The 15 men who earned the Medal of Honor during the Pearl Harbor attacks

On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo’s 1st Air Fleet begins their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Two waves of aircraft strike the U.S. Pacific Fleet at anchor, as well as bases across Hawaii. Five of the eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships are either sunk or severely damaged. By day’s end, 2,718 American sailors, 582 soldiers (including Army Air Forces personnel), 178 Marines, and 103 civilians are dead, dying or wounded.
In a day full of countless acts of American bravery and sacrifice, 15 men and officers of the U.S. Navy earned the Medal of Honor – 11 posthumously – during the battle. Here are the accounts of their actions.

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to John William Finn for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For extraordinary heroism distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machinegun strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy’s fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Ensign Herbert Charpoit Jones, United States Naval Reserve, for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Ensign Jones organized and led a party, which was supplying ammunition to the anti-aircraft battery of the U.S.S. CALIFORNIA (BB-44) after the mechanical hoists were put out of action when he was fatally wounded by a bomb explosion. When two men attempted to take him from the area which was on fire, he refused to let them do so, saying in words to the effect, “Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off.”

Pres. Harry S. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to three former servicemen, in ceremonies at the White House on 25 June 1948. Recipients are (left to right): Lieutenant Commander Jackson Charles Pharris, USN (Ret); Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Francis Junior Pierce, USN; and Staff Sergeant John R. Crews, U.S. Army. (U.S. Navy photo)

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant [then Gunner] Jackson Charles Pharris, United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the U.S.S. CALIFORNIA (BB-44) during the surprise enemy Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941. In charge of the ordnance repair party on the third deck when the first Japanese torpedo struck almost directly under his station, Lieutenant Pharris was stunned and severely injured by the concussion which hurled him to the overhead and back to the deck. Quickly recovering, he acted on his own initiative to set up a hand-supply ammunition train for the anti-aircraft guns. With water and oil rushing in where the port bulkhead had been torn up from the deck, with many of the remaining crewmembers overcome by oil fumes, and the ship without power and listing heavily to port as a result of a second torpedo hit, Lieutenant Pharris ordered the shipfitters to counterflood. Twice rendered unconscious by the nauseous fumes and handicapped by his painful injuries, he persisted in his desperate efforts to speed up the supply of ammunition and at the same time repeatedly risked his life to enter flooding compartments and drag to safety unconscious shipmates who were gradually being submerged in oil. By his inspiring leadership, his valiant efforts and his extreme loyalty to his ship and her crew, he saved many of his shipmates from death and was largely responsible for keeping the CALIFORNIA in action during the attack. His heroic conduct throughout this first eventful engagement of World War II reflects the highest credit upon Lieutenant Pharris and enhances the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Warrant Machinist Donald Kirby Ross, United States Navy, for distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage and disregard of his own life during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. When his station in the forward dynamo room of the U.S.S. NEVADA (BB-36) became almost untenable due to smoke, steam, and heat, Warrant Machinist Ross forced his men to leave that station and performed all the duties himself until blinded and unconscious. Upon being rescued and resuscitated, he returned and secured the forward dynamo room and proceeded to the after dynamo room where he was later again rendered unconscious by exhaustion. Again recovering consciousness he returned to his station where he remained until directed to abandon it.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Machinist’s Mate First Class Robert Raymond Scott, United States Navy, for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. The compartment, in the U.S.S. CALIFORNIA (BB-44), in which the air compressor, to which Machinist’s Mate First Class Scott was assigned as his battle station, was flooded as the result of a torpedo hit. The remainder of the personnel evacuated that compartment but Scott refused to leave, saying words to the effect “This is my station and I will stay and give them air as long as the guns are going.”

