NO. 17938 • 11 October 1926 - 15 November 1950
Killed in Korea, November 15, 1950, near Wonsan. Aged 24 years.
"We are landing at the Port of Wonsan tomorrow; it has not yet been secured. Please don't worry about me." These were the last words heard from big, wide-smiling, gentle John Trent who met his death near Wonsan, November 15, 1950.
John, or Jack, as he was known to his family and friends in Memphis, was born on October 11, 1926 to Walter and Eleanor Trent. His parents still live in the house on Walker Avenue where he was born - a house filled with memories of his happy boyhood. The youngest of five children, John was born into a family, close-knit in love for one another, and one in which traditions, especially as to holidays and birthdays, are carried on from year to year - family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, trips to the country at Easter and on the Fourth of July, picnics in the summertime and circuses in the fall.
In his junior high school years, John became interested in sports, entering every one that was offered in the school. His capacity for leadership was shown by his being elected president of the senior class, captain of the football team, and most popular boy in his class. The newspapers selected him as one of the most promising football players entering high school that year.
His interest and skill in athletics continued to develop during his high school days. As a senior, he was a member of the Student Council, and received many honors in athletics. Immediately after graduation, John attended Louisiana State University, finishing one year's work before he was called to the Air Force. After fifteen months In the Air Force, he entered West Point.
Whenever John was at home, there was a gathering of the boys from high school days, for a spaghetti supper. These friendships did not lessen with the years, and each time John returned, it became a standing joke to say, as the phone rang and rang, "Jack is home again!"
John's years at West Point and the few months after graduation, are beautifully described in the following tribute written by "HIS ROOMMATES":
"On that warm Summer day In 1946, a strapping young man came to us from a loving Tennessee family who had moulded him in the family traditions of love and honor. With those inbred ties of closeness and courage, he lived and died a true All-American. These words are most fitting to John C. Trent, our dearest friend, who left us on the Korean field of battle on 15 November 1950.
"Our initial acquaintance with John took place on a field similar to that from which he left us . . . a Beast Barracks tactics problem on the mock battle grounds that circumscribe our Alma Mater. Here for the first time we met the broad-shouldered, rugged individual who was to be our roommate for three years. John arrived at West Point and we immediately accepted the modest and unassuming typical "Rebel" for the friend that he was. Despite the many laurels and kudos that he earned for his prowess and accomplishments, he departed from us unchanged as the quiet fellow he had been from the start. We remember him for that cool steadiness and amiable personality that depicted a man who lived for the enjoyment of life itself.
"John never lost sight of his eternal goal to return home to his cherished family in Memphis and spend his days with Mom, Dad, his sisters, brother Bud, relatives and friends. The love and ties that are often absent within the American family of today were ever so present with the wonderful Trents. John's return from every leave aIways found him bubbling over with the joys of having been HOME. Naturally, too, there was always "THE" girl in John's life which meant that Memphis was the garden spot of the world for him.
"If John's family and home were his first love, then we must call football his second. In the ALL-American game, John fulfilled his every ambition as he led our Black Knights of the Hudson through the difficult 1949 campaign . . . undefeated and untied. In each of his three years on the gridiron he held one moment to be more cherished than the others . . . 1947 . . . A pass interception against Navy that resulted in a touchdown and a 21-0 victory FOR THE TEAM . . . 1948 . . . His last-second grab of a Galiffa pass that proved the margin of victory FOR THE TEAM against Pennsylvania In a bitterly fought 26-20 battle . . . 1949 . . . Leading THE TEAM in the huge bowl at Philadelphia In defeating our great rivals, the Midshipmen of Annapolis, 38-0, the soundest trouncing in the history of that long series. The shy, reserved pride of this ALL-American John Trent was ever at its highest in receiving from friend and foe alike the simple accolade of recognition, 'Hi, Big John.' For this kind of man, it was more than enough. It was this kind of man they called 'ALL-American,' the best our beloved country had to offer.
"It was during his graduation leave that the desperate cry came to us from Korea. John came to us again to join the new Team which again was the best we had to offer. Big John was there with his brief words, with a pat on the back from those big fists to bolster spirits that sagged momentarily, just as he had done in every football game he'd fought . . . keeping an eye on the score and the yardage. He was there, his platoon sergeant tells us, on that black Korean night as he started to check his position and see his Team, to give the pat on the back and the brief words to those who were fighting fatigue and sleep In their foxholes as they waited for the enemy. The sergeant had wanted to make the rounds, but as was the way of this ALL-American, Big John insisted on personally visiting his weary Team himself. It was during this necessary check of the perimeter that John received those fatal wounds. He was reverently laid to rest among others from the Team at the Marine Cemetery in Wonsan, Korea.
"That Big John had not changed to the very end is related by his platoon sergeant. His conversation throughout those last days was filled with his true loves . . . his family, his home and friends, 'the' girl, and . . . Football.
"Thus it was that we came to know and love and lose our ALL-American friend . . . Big John Trent."
In him seemed to dwell the promise of greatness the sort of personality that made people love, admire and respect him; he had within him a love of people, kindliness and a deep, abiding faith in God. He has left a heritage of which he, his family and his friends may be justly proud.
Why he was chosen to die is not understandable, but perhaps he and thousands of others have died so that the generations to come shall be able to walk without fear, to live and worship as they please, and to hold their heads high, as free men should.
His Junior High graduation Speech is a strangely prophetic one, entitled "I Am An American," and ends fittingly:
"I become a link in an unending, unbroken chain, welded together by the Spirit of Freedom, and shining with an undying purpose that will keep forever the principles of Democracy supreme in a turmoiled world."
- Louise Trent Ferguson