John was born April 26, 1928, in Clinton, Iowa, to Mike and Mildred (Pjevac/Peavich) Rajcevich, who were both born in Yugoslavia and spoke Serbian.1 His father worked for the railroad repairing rail cars in 1930 when they lived in Bellwood, Cook County, Illinois. John was one of nine children at that time. Six of the older children had a different father, Nikola Pjevac/Peavich, but he died in 1922.2 Another child had been born but had died.3
In 1940, the family was living in Clinton, Iowa, and Mike was still repairing railroad cars. Two more children had been added to the family. One older brother was a laborer in a sugar refinery, and three sisters were sewers at a garment factory.4 John was a freshman at Clinton High School in 1944.5
At the age of 16, John was a deckhand on the S.S. Cetus, arriving at Two Harbors, Minnesota, Aug 29, 1944, from the port of Jackfish Bay, Ontario. He was a member of the crew. His length of service at sea had been three weeks.6
The U. S.S. Cetus was a crater class cargo ship and was acquired by the Navy in January 1943. During World War II, the U.S.S. Cetus was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater and had just participated in the Marianas operation, the capture and occupation of Saipan July 27 – August 9, 1944.7
On January 21, 1945, John signed on as a member of the crew as a seaman on the U.S. Joseph S. Emery at the Port of New York. He was one of two 16-year-olds on the crew of 41.8 The ship had recently arrived from Oran, Algeria, and had discharged 39 crew members. They sailed to Halifax via the Port of Norfolk, Virginia, on January 22.
John enlisted in the Navy October 17, 1945, and was discharged April 19, 1949. He re-enlisted March 15, 1950. He served on Patrol Squadron VP-772.9 VP-772 was deployed to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, January 31 through August 3, 1951. The naval air base was located in the cities of Yamato and Ayase in Kanagawa, Japan. It is the largest United States Navy Air Base in the Pacific Ocean.10 NAF Atsugi was a major naval air base during both the Korean War and Vietnam War, serving fighters, bombers, and transport aircraft. Patrol Squadron VP-772’s detachment location was Pusan, Korea, as of June 12, 1951. Their patrol area was inland Korea.11 He was discharged January 14, 195412 He earned the Air Medal at some point during his service.
After his retirement from the Navy, he was employed as a pipefitter and plumber.13
John’s brother, Eli, two years older, also enlisted in the Navy February 17, 1944, was a S2C and was included on the Navy muster roll on the U.S.S. Sterett at the end of June 1944.14 His brother, Mike, Jr., was a 2LT in the Army, retiring November 10, 1944.15 His brother George was a staff sergeant in WWII with Co. K, 9th Infantry, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, Rhineland and Central European campaigns. He was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received in February 1945 in Germany.16
John married Barbara Green on September 13, 1958, in Clinton.17 She was a psychiatric nurse at Genesis Medical Center. They had two children, Jon Spencer and Cynthia Diane. Another daughter, Jayne, died shortly after birth on August 4, 1959.18 Barbara died in 1996. Son Jon served in the U.S. Army and later became a pilot for Continental Airlines.19
In 1960, John was a policeman in Clinton, Iowa, according to the City Directory.20 His oldest brother Joseph was the president of the Clinton Labor Congress (AFofL-CIO). His father was now an inspector with the CNW Railroad and brother Nick was a welder there. Brother George was a foreman at Climax Engine Manufacturing.
John died in Orange City, Florida, on June 22, 2009.