John Fredriksen of Smithfield was born in 1953 at the Quonset Naval Air Station where his parents were stationed as members of the U.S. Navy. The military life was a path John wanted to follow, but a lifelong battle with asthma prevented such a career.
John dropped out of high school but earned a GED that propelled him through the history program at UCLA (1980), a master’s degree in Library and nformation Science at the University of Rhode Island (1989), and on to the last doctorate in history offered by Providence College. At PC his mentor and dissertation director was Professor Patrick T. Conley. John’s meticulously researched topic on “the Niagra Campaign of 1814" is the best account ever written on that military phase of the War of 1812.
Military history fascinated Dr. John Fredriksen, and he would write twenty-eight books in his short lifetime–most of them historical–taking an occasional break to pursue other interests like revisiting his childhood through books about Men in Space and the story of his friend, Anne Frances and her TV role as Honey West.
Dr. Fredriksen focused much of his research on the American army in the War of 1812. At the time of his death he was editing an 1,100 page manuscript of annotated letters from that war. He had an obsession to bring back the body of Captain William Henry Allen, a Providence naval hero from the War of 1812. Allen, the scourge of English commerce around the British Isles, commanded the brig Argus in battle with HMS Pelican where he was mortally wounded. Allen was buried with full military honors in the churchyard at St. Andrews, Plymouth, England. Dr, Fredriksen often said of Allen, "He was a Rhode Islander. I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to get him back." Though he failed in that mission, John did secure Allen’s posthumous induction into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in November, 2013.
Also in November, 2013, John was diagnosed with brain cancer. He courageously fought the disease for almost a year, finally losing that battle on July 30, 2014 at the age of sixty-one. He was laid to rest in a private ceremony at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Given the relatively early death of this self-styled “Historian, Bibliographer, Researcher, and Author,” his output of writings was prodigious. In addition to his twenty-eight books, he wrote dozens of essays and scholarly articles and edited more than a score of original documents relating to the War of 1812. No other American historian has written and published more works pertaining to the War of 1812 than John Fredriksen. Ironically, he died during its bicentennial observance.
In addition to his passion for military history and the several reference books he compiled, John had a keen interest in aviation that prompted him to produce seven precise and accurate kits of model warplanes.
John was focused, quiet, led a simple life, and kept to himself–even his funeral was private. Few Rhode Islanders knew of this great scholar who called Rhode Island home.
Glenn V. Laxton
Dr. Patrick T. Conley