Eugene Bennett Fluckey (1913 - 2007)

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Place of Burial: Annapolis, Maryland, United States
Birthplace: Washington, District of Columbia, United States
Death: Died in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, United States
Managed by: Doug Robinson
Last Updated:
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About Eugene Bennett Fluckey

Click here to view the Wikipedia page for Read Admiral Eugene Bennett "Lucky" Flucky.'"

Rear Admiral Eugene Bennett Fluckey (October 5, 1913 – June 28, 2007), nicknamed "Lucky Fluckey", was a United States Navy submarine commander who received the Medal of Honor and four Navy Crosses for his service during World War II.


Early life and career

Fluckey was born in Washington, D.C. on October 5, 1913. He attended Western High School in Washington and Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. He prepared for the Naval Academy at Columbian Preparatory School, Washington. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1931, he was graduated and commissioned Ensign in June 1935.


Fluckey's initial assignments were aboard the battleship USS Nevada (BB-36) and in May 1936 was transferred to the destroyer USS McCormick (DD-223). In June 1938 he reported for instruction at the Submarine School, New London, Connecticut and upon completion, he served on USS S-42 (SS-153) and in December 1938, he was assigned to and completed five war patrols on USS Bonita (SS-165). Detached from Bonita in August 1942, he returned to Annapolis for graduate instruction in naval engineering.


USS Barb (SS-220)


In November 1943, he attended the Prospective Commanding Officer's School at the Submarine Base New London, then reported to Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. After one war patrol as the prospective commanding officer of the USS Barb (SS-220), (her seventh), he assumed command of the submarine on April 27, 1944. Fluckey established himself as one of the greatest submarine skippers, credited with the most tonnage sunk by a U.S. skipper during World War II: 17 ships including a carrier, cruiser, and frigate.


In one of the stranger incidents in the war, Fluckey sent a landing party ashore to set demolition charges on a coastal railway line, destroying a 16-car train. This was the sole landing by U.S. military forces on the Japanese home islands during World War II.


Fluckey ordered that this landing party be composed of crewmen from every division on his submarine and asked for as many former Boy Scouts as possible, knowing they would have the skills to find their way in unfamiliar territory. The selected crewmen were Paul Saunders, William Hatfield, Francis Sever, Lawrence Newland, Edward Klinglesmith, James Richard, John Markuson, and William Walker. Hatfield wired the explosive charge, using a microswitch under the rails to trigger the explosion.


Fluckey was awarded the Navy Cross four times for extraordinary heroism during the eighth, ninth, tenth, and twelfth war patrols of Barb. During his famous eleventh patrol, he continued to revolutionize submarine warfare, inventing the night convoy attack from astern by joining the flank escort line. He attacked two convoys at anchor 26 miles (42 km) inside the 20 fathom (37 m) curve on the China coast, totaling more than 30 ships. With two frigates pursuing, Barb set a then-world speed record for a submarine of 23.5 knots (44 km/h) using 150% overload. For his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, Fluckey received the Medal of Honor. Barb received the Presidential Unit Citation for the eighth through eleventh patrols and the Navy Unit Commendation for the twelfth patrol.


His book, Thunder Below! (1992), depicts the exploits of his beloved Barb. "Though the tally shows more shells, bombs, and depth charges fired at Barb, no one received the Purple Heart and Barb came back alive, eager, and ready to fight again."


Post-war career


In August 1945, Fluckey was ordered to Groton, Connecticut, to fit out the USS Dogfish (SS-350) and to be that submarine's Commanding Officer, upon her completion. After the Dogfish's launching, however, he was transferred to the Office of the Secretary of the Navy to work directly for James V. Forrestal on plans for the unification of the Armed Forces. From there he went to the War Plans Division. In December 1945 he was selected by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the incoming Chief of Naval Operations, as his personal aide.


On June 9, 1947, he returned to submarines, assuming command of USS Halfbeak (SS-352), the second submarine to be converted to a GUPPY-type high-speed attack submarine with a snorkel.


