Who was Charles Jackson French?

Introduction

Charles Jackson French (25 September 1919 to 07 November 1956) was a United States Navy sailor.

He had first enlisted in the navy in 1937 and had completed his enlistment, moving to Omaha, Nebraska where he had family. With the attack on Pearl Harbour, French went to the closest recruitment office, and on 19 December 1941, re-enlisted in the United States Navy.

Refer to Elvin Bell and Doris Miller.

Petty Officer First Class Charles Jackson French.

Biography

French was an orphan from Foreman, Arkansas who learned to swim in the Red River at the age of eight.

During World War II, Petty Officer First Class French swam 6-8 hours in shark-infested waters near Guadalcanal while towing a life raft with 15 USS Gregory survivors of an attack by the Japanese Imperial Navy. For this action, French received a letter of commendation from Admiral William F. Halsey Jr. in May 1943. Admiral Halsey was then commander of the Southern Pacific Fleet. The commendation stated:

For meritorious conduct in action while serving on board of a destroyer transport which was badly damaged during the engagement with Japanese forces in the British Solomon Islands on September 5, 1942. After the engagement, a group of about fifteen men were adrift on a raft, which was being deliberately shelled by Japanese naval forces. French tied a line to himself and swam for more than two hours without rest, thus attempting to tow the raft. His conduct was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Naval Service.

French was memorialized on War gum trading cards and in a comic strip. The Chicago Defender named him Hero of the Year.

French is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.

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