Joseph “Joe”Kirby Harper was the son of John Douglas Harper and Edwena Kathleen Pattie. Joe graduated from Lenoir City High School in 1935 and was one of the city’s best liked young men. He volunteered for Navy service Jan. 19, 1941. Joe and miss Emily Ruth Wilkerson announced their engagement in October, 1943 when Joe was on active duty in the South Pacific. The wedding would be an event of early fall and would have taken place at Trinity Methodist Church.

Submarine USS Grayling SS-209
Loss Date September 9, 1943
Location In or near Tablas Strait, Philippine Islands
Lost at sea, cause unknown. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery

Grayling began her eight and last war patrol in July 1943 from Fremantle Australia but was not heard from again after 9 September 1943. Grayling was officially reported lost with all hands 30 september 1943, after having recorded five major kills totaling 20,575 tons. Even today, the exact cause of the loss of Grayling is unknown, but on 9 September 1943, Japanese passenger-cargo vessel Hokuan Mary reported a submarine in shallow water west of Luzon. The ship made a run over the area and noted an impact with a submerged object. It is assumed the object was Grayling. The submarine was scheduled to make a radio report on the 12th, which she did not, and all attempts to contact her failed. The USS Grayling (SS-209) was lost with 76 officers and men.

Parents: Mr. and Mrs. John Douglas Harper, 307 B Street, Lenoir City, TN

  • Rank: Fire Controlman Second Class
  • Date of birth:
  • 31 May 1917
  • Date of death: 9 September 1943
  • County: Loudon
  • Hometown: Lenoir City
  • Service Branch: Navy
  • Division/Assignment: USS Grayling (SS-209)
  • Theater: Pacific
  • Conflict: World War II
  • Awards: Purple Heart
  • Burial/Memorial Location: Manila American Cemetery, Fort Bonifacio, Manila, Philippines
  • Location In Memorial: Pillar XV, Top Panel
  • Contact us to sponsor Joseph K. Harper

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