Perry Higginson Johnson

Hero Profile - WWII

Address when enlisted - 149 Atlantic Avenue

Date of Sacrifice February 25, 1943 - Age 27

Perry Higginson Johnson enlisted in the navy on Pearl Harbor day and lost his life, Feb 1 1943 while serving aboard the USS De Haven I, a destroyer attached to the pacific fleet in the Solomon Islands.

Link to Lt. Perry Higginson Johnson's Ship (USS De Haven I) web page
Link to another USS De Haven I webpage

Naval officer loved life
By Samantha Brown

Lt. Perry Higginson Johnson was always a hopeless romantic. When he met his wife Jan Pierce in 1940, knowing she was someone he couldn't and wouldn't let go, he immediately began to woo her, sending her one dozen roses the very next day. The two were married in April, 1941, and their connection continued to grow, until Johnson shipped out on a mission with the Navy reserves which would separate him too soon from the love of his life. As was the calling of many Cohasset residents during World War II, Johnson enlisted in the service. Perhaps as a reaction to the events of the day, Johnson signed up to serve on Dec. 7, 1941 - Pearl Harbor Day. Johnson had graduated in 1938 from Harvard College, and then went to work for his father until the Navy called the reserves to active duty in late summer 1942. Although he grew up on Beacon Hill in Boston, Johnson's family has a long history in Cohasset and it is a town they all deeply loved. Every summer, he and his three younger brothers and two younger sisters would stay at their grandfather's house on Quarry Point, next to Sandy Cove. Johnson's grandfather Fredrick Higginson's house was located at 149 Atlantic Ave., and Higginson had come back to Cohasset every year since the 1880s. On Sundays during the summer, Johnson's youngest sister Rosmond Cross remembers how their father Howard Johnson, affectionately known as "Mr. J" would take Perry, along with his sister Kathy and brother Howard, to Sunday school at the Unitarian Church. The elder Howard would drop the children off, and would then play a round of golf. The three children would walk home from the service together, and the first one home would be allowed to lick the ice cream churn. Cross said without fail, Perry was always ahead of the rest.

After Johnson was married, he and his wife would spend the summers together in Cohasset. Jan said she remembers spending summer days by the "cocktail bar," a special flat area in the granite side of Sandy Cove. Johnson's father would set out two long planks and roast 20 to 30 lobsters at a time, but dinner came at a price. He wouldn't dish them out until one could prove they were able to split their own lobster. Jan said she can still split a lobster. Johnson's cousin Charlie Higginson, although much younger, remembers fondly looking up to his older relative. Higginson said he remembers the older cousins playing noisy games of softball on Quarry Point. Higginson said he also remembers the large fishing parties from the dock on the elder Howard's motor boat, "The Loon." Those looking for a big catch would use long bamboo poles with green fiddler crabs for bait. Higginson said although he was too young to go, he remembers catching the green fiddler crabs for those venturing out onto the high seas.

When Johnson shipped out, he was stationed on the USS DeHaven I (DD-469), a destroyer escort built at the Bath, Maine shipyard that was attached to the Pacific Fleet in the Solomon Islands. The ship was operating near Salvo on Feb. 25, 1943 when her air support missed her and she was attacked by Japanese kamikazes. Johnson, as second in command, was at that time a deck officer. Rushing to the aid of a comrade, he had just carried a wounded sailor into the ward room for medical attention when the destroyer was hit.

The ship did not sink immediately, but in the end roughly 38 were wounded and 167 men were lost. Among those who did not return home was Johnson, whose body was never recovered. Johnson was only 27 years old. Johnson is remembered by many for his service to the country. His name is on a plaque, located at the Memorial Chapel at Harvard College, which was dedicated to the members of the Harvard University Class of 1938 who gave their lives for their country. Fellow Cohasset resident Howard Gleason is also memorialized in the chapel.

In addition, Cohasset residents are reminded of Johnson's sacrifice every day as they pass by the memorial square dedicated in his memory at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Beach Street, just down the road from his grandfather's house, where he spent so many memorable summers.

Chairman of the Veterans Memorial Committee Glenn Pratt provided the Mariner with the information for this article. For more information on Perry Higginson Johnson or any of the Cohasset veterans who have paid the ultimate price in the name of freedom, please visit the Cohasset Veterans Memorial Committee Web site at

Home   Back to Hero Profiles

Cohasset Massachusetts