In June 1949, he was ordered to the staff of the commander of the Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet to set up the Submarine Naval Reserve Force. A year later, he became the flag secretary to Admiral James Fife, Jr.. From October 1, 1950, until July 1953, he served as the US Naval Attache and Naval Attache for Air to Portugal. The Portuguese government, for his distinguished service, decorated him with the Medalha de Mérito Militar, noting that this was the first time this decoration was awarded to a naval attache of any other nation.


In September 1953, he took command of the submarine tender USS Sperry (AS-12).


Fluckey commanded Submarine Flotilla Seven (now Submarine Group 7) from October 14, 1955, to January 14, 1956.


He then returned to the Naval Academy to become the chairman of the Electrical Engineering Department.


His selection for the rank of Rear Admiral was approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in July 1960 and in October he reported as Commander, Amphibious Group 4.


In November 1961, he became the president of the Naval Board of Inspection and Survey, Washington, D.C.


He was ComSubPac (Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet), from June 1964 to June 1966.


In July 1966, he became the Director of Naval Intelligence. Two years later, he became Chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Portugal.


Military awards


Medal of Honor, Navy Cross with three gold 5/16 inch stars, Navy Distinguished Service Medal with one gold 5/16 inch star, Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, and the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

Fluckey retired from active duty as a Rear Admiral in 1972. His wife, Marjorie, died in 1979, after 42 years of marriage. He later ran an orphanage with his second wife, Margaret, in Portugal for a number of years.


He died at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 28, 2007. He is buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery.


Fluckey was awarded Eagle Scout in 1948. He is one of only nine known Eagle Scouts who also received the Medal of Honor; the others are Aquilla J. Dyess, Robert Edward Femoyer, Mitchell Paige, Thomas R. Norris, Arlo L. Olson, Ben L. Salomon, Leo K. Thorsness and Jay Zeamer, Jr..


Medal of Honor citation


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Barb during her 11th war patrol along the east coast of China from 19 December 1944 to 15 February 1945. After sinking a large enemy ammunition ship and damaging additional tonnage during a running 2-hour night battle on 8 January, Comdr. Fluckey, in an exceptional feat of brilliant deduction and bold tracking on 25 January, located a concentration of more than 30 enemy ships in the lower reaches of Nankuan Chiang (Mamkwan Harbor). Fully aware that a safe retirement would necessitate an hour's run at full speed through the uncharted, mined, and rock-obstructed waters, he bravely ordered, "Battle station — torpedoes!" In a daring penetration of the heavy enemy screen, and riding in 5 fathoms [9 m] of water, he launched the Barb's last forward torpedoes at 3,000 yard [2.7 km] range. Quickly bringing the ship's stern tubes to bear, he turned loose 4 more torpedoes into the enemy, obtaining 8 direct hits on 6 of the main targets to explode a large ammunition ship and cause inestimable damage by the resultant flying shells and other pyrotechnics. Clearing the treacherous area at high speed, he brought the Barb through to safety and 4 days later sank a large Japanese freighter to complete a record of heroic combat achievement, reflecting the highest credit upon Comdr. Fluckey, his gallant officers and men, and the U.S. Naval Service.

Obituary from The New York Times

By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN


Published: July 2, 2007


Rear Adm. Eugene B. Fluckey, one of America’s most daring submarine commanders of World War II and a recipient of the Medal of Honor, died Thursday in Annapolis, Md. He was 93.


United States Navy Medal of Honor recipient Rear Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey in 1963.


The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, said his daughter, Barbara Bove.

The skipper of the submarine Barb in the Pacific from April 1944 to August 1945, Commander Fluckey was known for innovative tactics. He was the only American submarine skipper to fire rockets at Japanese targets on shore, and he oversaw a sabotage raid in which sailors from his submarine blew up a Japanese train.

In addition to receiving the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, he was awarded four Navy Crosses, his service’s second-highest decoration.

The Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, which provided final, official tallies for World War II submarine attacks, credited him with destroying 95,360 tons of Japanese shipping, the highest total for an American submarine commander. According to Admiral Fluckey’s own findings, based on his 10 years of postwar research, the Barb sank about 145,000 tons under his command during five extended periods at sea.

He was credited by military authorities with sinking 16 Japanese ships and taking part with two other skippers in a 17th sinking, the fourth-highest total among World War II submarine commanders from the United States. By his own accounting, he sank 28 ships and took part in a 29th sinking.

In September 1944, the Barb sank the 20,000-ton Japanese aircraft carrier Unyo and an 11,000-ton Japanese tanker in the same torpedo salvo.

Richard O’Kane, also a Medal of Honor recipient, ranked No. 1 in sinkings, with 24, but No. 2 behind Commander Fluckey in tonnage destroyed, according to the joint assessment unit, whose postwar findings generally differed from submarine commanders’ reports filed in the aftermath of combat.

Telling of the Barb’s attacks on Japanese shipping early in 1945, Clay Blair Jr. wrote in the book “Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan” that when Commander Fluckey took his submarine back to Pearl Harbor, “he was greeted with a red carpet.” “His endorsements were ecstatic. One stated, ‘The Barb is one of the finest fighting submarines this war has ever known.’ ”

Eugene Bennett Fluckey was born in Washington on October 5, 1913. When he was 10, he was mightily impressed by a radio speech by President Calvin Coolidge emphasizing persistence as a prime ingredient for success.

He named his dog Calvin Coolidge, and inspired by the admonition to excel, he finished high school at age 15. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1935 and served on the submarine Bonita in the early years of World War II, before commanding the Barb and taking as his motto “we don’t have problems, just solutions.”

He was awarded the Medal of Honor for the Barb’s attacks on Japanese ships from December 1944 to February 1945 in waters off the eastern coast of occupied China and was cited specifically for the events in the predawn hours of Jan. 23, 1945. The Barb, riding above the surface in shallow, uncharted, mined and rock-obstructed waters, sneaked into a harbor some 250 miles south of Shanghai and scored direct hits on 6 of the more than 30 Japanese ships there. A large ammunition ship was blown up in the attack, according to the citation.

“Clearing the treacherous area at high speed,” the citation said, “he brought the Barb through to safety, and four days later sank a large Japanese freighter to complete a record of heroic combat achievement.”

In the summer of 1945, the Barb became the first American submarine armed with rockets, and it used them to strike a Japanese air station and several factories. On July 23, 1945, the Barb embarked on a sabotage mission. With the submarine standing 950 yards offshore, eight volunteers, aboard a pair of rubber boats, paddled onto Japanese soil on the southern half of Sakhalin Island under cover of night and planted explosive charges on railroad tracks 400 yards inland. Commander Fluckey had considered giving the crewmen a terse Hollywood-style sendoff, but as he told The New York Times afterward, all he could think of was: “Boys, if you get stuck, head for Siberia, 130 miles north. Following the mountain ranges. Good luck.” The crewmen did not get stuck, and as they paddled back to the Barb, a 16-car train came by, triggering the explosives. The wreckage flew 200 feet in the air.

Soon after the war ended, Commander Fluckey became an aide to Navy Secretary James Forrestal and to the chief of naval operations, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. He was promoted to rear admiral in 1960.

He commanded American submarine forces in the Pacific and was the director of naval intelligence in the 1960s. He retired from military service in 1972.

In addition to his daughter, of Summerfield, Fla., and Annapolis, he is survived by his wife, Margaret; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His first wife, Marjorie, died in 1979.

For all his exploits, Admiral Fluckey said he was most proud of one thing. As he put it in his memoir, “Thunder Below!” (University of Illinois Press, 1992): “No one who ever served under my command was awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded or killed, and all of us brought our Barb back safe and sound.”

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Rear Admiral Eugene B. "Lucky" Fluckey's Timeline

1913
October 5, 1913
Washington, District of Columbia, United States
2007
June 28, 2007
Age 93
Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, United States
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Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, United States