedoes and gunfire exchanges at close conditions. The John C. Butler had a standalone battle with a materially more fortified Japanese heavy cruiser. The American ships ended up taking on heavy fire with the U.S.S. Gambier Bay and U.S.S Samuel B. Roberts and U.S.S. Johnston and St. Lo sinking. The St. Lo crew was rescued by the John C. Butler.
The turning point of the battle occurred when the Americans sunk three Japanese ships. Afterwards, the Japanese retreated which gave the clear victory to the Americans. If Taffy fleets had not gone on the offensive to initiate the battle and confuse the larger Japanese forces, the American most likely would have lost the battle resulting in thousands of American families losing a loved one.
John Pace had many important roles in the battle and was vital to the victory. The U.S.S. John Butler was the only Destroyer during the war to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (P.U.C.). The P.U.C. is awarded for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy by displaying “gallantry, determination and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions.” John Pace was personally awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism during the battle. This award is the second highest military decoration for exemplifying heroism during combat.
Following the battle, John Pace remained commander of the Destroyer and would battle again in Okinawa on 5/20/1945. The vessel was damaged by six suicide Japanese aircraft. Partially due to his demeanor and leadership, the John C. Butler was able to shoot down three of the suicide planes. The John C. Butler would later be awarded the Navy Unit Commendation (N.U.C.). The N.U.C. is awarded for a unit that distinguishes itself by outstanding heroism in action against the enemy. John was also personally awarded the Silver Star during his actions during the battle. The Silver Star is the third highest military combat decoration.
Following the surrender in the Pacific, John Pace became the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Evans from 8/28/1945 to 11/7/1945. John continued to serve post World War II and became Chief of Staff to the Senior Navy Member. Later in his post war career during 1964 and 1965, John Pace worked for in the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group, a division within the Defense Department. Pace’s naval experience helped this unique team contribute to improving national security. John Pace was awarded the Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Legion of Merit for the outstanding work during his 15 months in the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group. Although we will never know the full extent of Pace’s accomplishments while working in this department, he “made very significant contributions to studies affecting national security.”
His next accomplishment occurred when he was the commanding officer at the San Juan Naval station from 11/8/1965 to 5/15/1967. His prior experience and demeanor helped execute a smooth withdrawal of the Inter-American Peace force from the Dominican Republic in 1966. For his exceptional meritorious conduct while serving in San Juan, Captain John Pace was awarded another Legion of Merit Award.
In total, John Pace upon retirement along with the vessel John C. Butler, would earn a Navy Cross, Silver Star, 2 Legions of Merit, Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, and a Philippine Liberation Medal.
Our local hero passed away in Medford, Oregon on 1/10/2006. His ashes were scattered near the ex-U.S.S Utah at Pearl Harbor. Clearly, John Pace made a large impact during World War II as well as during the Cold War. As we are now able to go outside mask less during the spring, we all must remember the heroes, especially those that were local, that helped fight for our freedom. John Pace is clearly at the top of the list of local heroes.
Ethan Kantor - Author / Biographer
Awarded for actions during the World War II
"The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander [then Lieutenant Commander] John Edward Pace NSN: 0-78715/1100 , United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer Escort U. S. S. JOHN C. BUTLER DE-339 , during action against major units of the enemy Japanese Fleet, in the Battle off Samar Island, 25 October 1944. When a formidable column of Japanese battleships, cruisers and destroyers attacked our small Task Unit of Escort Carriers, Commander Pace closed on the hostile disposition and, skillfully maneuvering his ship to avoid crippling blows from the continuous bombardment of enemy gunfire, launched a short-range torpedo attack, thereby diverting hostile fire from our almost defenseless carriers to his own ship. By his heroic action, he contributed materially to the eventual rout of this vastly superior enemy force and his courage, leadership and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
General Orders: Commander 7th Fleet: Serial 0678 February 11, 1945
Action Date: October 25, 1944
Company: Commanding Officer
Division: U. S. S. John C. Butler DE-339
Silver Star - Awarded for actions during the World War II
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Commander [then Lieutenant Commander] John Edward Pace NSN: 0-78715/1100 , United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer Escort U. S. S. JOHN C. BUTLER DE-339 , in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa, on 20 May 1945. When his ship was attacked and slightly damaged by six enemy suicide planes, Commander Pace directed his guns in shooting down three of the hostile aircraft and, by his cool leadership, saved his ship from serious damage or destruction. His professional ability, courage and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
General Orders: Commander Amphibious Forces Pacific: Serial 02447 September 23, 1947
Action Date: 20-May-45
Company: Commanding Officer
Division: U. S. S. John C. Butler DE-339