WW II Junior Officer Receives Navy Cross

Tuesday, June 11, 2002
In the Makassar Strait off what is now Indonesia, the USS Billfish (SS-286) was in imminent danger of succumbing to a relentless depth-charge attack at the hands of Japanese destroyers on November 11, 1943. The boat's chief engineer, then-Lieutenant Charlie Rush, describes the circumstances surrounding the attack in an exclusive interview featured in the June 2002 issue of the Naval Institute's PROCEEDINGS magazine.

"He had us cold, and he let go six depth charges. That did a lot of material damage and it also damaged the psyche of the captain and the third officer. The captain was in the conning tower, and I was in the control room. The sonarman reported that he was worthless. 'He's out of it,' the sonarman said." "Who was out of it?" PROCEEDINGS asked. "The captain," said Rush. In the midst of chemically contaminated air and with his boat deteriorating rapidly around him with essentially no one in command, Rush rallied several members of the Billfish crew to stabilize the situation on board such that they could make their escape from the zeroed-in Japanese ships. For these heroic deeds, Rush received the Navy Cross, that service's highest honor for valor. But because the submarine captain wanted no one to know he broke under pressure and thus never recommended his subordinate for an award, Rush's Navy Cross came only in April 2002, nearly 59 years after the fact.

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