PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- If walls could talk, the Clean Sweep Bar and Skippers' Lounge in historic Lockwood Hall at Pearl Harbor would whisper secrets known only to those who had access to the inner world of submariners.
The Skippers' Lounge, its walls lined with photos of commanding officers of Pacific Fleet submarines and World War II submarine heroes, was a gathering spot where submariners exchanged war patrol stories, formulated strategies and plotted maneuvers.
The Skippers' Lounge added another hero to its Wall of Honor Oct. 4, during a ceremony honoring retired U.S. Navy Capt. Charles W. Rush Jr., 83, of Port Saint Lucie, Fla. Rush was recently awarded the Navy Cross almost 60 years after his courageous efforts during World War II.
The Navy Cross is the Navy's third highest award and is awarded to a person who distinguishes himself by extraordinary heroism in the presence of great danger or great personal risk.
Rush, then a lieutenant, is credited with saving USS Billfish (SS 286) and her crew amid depth charge attacks by the Japanese in November 1943. Rush was directly responsible for saving Billfish and directing damage control efforts after the depth charge attack incapacitated the ship's captain and all officers senior to Rush. Keeping calm, Rush was able to sustain the submarine 170 feet below its test depth for 12 hours - with a ruptured aft pressure hull and while the submarine was riddled with major leaks through the stern tubes and various hull fittings.
After another officer relieved him, Rush discovered the helm was unmanned and that no action had been taken to counter the sustained attacks. He assumed command, found a helmsman and proceeded to direct evasive actions by innovative maneuvers that retraced their path under the submarine's oil slick left by an explosion near the fuel ballast tanks.
Rush eluded the enemy above and surfaced four hours later.
"I greatly appreciate you being here today. It means a great deal to me," said Rush during the ceremony that honored him as the latest Navy Cross recipient. "When the Billfish went through their long and difficult and trying experience, I came to understand some things. The crew of the Billfish made that submarine."
To commemorate Rush's accomplishments, a WWII photo of Rush was posted beside other notable submarine heroes such as Dick O'Kane, "Mush" Morton and Edward Beach, and his name was engraved on a Navy Cross bronze plaque located at Lockwood Hall. This is the first time this honor has been bestowed on someone other than a submarine commanding officer.
"It is important that today's young officers and the wonderful young men they lead on those submarines understand the strength, the humility and the courage of the men upon whose shoulders we stand," said. Rear Adm. John B. Padgett III, Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, during opening remarks at the ceremony. "That legacy is profound. That legacy is what sustains us when times get tough today.
"The elements of courage that [Capt. Rush] demonstrated as a young officer many years ago are those same elements we try to instill in our officers and the men they lead on our ships today," he added.
Rush was nominated for the Navy Cross after efforts to obtain a Silver Star for another crewmember, the late Chief Electrician's Mate John D. Rendernick, revealed Rush's heroic actions. Deferring any credit from himself, Rush recognized three chief petty officers who took the lead in the crew and key members of the crew who assisted them in saving the ship.
"I am standing here now because of them," Rush said. "One of the chiefs came to me after it was all over and thanked me for saving the ship. I said, 'Chief, if it hadn't been for you, there would have been no ship to save.'"
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