Surface Navy Recognizes Medal of Honor Recipients (Part 2)
“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die,” said American baseball player George Herman Ruth, Jr. famously known as Babe Ruth. This quote holds true in the U.S. Navy, especically in the U.S. Surface Fleet where there are currently 19 commissioned warships named after Medal of Honor recipients and seven more on the way.
Today in our second installment of a multi-part series, we’re highlighting four Surface Force ships whose brave namesakes were awarded the prestigious decoration; USS Howard, USS James E. Williams, USS Gonzalez, and USS Donald Cook.
USS Howard (DDG 83) is named in honor of Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jimmie E. Howard. On August 21, 1967, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions when he led his platoon into battle against the Viet Cong force. During the 12-hour attack, Howard and his men killed 200 enemy troops.
USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) is named in honor of Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James Elliot Williams. On May 14, 1968, Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions in the Vietnam War. He served as a patrol-boat commander on the night of Oct. 31, 1966 when two of his boats came under attack. In an intense three-hour battle, he and his men killed 65 enemy combatants, destroyed more than 50 of their vessels, and disrupted a major enemy logistic operation.
USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) is named in honor of Marine Sergeant Alfredo “Freddy” Cantu Gonzalez, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on October 31, 1969 for his brave actions in the Vietnam War. During the Battle of Hue – one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the Vietnam War – Sgt. Gonzalez risked and lost his life firing numerous rounds of ammunition while moving from his position. He successfully knocked out enemy positions and suppressed much of their fire in the process.
USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) is named in honor of Marine Colonel Donald G. Cook, the first Marine captured in Vietnam to be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, for his courage and behavior while a prisoner of war (POW) in Vietnam. During his captivity, he took it upon himself to set an example for his fellow POWs. He risked his own health and well-being by sharing his food and some medicines with other prisoners who needed it and refused to betray the Military Code of Conduct. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on February 26, 1980.
These brave men and their noble actions have managed to be both heroic and legendary. Their selfless legacies continue to live on, inspiring others to go above and beyond in protecting our nation ensuring their legacies live on through the ships that bear their names, and the Sailors who represent them.
Please join us in the upcoming months as we recognize the remaining surface ships in future installments of Surface Navy Remembers Medal of Honor Recipients.