In 1942, French selflessly saved 15 of his shipmates after their ship, USS Gregory (APD 3), sank following attacks from Japanese forces.
During the Battle of Guadalcanal, Japanese forces near Solomon Islands sank USS Gregory. French and his fellow Sailors found themselves on a raft drifting towards enemy fire. French tied a rope around his waist and jumped into shark-infested waters to pull the raft away from mortal danger. He swam for more than six hours in the dark until an aircraft spotted the raft and friendly forces sent a landing craft to pick them up. In 1943, the Commander of South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force awarded French a Letter of Commendation with ribbon authorized (which is the equivalent of today’s Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal).
“I am proud to announce the Navy is dedicating a rescue swimming training pool here at Naval Base San Diego to Mess Attendant First Class Charles Jackson French in honor of his heroic actions,” said Gilday. “Generations of Sailors will train there and never forget the values and legacy of such a brave American hero.”
The pool, under the command of Naval Aviation Schools Command (NASC), is used to train Navy rescue swimmers to successfully and safely conduct critical search and rescue missions at sea.
“We are absolutely elated and truly humbled to have our training pool dedicated in honor of Charles Jackson French,” said Capt. Edgardo Moreno, NASC commanding officer. “His brave and courageous actions embody the very best in our Navy and his story is a compelling example to all Sailors for generations to come.”
The choice to name the Naval Aviation Schools Command pool after French not only commemorates the heroic rescue of his 15 shipmates, but also reflects his ties to San Diego. After the war, French lived in San Diego and was later buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. The rescue swimmer training school at Naval Base San Diego is a fitting dedication to carry on French’s legacy.
“It is a privilege to be the regional commander at this time to endorse this key action in recognizing the heroism of Charles Jackson French,” said Rear Adm. Stephen D. Barnett, commander of Navy Region Southwest. “He exemplified the Navy’s values of honor, courage and commitment, and it is well past time that we recognize his actions in this way.”
A formal dedication ceremony will be held in May.
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