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USS Oklahoma

Medal of Honor Recipients

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Medal of Honor (Courtesy Naval Heritage & History Command)

The Medal of Honor is the highest-ranking United States' combat award, with different patterns used by the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. Authorized in December 1861 as an award for enlisted men, the Navy Medal of Honor originally served to 'further promote the efficiency of the Navy.' Its award criteria subsequently included 'deeds of gallantry and heroism in times of War and of Peace' on the part of officers and enlisted personnel, but in 1942 were restricted to acts of extraordinary heroism in armed combat. The design of the medal and its associated ribbon have also varied, with the pattern presently used having been adopted in 1942.

Ensign Francis C. Flaherty

Ensign Flaherty was born in Charlotte, Michigan, in 1919. He joined the Naval Reserve in July of 1940 and was commissioned an Ensign by December of 1940. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ensign Flaherty stayed in a gun turret to provide light so that the turret crew and others could abandon ship. As the Oklahoma rolled over, he stayed in the turret, until he was trapped inside the ship, under water. He is listed among the missing and dead from the attack.

The destroyer escort USS Flaherty DE-135 was named for Ensign Flaherty. It was commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1946.

Here is his official Medal of Honor citation:

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Ensign Francis C. Flaherty (Courtesy Naval Heritage & History Command)

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, by Japanese Forces on 7 December 1941. When it was seen that the USS Oklahoma 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.

Ensign John Charles England

(Courtesy Naval Heritage & History Command)

Ensign England was born in Harris, Mississippi, in 1920 and enlisted in the Naval Reserve in September of 1940. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ensign England was working in the radio room. After the first torpedo hit, Ensign England escaped topside after the order to abandon ship was given. He remembered the other men in the radio room, though, going back three times to guide men out to safety. He went back a fourth time, but was never seen again. His efforts saved the lives of three other men, while sacrificing his own. He is listed among the missing and dead from the attack.

The destroyer escort USS England DE-635, (1943–1946) and the missile cruiser USS England CG-22 were named in honor of Ensign John C. England.

Seaman First Class James Richard Ward

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(Courtesy Naval Heritage & History Command)

Seaman First Class James Richard Ward was born in Springfield, Ohio, in 1921. He enlisted in the United States Navy in November of 1940. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Seaman Ward remained in a turret after the order to abandon the USS Oklahoma, providing light so that other crewmen could escape the sinking ship. When the Oklahoma finally rolled over, he was trapped in the turret. He is listed among the missing and dead from the attack.

Here is his official Medal of Honor citation:

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. When it was seen that the U.S.S. Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ward remained in a turret holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.

The destroyer escort USS J. Richard Ward DE-243 was named in honor of Seaman Ward. It was commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1946.


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