News & Events

Uncommon Hero Book Launch Makes Splash at 2012 USS North Carolina Reunion

Uncommon Hero Book Launch Makes Splash at
2012 USS North Carolina Reunion

CAMARILLO, CA — A youngster escaped poverty during the Great Depression, entering the Navy to see the world. Repeated refusal to perform domestic duties led his executive officer to grant him a gunner tryout. He rose to the challenge of shooting down a sneak attack kamikaze plane, and went on to live a rags-to-riches story rarely told by an African-American sailor.

Uncommon Hero: The John Seagraves Story is the sailor’s biography. The official book promotion and launch for first time author David Seagraves’ took place at the USS North Carolina Battleship between May 16 and 19, 2012. On Wednesday, May 16, Seagraves paid a visit to The Big Talker FM Radio with Host Chad Adams. Later that day, he and his father conducted an interview with Martha Quillin of the Raleigh News & Observer, WWAY-TV 3 (ABC), and Star News with Katie Coleman.

Thursday morning, Seagraves participated in a live on-air radio telephone interview with 1240 AM Coastal Daybreak host Ben Ball. Friday, he and his father obtained a News 14 interview, an interview with Tyler Roberts and their prized photographer for weekly newspaper Lumina News, and a Fayetteville Observer Reporter phone interview with April Dudash, all taking place in the Admiral’s cabin on the battleship.

Front page coverage from the Raleigh News & Observer feature was picked up by the AP (Associated Press) leading to Durham Morning Herald front page exposure. With two radio and television interviews, and four newspaper interviews preceding the book launch, media preparation succeeded in creating interest in the ship, the bookstore, and the book. May 19, 2012 saw father and son signing books in the ship’s bookstore, successfully selling all 40 copies available.

Seagraves believes the demand for his book and the story behind it can be attributed to strategic publicity, the assistance of the ship’s staff, the interest from crew members and their families, and the opportunity of a son to honor his father, a man whose experiences with segregation prevented him from sharing his story with his son until the author was 50 years old.

Uncommon Hero: The John Seagraves Story is sold in paperback, and is available on, Kindle, and the ship’s store.

May 25, 2012

David Seagraves
Prana Press
Phone: 310-490-9557

A Father’s War, A Son’s Hero

At 18 years old, John Seagraves found himself staring down a Japanese kamikaze pilot with nothing between him and the plane but a 20-millimeter gun. He could see the whites of the pilot’s eyes as the plane threatened to strike. Just 30 meters before impact, Seagraves and his gunner crew shot down the plane and saved the USS North Carolina.

Read the full story at

Lumina News
by Tyler Roberts
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

USS North Carolina Reunion Brings Back Memories of Segregation

Black Navy veteran recalls days of segregation aboard USS North Carolina


WILMINGTON — As a seaman on the USS North Carolina during World War II, John Seagraves weathered a Pacific typhoon and helped shoot down a Japanese kamikaze bent on attacking the battleship. But his most harrowing memories of his days as a sailor are of the way the Navy treated black soldiers such as him.

Read more here:

Uncommon Hero: The John Seagraves Story

First-time Author David Seagraves Recounts Father’s Compelling Story of Heroism, Perseverance and Racism on the USS North Carolina Battleship

Author and War Hero in Wilmington May 16 – 19 for USS North Carolina Reunion
WILMINGTON, N.C. – First-time author David Seagraves knew his father served aboard the USS North Carolina during World War II, but knew nothing of his battles against racism and Kamikazes. It wasn’t until after the 2009 Battleship Reunion that he learned of his father’s heroics aboard the ship. As the first African American to break the racial barrier and operate a 20mm gun onboard, John Seagraves shot down a deadly Japanese Kamikaze attacker on April 14, 1945, dropping the near fatal flying bomb a mere 30 yards from the ship. This “defining moment” saved countless lives and the U.S. Navy’s most decorated and highly celebrated battleship. Photos of the gun crew and the Kamikaze’s ocean impact are still proudly displayed onboard the USS North Carolina today.

Inspired by the stories, David Seagraves recently penned his father’s biography in “Uncommon Hero, The John Seagraves Story,” a captivating tale of how John’s passion and determination helped him overcome poverty, racism, and a 4th grade education to impact American, African American, and Naval history. Seagraves will officially unveil the book for the first time at the USS North Carolina Reunion May 17-19 aboard the Battleship.

