Born: October 13, 1923
Hometown: Bellefonte, PA
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: June 1, 1943 / 36-53N, 76W
Date / Place of burial: June 1, 1943 / Lost at Sea –
John O. Talbott signed on as Deck Cadet aboard the SS John Morgan on May 19, 1943
at Philadelphia, PA, a few days after the ship was delivered from its builder, Bethlehem-
Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore, MD. He was joined by Cadet-Midshipman Benjamin H.
Wilkinson who signed on as Engine Cadet. After loading a cargo of 5,000 tons of high
explosives bound for the Persian Gulf the ship, with a crew of forty-one plus twentyeight
Armed Guard Sailors, sailed for Hampton Roads to join its convoy.
At about 0400, on June 1, 1943 the John Morgan was about 20 miles off Cape Henry
maneuvering with other ships to form up into their assigned positions in the convoy. As
part of the maneuvering, the tanker SS Montana was crossing the John Morgan’s bow
from starboard to port, apparently intending to pass port-to-port. According to survivors,
during the maneuver the John Morgan veered to the left, hitting the Montana on the port
bow. The Montana’s petroleum cargo burst into flames and quickly spread to the John
Morgan. Within minutes the fire detonated the SS John Morgan’s cargo of explosives,
disintegrating the ship and killing all but three of the men aboard, including Cadet-
Midshipmen John Talbott and Benjamin Wilkinson.
On board the Montana, eight members of the crew, including the Captain and the three deck officers, were lost. Ten Navy gunners also perished in the collision. The Montana was beached and, although the fires burned for several days, the vessel was refloated, repaired and returned to service.
Cadet-Midshipman John O. Talbott was posthumously awarded the Atlantic War Zone
Bar, the Victory Medal, and the Presidential Testimonial Letter.
John O. “Jack” Talbott was the only son and youngest child of John O. Talbott, Sr. and Margaret C. Talbott. Jack’s big sister Virginia, was ten years older. According to the 1930 Census, John, Sr. was an accountant for a railroad. In 1933 the family moved to Bellefonte, PA when John Sr. was offered a position with the Bellefonte Central Railway, which ran between Bellefonte and State College, PA. His new assignment was that of a Vice President of the railway’s management. In 1936, Jack’s sister Virginia married Carlton Hunter in a June wedding.
Jack attended Bellefonte schools where he established records. He planned to enter Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania before the outbreak of World War II changed his direction to Kings Point.
Ambitious and persistent in his studies, Jack established an excellent reputation in his school and community! He was able to contribute to the happiness of others. He seemed to have a “good will” spirit toward other people. It was surprising to discover how much character development he harvested from the formulating the “good will” habit!
“The best portion of a good man’s life are his little, nameless, unremembered acts of
kindness and love.”