Tag Archives: Heroes

A Hero to Remember

Commander Howard Walter Gilmore

Earlier this month I did a blog post on my dad’s World War II hero, Slade Deville Cutter.  My father shared another story of a Commander that made the ultimate sacrifice for his crew and our country, Commander Howard Walter Gilmore.

Gilmore underwent submarine training in 1930 and in the years that followed served in various submarines and at stations ashore. In 1941, he assumed his first command, USS Shark (SS-174), only to be transferred the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor to take command of the still-unfinished USS Growler (SS-215). On his first, Growler attacked three enemy destroyers off Kiska, sinking one and severely damaging the other two, while narrowly avoiding two torpedoes fired in return, for which Gilmore received the Navy Cross. On his second patrol, Growler sank four merchant ships totaling 15,000 tons in the East China Sea near Taiwan. Gilmore received a gold star in lieu of a second Navy Cross.
 
The submarine continued to take a heavy toll of shipping on her fourth war patrol, and on the night of 6–February 7, 1943, she approached a convoy stealthily for a surface attack. Suddenly a fast gunboat, Hayasaki, closed and prepared to ram. As the small ship charged out of the darkness, Gilmore sounded the collision alarm and shouted, “Left full rudder!” — to no avail. Growler hit the Japanese adversary amidships at 17 knots, heeling the submarine 50 degrees, bending 18 feet of her bow sideways, and disabling the forward torpedo tubes.
 
Simultaneously, the Japanese crew unleashed a burst of machine gun fire at Growler’s bridge, killing the assistant officer of the deck and a lookout, while wounding Gilmore himself and two other men. “Clear the bridge!” Gilmore ordered as he struggled to hang on to a frame. As the rest of the bridge party dropped down the hatch into the conning tower, the executive officer, Lieutenant commander Arnold Schade waited expectantly for his captain to appear. Instead from above came the shouted command: “Take her down!” Realizing that he could not get himself below in time if the ship were to escape, Gilmore chose to make the supreme sacrifice for his shipmates. Schade hesitated briefly — then followed his captain’s last order and submerged the crippled ship.

Commander Gilmore's Grave Stone in Meridian, MS

Surfacing some time later in hope of reattacking the Hayasaki, Schade found the seas empty. The Japanese ship had survived the encounter, but there was no sign of Gilmore, who apparently had drifted away in the night. Schade and Growler’s crew managed to control the ship’s flooding and limped back to Brisbane.

For sacrificing his own life to save his ship, commander Howard Gilmore was posthumously awarded the Medal of HonorToday “Take her down!” remains one of the legendary phrases of the U.S. Submarine Force.

Thank you Commander Gilmore for sacrificing your life for your crew and our freedoms. A true hero to remember forever.

DCG

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A Hero to Remember

An American Hero

My father served in the US Navy and was involved in both the Vietnam and Korean Wars.  My father was my hero growing up (most of the time!), raised me as a conservative, and taught me the difference between right and wrong.  He also shared a story with me of his hero, Slade Deville Cutter.  I would like to share his story with you.

My father was a Recruit Chief Petty Officer of Company 497 and completed his US Navy training in San Diego (my father is on the front right). The training was brutal – it involved “gunnery” training (doesn’t sound that bad to me!) and practice run-throughs of the “gas chamber” (that sounds brutal!).

Photo of my dad taken by Captain Slade Cutter on 27 May 1960

My father then went on to serve on the USS Neosho . It was there he met his hero, Captain Slade Cutter.

Slade Cutter was ‘da man. He was a career US Naval Officer and was awarded four Navy Crosses and tied for 2nd place for Japanese ships sunk during World War II. My dad shared the following with me:

“I spent about 2 1/2 years on The USS Neosho, some with Slade Cutter as Captain and some with Reuben Whitaker as Captain. Both were famous and excellent World War II submarine captains.  The only bad feature about the Neosho was no air conditioning! The air search radar was obsolete, but our radar repeaters and communications equipment were good. Most importantly, we respected and admired our Captain Cutter.  He was a man of courage.”

“Cutter was really concerned about the welfare of his crew.  (Dad presumed it came from the fact that he survived so many attacks.)  His crew always came first.  The better the performance of the people on the ship, the better chance they had of surviving.

Cutter’s four war patrols as Commanding Officer of the USS Seahorse netted 19 sinkings and more than 70,000 tons of shipping in the postwar accounting. Cutter succeeded in sinking 9 vessels in enemy Japanese-controlled waters during a Second Water Patrol.  He also succeeded in delivering damaging torpedo attacks against heavily escorted enemy convoys. On one occasion, it was necessary to pursue an enemy convoy over a period of 80 hours and only by exceptional determination and skill was Cutter able to penetrate the escort screen and sink two freighters.

Captain Cutter once stated, “The Seahorse sank 19 enemy ships during the four war patrols I was the skipper. The crew got the job done. I was merely the coordinator. They were brave and talented, and I never had to be reckless.  I thought of the lives of those fine men, and frankly, I was aboard too.

Spoken like a true hero.

DCG

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