John Wesley Hamilton was born in Mexico, Missouri July 11, 1915. Census data shows that his family moved to Hedrick, Iowa prior to his 4th birthday. He was the son of Donald W. and Winifred H. Hamilton. In the records for WW2 casualties for Iowa, his mother is listed as Winifred Ramey of Hedrick, Iowa. His parents had divorced in 1922.
Hamilton's first enlistment was December 19, 1934 in the regular Navy. He reported for duty at USNTS, San Diego on December 22, 1934. On April 5, 1935 he was assigned to the USS Bushnell. At that point he received his F3c rating. On July 20, 1935 he was transferred to the US Submarine Base at Coco Solo, Canal Zone. On January 8, 1936, he was transferred to the USS S-12. He made F2c on August 8, 1936, and was transferred to the USS Holland on September 30, 1936, returned to San Diego where he was detailed as crew messman from January until April 26, 1937. He left the Holland October 16, 1937 and was aboard the USS Bushnell in early 1938 when he received a couple of AWOL reports. He transferred to the USS Texas on February 18, 1938 He was honorably discharged October 8, 1938. Records show he was entitled to a Good Conduct Medal at that time. He enlisted in Des Moines, Iowa on both occasions. His service record in 1941 shows him assigned to the USS S-20 from February 7, 1941 until being transferred to USS R-2 from June 12, 1941 through May 14, 1942. He was promoted from F2c to F1c on September 1, 1941. In December, 1941 he had another AWOL incident and was in the brig for 10 days. Hamilton was then assigned to the USS Amberjack beginning June 19, 1942, the commissioning date for that boat, which made him a plankowner. He did another AWOL in July and missed a short time at sea off New London. He liked to play! He was on all 3 of Amberjack's war patrols. His mother, Winifred Ramey received his Purple Heart and Certificate by transmittal letter dated July 14, 1944. All of this information is included in accompanying paperwork obtained from the St. Louis archives.
MoMM1c Hamilton's group includes his posthumous officially engraved US Mint Type 1 Purple Heart with its purple box. Also included is a note hand written by one of Hamilton's sisters which reads: "Purple Heart given to Mother (Winifred) after J.W.'s death in World War II". In addition, there are several pages of internet research. New addition from a separate source includes about 15 letters written by JW, 2 newspaper articles from March 1943 listing him as missing in action, condolence letters, and his original Purple Heart Certificate dated June 7, 1944 signed by Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal. Shown in the photos below is one of his v-mail letters home dated dated December 8, 1942.
The following information on Amberjack comes from Wikipedia:
Following her 2nd war patrol, Amberjack's period of refit was cut to 12 days due to the urgent need for submarines to patrol enemy infested waters. She got underway on 24 January but was forced to return to Brisbane for repair of minor leaks which developed during a deep dive. Again departing Brisbane on 26 January, Amberjack started her third war patrol in the Solomons area. On 29 January she was directed to pass close to Tetipan Island and then proceed to the northwest and patrol the approaches to Shortland Basin. Orders were radioed on 1 February for her to move north and patrol the western approaches to Buka Passage. Having complied with these orders, Amberjack made her first miles southeast of Treasury Island on 1 February, and sank a two-masted schooner by gunfire 20 miles (32 km) from Buka. At this time she was ordered to move south along the Buka-Shortland traffic lane and patrol east of Vella Lavella Island.
In a second radio transmission on 4 February, Amberjack reported having sunk a 5,000 ton freighter laden with explosives in a two-hour night surface attack that date in which five torpedoes were fired. During this engagement, Chief Pharmacist's Mate Arthur C. Beeman was killed by machine gun fire, and an officer was slightly wounded in the hand. On 8 February, Amberjack was ordered to move to the west side of Ganongga Island and on 10 February, she was directed to keep south of latitude 7°30'S and to cover the traffic routes from Rabaul and Buka Island to Shortland Basil. On 13 February, Amberjack was assigned the entire Rabaul-Buka-Shortland Sea area and told to hunt for traffic.
The last radio transmission received from Amberjack was made on 14 February. She related having been forced down the night before by two destroyers, and that she had recovered from the water and taken prisoner an enemy aviator on 13 February. She was ordered north of latitude 6°30'S, and told to keep hunting for Rabaul traffic.
All further messages to Amberjack remained unanswered, and when, by 10 March, she had failed to make her routine report estimating the time of her arrival at base, she was ordered to do so. No reply was received, and she was reported as presumed lost on 22 March 1943.
Reports received from the enemy after the war record an attack which probably sank Amberjack. On 16 February 1943, Hiyodori and Sub Chaser Number 18 attacked a U.S. submarine with nine depth charges at about
An escorting patrol plane had previously attacked the submarine. A large amount of heavy oil and "parts of the hull" came to the surface. This attack is believed to have sunk Amberjack. However, no final conclusions can be drawn, since Grampus was lost in the same area at about the same time. From the evidence available, it is considered most likely that the attack of 16 February sank Amberjack, but if she did survive this attack, any one of the attacks and sightings thought to have been made on Grampus might have been made on Amberjack.
In June 2021 this group was returned to family members.