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*Leonard Harmon was born on this date in 1917. He was an African American sailor who died in action during World War II and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his valor.
Leonard Roy Harmon, born in Cuero, Texas, was 22 years of age when he enlisted in the U. S. Navy in June 1939. He trained as a Mess Attendant, one of the few jobs available to black men in the navy at that time. The basic job description consisted of serving food to officers and crew aboard ship. However, like all members of a ship’s crew they were also trained in damage control and had stations to report to during general quarters. During his service he became a Mess Attendant First Class and was serving aboard the USS San Francisco (CA-38).
During the course of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal he was assigned to assist pharmacist's mate Lyndford Bondsteel in caring for the wounded. While doing so he deliberately interposed himself between Bondsteel and enemy gunfire in order to protect his shipmate. This action when on November 12, 1942 resulted in his death.
Harmon was awarded the Navy Cross. Two ships were named in his honor. The HMS Aylmer had been provisionally named USS Harmon (DE-72) but was transferred to the Royal Navy prior to completion. The USS Harmon (DE-678) served from 1943 to 1947 and remained in the Reserve Fleet until 1967; it was the first US warship to be named after a black man.
USS San Francisco