James Howard Emley

James (Jim) Howard Emley, 88, a longtime resident of Fortuna, CA, passed away peacefully on Sunday, March 16, 2008, surrounded by his family.  Jim was a loving husband, and an adored father and grandfather.  He is survived by 4 sons, 1 daughter, a brother and sister, and numerous grandchildren.

Jim was born in Wisner, Nebraska on November 12th, 1919.  His family later moved to Denver, Colorado where his devotion to family, passion for adventure, and his love of the outdoors grew.  He spent summers on his uncle’s ranch in Colorado wishing to become a cowboy, or a writer like his father.  In 1941, after graduating high school and just prior to the start of WWII, he joined the Navy.  He served as top-side Gunners Mate on two battle submarines.  His first submarine, the S-27, left San Francisco Bay in January 1942 and was ordered north to the Aleutian Islands where it commenced patrol operations in June.  It then headed west with orders to patrol in the Kuluk Bay area and to reconnoiter Constantine Harbor, Amchitka.

Thick fog and stormy seas prevented a safe return from one late night patrol and the S-27 ran aground on rocks off St. Makarius Point.   Plans were made to move the crew to safety.  Jim, leading four others, carried the sub’s only rifle ashore to scout for signs of enemy encampments.  All the sub’s equipment and classified material were destroyed for security reasons.  After a few weeks of living off supplies from the sub, and what was available from the local area, a PBY Catalina on a routine flight spotted the crew’s presence.   It landed and evacuated 15 of the survivors. Three planes were la ter sent in to bring off the remaining crew.  Nothing was left except the submarine’s abandoned hulk and canned provisions, blankets, and winter clothing.  All hands were saved.  Many years later, Jim told stories to his sons’ Boy Scout Troops about how the crew met this harrowing experience with bravery and teamwork.

After rescue, Jim was re-assigned to a new submarine, USS Jallao (SS-368), and became the senior Gunner’s Mate as part of the commissioning crew.  The submarine departed from Midway in April 1945 and was assigned aircraft lifeguard duty off Marcus Island.  Responding to reports of flyers in the water north of the Marcus Island, the crew of the Jallao braved shore artillery fire to move in and pick up five men in a raft after their plane was shot down, delivering them back safely.

The Jallao went on to earn more citations.  Jim was also awarded commendations and medals for his bravery and outstanding service throughout his Navy career. The stories Jim told his children, buddies, and anyone who would listen, were always about the crew’s courage, working together as a team, and his love for America.   He talked about respecting human dignity and human life.   After the War, he served on Destroyers and revisited Japan and Asia many times to help rebuild the peace.& amp; nbsp; He retired from the Navy in 1962.  He went on to work at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for another 21 years.


Jim was a life member of the Submarine Veterans of World War II Association and a life member of VFW Post 2207 where he served as Commander-in-Chief.  He was proud of Post 2207’s service to Fortuna and surrounding communities.   For the past few years, Jim was involved in Fortuna activities and gave military ceremony funeral services to veterans in the area.  He was part of a Color Guard unit with his fellow VFW members and was proud to march in annual Fortuna parades with the VFW.  He was also supportive of contributing time and money in the form of scholarships to local high school students.  He wa s extremely proud of his fellow VFW and American Legion members.  Jim’s oldest son Michael (Army – Vietnam vet) and his grandson Jeffrey (Marine – Iraq vet) represent 3 generations of Emley members in Fortuna’s VFW Post 2207.