Highly decorated USN WWII ex-admiral dies at 93

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
Highly decorated WWII ex-admiral dies at 93

By Philip Ewing - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Jun 30, 2007 12:49:48 EDT

Eugene Bennett Fluckey, a legendary World War II submariner and one of the most highly decorated living American servicemen, died Thursday night at a hospital in Annapolis, Maryland, a hospital spokeswoman said. He was 93.

In five war patrols as the skipper of the submarine Barb, Fluckey sank dozens upon dozens of Japanese ships and destroyed many more small craft and shore installations, according to the Naval Historical Center. Fluckey's total decorations included the Medal of Honor, four Navy Crosses, and Presidential Unit Citations and Navy Unit Commendations for him and his crew.

Born Oct. 5, 1913, in Washington, D.C., Fluckey graduated from the Naval Academy and accepted his ensign's commission in 1935. He served aboard the battleship Nevada and the destroyer McCormick before attending Submarine School in 1938 in Groton, Conn.

After several years serving aboard submarines, then-Lt. Cmdr. Fluckey took command of the Barb in late 1943, and went on to sink more enemy tonnage than any other U.S. sub skipper, according to a recent biography, "The Galloping Ghost," by Carl Lavo.

In action against the Japanese in 1944 and 1945, Fluckey and the Barb sank 85 enemy ships, including an aircraft carrier, a destroyer and a cruiser. His Medal of Honor recognized his "conspicuous gallantry" during a war patrol along the east coast of China from December 1944 to February 1945.

According to the official citation, Fluckey and his crew sank a large enemy ammunition ship and damaged additional ships during a "running 2-hour night battle" on Jan. 8, 1945. Later that month, "in an exceptional feat of brilliant deduction and bold tracking," Fluckey and the Barb located more than 30 enemy ships. In the battle that followed, the Americans slipped through enemy defenses, scoring direct hits on six of the main targets and blowing up a large
ammunition ship, causing "inestimable damage by the resultant flying shells and other pyrotechnics. "

In August 1945, Fluckey was selected to command the new submarine Dogfish, then under construction, although that assignment ended after only a few months when Fluckey was reassigned to Washington. He first served in the office of the Secretary of the Navy before becoming personal aide to the Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.

From June 1947 until he retired in August 1972, Fluckey served in a variety of increasingly important positions, including Commander of Submarine Division 52; Commander of Amphibious Group 4; and Commander of Submarine Force Pacific. He also served as Director of Naval Intelligence before he retired.

CNO's statement "Every man and woman serving our Navy today joins me in mourning the death of retired Rear Adm. Eugene Fluckey, recipient of the Medal of Honor and a true naval hero. We extend humbly to his family our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies in this, their time of great grief and sorrow.

One of the most daring and successful submarine skippers of World War II — he was credited with sinking 29.3 enemy ships totaling more than 146,00 tons — Eugene Fluckey helped lead and inspire our Navy to victory. He inspires us still today. We will miss him sorely.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, they pinned upon his chest four Navy Crosses, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and a host of other unit and campaign awards. He was known for his audacity and courage, on more than one occasion running his boat in close to shore to attack enemy shipping and bases. He even helped pioneer the idea of submarine support to special operations. In the summer of 1945, he launched a group of his own commandos ashore to set demolition charges on a coastal railway line, destroying a 16-car train. It was the sole landing by U.S. military forces on the
Japanese Home Islands during the war.

Adm. Fluckey was also a loyal and devoted leader, for whom his people had the greatest respect and in whom they entrusted their lives and their honor. He knew all too well how much they depended on his steady hand, and how much he, in turn, depended on them.

In his final war patrol report as Commanding Officer of USS BARB, he had this to say about his crew: "What wordy praise can one give such men as these; men who ... follow unhesitatingly when in the vicinity of minefields so long as there is the possibility of targets ... Men who flinch not with the fathometer ticking off two fathoms beneath the keel ... Men who will fight to the last bullet and then start throwing the empty shell cases. These are submariners. "

As we mourn his passing, so too should we pause and reflect on the contributions of this great man to our Navy and to our nation ... and of the thousands of lives he guided, the careers he mentored, the difference he made simply by virtue of his leadership. We ought never forget his own words of wisdom: "Put more into life than you expect to get out of it. Drive yourself and lead others. Make others feel good about themselves. They will outperform your expectations, and you will never lack for friends."

Rear Adm. Fluckey certainly never lacked for friends. And on behalf of those of us — his friends and shipmates — still serving in the Navy, I wish for his soul fair winds and following seas and for his family and loved ones our deepest respect and sympathies."

— Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen
Gene Fluckey also sank the Japanese escort carrier Unyo and the tanker Azusa Maru with one salvo of 6 torpedoes. Working the USS Barb into a position with the two targets overlapping, the single salvo of 6 secured two hits on each target!

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