Medal of Honor: In memoriam
Editor's Note: Today we are sad to announce the passing of one of the 110 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, U.S. Navy Commanding Officer Eugene B. Fluckey. Mr. Fluckey was to be honored in this space on Friday, July 6. He passed away on Thursday, June 28. He lived in Annapolis, Md., and is survived by his wife Margaret and family. Here, we pay special recognition to Mr. Stuckey and his service to the United States.
Every weekday for 110 straight days we will feature a different living recipient of the Medal of Honor. These are the men who have received their nation's highest military honor. Brian is a board member of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. The words and photos are courtesy of Artisan Books, publishers of "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier with photographs by Nick Del Calzo.
EUGENE B. FLUCKEY
Commander, U.S. Navy Commanding Officer, USS Barb
As one of the most successful U.S. submarine commanders in World War II, Eugene Fluckey would
be called “Lucky” to rhyme with his last name. But his naval career hardly began with good fortune: On the day he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1935, his parents were involved in a car crash on their way to the ceremonies. His mother was killed and his father was left an invalid.
Fluckey entered submarine school in 1938, then served aboard the USS S-2 and USS Bonita. In April 1944, he assumed command of the USS Barb. Early in 1945, the Barb was moving along the China coast, looking for targets of opportunity. On January 8, it sank a large Japanese ammunition ship it had been stalking for hours. Believing a larger group of enemy ships was in the area, Fluckey located this “mother lode,” as he called it, by January 25: a convoy of more than thirty Japanese ships anchored in Mamkwan Harbor. The harbor was shallow and heavily mined, with threatening rock formations. It was clear that if the Barb got close enough to attack, it would require a nearly impossible run at full speed through uncharted mine- and rock-obstructed waters to make a successful escape. Fluckey immediately ordered an attack anyway.
He managed to penetrate the perimeter of frigates designed to protect the anchored ships from submarines. In water only thirty feet deep, he maneuvered to within range and launched four torpedoes from the forward tubes, then fired four more from the rear tubes. After watching eight direct hits on six main targets—including another ammunition ship whose explosion damaged craft all around it—he turned the Barb about and headed for open sea. With Japanese shells hitting all around it, the Barb had to stay on the surface for almost an hour before reaching waters deep enough for it to dive.
When the submarine returned to Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was there, conferring
with General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz. All three men congratulated Fluckey, and on March 23, 1945, he received the Medal of Honor from Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal.
In July 1945, Fluckey led the Barb on its twelfth patrol. After sinking an enemy frigate, he landed a shore party on the Japanese coast, which set an explosive device on a railroad track that destroyed a sixteen-car military train. This was the only combat operation on the Japanese mainland during the war.
Fluckey ended his career in 1972 as a rear admiral. With four Navy Crosses in addition to the Medal of Honor, he is one of the most highly decorated servicemen in American history. In 2003, he received the Distinguished Graduate Award from the United States Naval Academy.
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