Seagraves will host a book signing on Saturday, May 19 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Ship Store. The book is available on for $22.95 for a paperback edition or $8.99 for a Kindle e-book edition.

“I wrote this book because my father had a fascinating story to tell,” said David Seagraves. “As I delved deeper into his past, I discovered that poverty taught him many useful things, tested his metal, and made him adapt regardless of his lack of education. He climbed out of dirt poor conditions in Georgia, built a career he was passionate about, and used his tireless work ethic to get what he wanted from life.” Buried within his body of work lies the relentless resolve of an uncommon hero.

Since his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1945, John Seagraves has owned many homes and businesses, traveled the world multiple times and at 85 continues to live a vibrant life with his wife Mildred, to whom he has been married for more than 63 years. His lifelong passion for cooking defined his success, both in and out of the Navy, and led to a 60+ year long career as a restauranteur and self-made man.

But success did not come easy to John Seagraves. He learned at a tender age that hard work overcame social, economic and racial obstacles, persevering in the face of adversity to achieve his goals. By age 10, John Seagraves quit school and found work to support his five younger sisters and a loving mother in dire financial need. John left his chldhood behind and became the family’s primary breadwinner, delivering vegetables, collecting scrap iron, selling rags, and learning the restaurant business. Just a few years later in June 1943, one week before his 17th birthday, John joined the Navy to “see the world and fly to exotic lands.”

“The war gave my father the ideal theater to demonstrate his desire to excel under fire,” said Seagraves, “although his first days in the Navy were a rude awakening. John was assigned to the Steward’s branch, which consisted of all black sailors serving white officers. The Navy at that time said that Negro seamen could not be elevated to any rank superior to that of white men, could not maintain discipline, and it was in the best interest of efficiency that Negros be restricted to acting as stewards.”

By February 1, 1943, the Navy had 26,909 Negroes: 6,662 in the general service, 2,020 in the Seabees, and 19,227 (over two thirds) in the Steward’s Branch.

But John Seagraves did not let the Navy’s racial challenges stop him. He was assigned to the USS North Carolina and refused to perform domestic duties, instead becoming well respected for his talents in the officers’ kitchen. Eventually he convinced his commanders to let him try his hand as a gunner. A spot had been created for eight black sailors on two 20-millimeter guns forward starboard, and although few expected them to succeed, Seagraves and his gun crew excelled.

John’s defining moment came on April 14, 1945. Seagraves’ black gun crew – a first for the battleship – spotted and shot down a crafty Japanese Kamikaze plane that slipped past dozens of American planes returning from an operation, and every spotter protecting the USS North Carolina.

“He finally proved himself when it mattered most,” said Seagraves. “John Seagraves was now a gunner, no different than any other gunner onboard. Shooting down the kamikaze took a giant step toward defeating the Japanese by keeping America’s most proficient battleship in the war.”

David Seagraves is a small business owner and retired financial planner, who became an author when the opportunity to share his father’s story presented itself following the 2009 USS North Carolina reunion. David enjoys movies, reading, travel, and coastal living with his wife Tanja and their dog Belinda near Malibu, California. Seagraves began his college career at Princeton University and graduated from Colorado College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1983. David is originally from Boston, MA.


The John Seagraves Story
May 14, 2012

Debbie Elliott
Talk, Inc.
cell: 910-471-3181

Avengers, Move Over – Here’s a Truly Heroic Tale

I’m all about heroes this month, what with The Avengers hitting theaters and all. But that’s fantasy … in real life, heroes are people who struggle, battle uphill, overcome, have staying power, give others a hand to climb up in their path, and do their best to keep promises. Here’s to real heroes, and a big thank-you to my client, author David Seagraves, who came to me for interior layout and formatting of his book about just such a real hero.

David Seagraves has just published (via Prana Press) the book Uncommon Hero: The John Seagraves Story, an inspirational and historical account of his father’s life. If you enjoy history, WWII U.S. Navy stories, biographies of fascinating people, or motivating accounts of underdogs overcoming the odds, this is a book for you! Here is the official book description []

Read full story at

Good Reads
by Zuzana Urbanek’s Blog
May 05, 2012