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Charles French (and family)
*Charles Jackson French was born on this date in 1919. He was a Black World War II hero.
Charles French was an orphan from Foreman, Arkansas, who learned to swim in the Red River at the age of eight. He had first enlisted in the United States Navy in 1937 and had completed his enlistment, moving to Omaha, Nebraska, where he had a family. With the attack on Pearl Harbor, the French went to the closest recruitment office and, on December 19, 1941, re-enlisted in the United States Navy.
Petty Officer First Class French was stationed on the Destroyer USS Gregory during World War II. In early September 1942, responding to combat, he swam 6–8 hours in shark-infested waters near Guadalcanal while towing a life raft with 15 USS Gregory’s survivors of an attack by the Japanese Imperial Navy. For this action, French received a letter of commendation from Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr. in May 1943.
Adm. 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.
Charles Jackson French died on November 7, 1956. He is buried at Section N, Grave 490, at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.