John M. Howard was born in Chester, PA on Aug. 20, 1917. He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1935 at the age of 17. He was appointed as a Midshipman in November, 1940, and reported for U.S.S. Illinois. Following his commissioning and a brief tour with the Local Defense Force, Fourth Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. He graduated from the Advanced Mine School (later named Mine Disposal School) in January, 1942, and was one of a select number sent to England to observe the Royal Navy and Royal Engineers during their work with live German Mines.
HMS Mirtle was established as a Mine Investigation Range in a disused quarry after the 6 August 1940 tragedy that occurred at HMS Vernon where a booby‑trapped German type “C” mine exploded killing one RN Officer and two ratings. This “hush‑hush” establishment was dubbed “Mirtle” because it was the most pleasant name the British could think of beginning with MIR, Mine Investigation Range.
Ens. Howard was killed 11 June 1942 on Corton sands at Garton, near Lowestoft and south of Great Yarmouth, while observing a RMS being performed by Lcdr. Roy Berryman Edwards, RN, DSO, BEM (Military). Both John Howard and Roy Edwards were killed by the detonation of a German, moored, magnetic influence mine, TMA‑1 (“T” for Tommy) which had washed ashore.