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Chief Watertender Peter Tomich, United States Navy, for distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, and extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by the Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Although realizing that the ship was capsizing, as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Chief Watertender Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. UTAH (AG-16), until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh (NSN: 0-7187), United States Navy, for distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism, and utter disregard of his own safety above and beyond the call of duty during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. ARIZONA (BB-39), Captain Van Valkenburgh gallantly fought his ship until the U.S.S. ARIZONA blew up from magazine explosions and a direct bomb hit on the bridge which resulted in the loss of his life.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Seaman First Class James Richard Ward, United States Navy, for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. When it was seen that the U.S.S. OKLAHOMA (BB-37) was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Seaman First Class Ward remained in a turret holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Commander Cassin Young (NSN: 0-9615), United States Navy, for distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism and utter disregard of his own safety, above and beyond the call of duty, as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. VESTAL (AR-4), during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by enemy Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Commander Young proceeded to the bridge and later took personal command of the three-inch anti-aircraft gun. When blown overboard by the blast of the forward magazine explosion of the U.S.S. ARIZONA, to which the U.S.S. VESTAL was moored, he swam back to his ship. The entire forward part of the U.S.S. ARIZONA was a blazing inferno with oil afire on the water between the two ships; as a result of several bomb hits, the U.S.S. VESTAL was afire in several places, was settling and taking on a list. Despite severe enemy bombing and strafing at the time, and his shocking experience of having been blown overboard, Commander Young, with extreme coolness and calmness, moved his ship to an anchorage distant from the U.S.S. ARIZONA, and subsequently beached the U.S.S. VESTAL upon determining that such action was required to save his ship.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Radio Electrician Thomas James Reeves, United States Navy, for distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. After the mechanized ammunition hoists were put out of action in the U.S.S. CALIFORNIA (BB-44), Radio Electrician Reeves, on his own initiative, in a burning passageway, assisted in the maintenance of an ammunition supply by hand to the anti-aircraft guns until he was overcome by smoke and fire, which resulted in his death.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd (NSN: 0-5715), United States Navy, for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Rear Admiral Kidd immediately went to the bridge and, as Commander Battleship Division ONE, courageously discharged his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat until the U.S.S. ARIZONA (BB-39), his Flagship, blew up from magazine explosions and a direct bomb hit on the bridge which resulted in the loss of his life.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill, United States Navy, for distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. During the height of the strafing and bombing, Chief Boatswain Hill led his men of the line-handling details of the U.S.S. NEVADA (BB-36) to the quays, cast off the lines and swam back to his ship. Later, while on the forecastle, attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Ensign Francis Charles Flaherty, United States Naval Reserve, for conspicuous devotion to duty and extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. When it was seen that the U.S.S. OKLAHOMA (BB-37) was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ensign Flaherty remained in a turret, holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Captain Samuel Glenn Fuqua, United States Navy, for distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism, and utter disregard of his own safety above and beyond the call of duty during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Upon the commencement of the attack, Lieutenant Commander Fuqua rushed to the quarterdeck of the U.S.S. ARIZONA (BB-39) to which he was attached where he was stunned and knocked down by the explosion of a large bomb which hit the guarterdeck, penetrated several decks, and started a severe fire. Upon regaining consciousness, he began to direct the fighting of the fire and the rescue of wounded and injured personnel. Almost immediately there was a tremendous explosion forward, which made the ship appear to rise out of the water, shudder, and settle down by the bow rapidly. The whole forward part of the ship was enveloped in flames which were spreading rapidly, and wounded and burned men were pouring out of the ship to the quarterdeck. Despite these conditions, his harrowing experience, and severe enemy bombing and strafing, at the time, Lieutenant Commander Fuqua continued to direct the fighting of fires in order to check them while the wounded and burned could be taken from the ship and supervised the rescue of these men in such an amazingly calm and cool manner and with such excellent judgment that it inspired everyone who saw him and undoubtedly resulted in the saving of many lives. After realizing the ship could not be saved and that he was the senior surviving officer aboard, he directed it to be abandoned, but continued to remain on the quarterdeck and directed abandoning ship and rescue of personnel until satisfied that all personnel that could be had been saved, after which he left his ship with the boatload. The conduct of Lieutenant Commander Fuqua was not only in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service but characterizes him as an outstanding leader of men.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion, United States Navy, for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA (BB-48), after being mortally wounded, Captain Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge.

Posted on December 7, 2017 at 15:04 by Chris Carter · Permalink
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