Congressman Don Bacon Requests Navy Recognize Charles French’s Acts of Valor

Charles French

In a lost story exposed by the International Swimming Hall of Fame Historian Bruce Wigo, the Charles Jackson French World War II story has found new life and calls for his decoration by the US Navy.   In a letter written on May 17th, 2021 by Congressman Don Bacon to the Honorable Thomas W. Harker, Acting Secretary of the Navy, Bacon calls for U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Charles Jackson French to be properly recognized for his heroism in combat where he saved 15 men from drowning in shark infested waters.    Congressman Don Bacon represents the Second Congressional District of Nebraska, which includes the City of Omaha.  The timing is coincidental in that USA Swimming will be holding its Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha at the same time the naval community is revisiting the swimming heroics of French.

May 17, 2021

The Honorable Thomas W. Harker
Acting Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350
Dear Acting Secretary Harker,
I request your review of U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Charles Jackson French’s service record to ensure proper recognition for acts of valor he performed on September 5, 1942.  On this date Petty Officer French went above and beyond the call of duty during an engagement with the Japanese Navy near the Solomon Islands. After nearly 80 years, swift action is now warranted to correct the historical record and properly recognize Petty Officer French for his heroism in combat.
According to numerous reports, Petty Officer French displayed incredible courage during the battle when he encountered a group of wounded shipmates adrift on a raft which was subject to continuous Japanese attack. Disregarding his own safety, Petty Officer French tied a line to himself, and swam for hours without rest through shark-infested waters, thereby keeping his shipmates away from shore, evading capture by the enemy, and ultimately returning them to safety.  His conduct was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the U.S. Armed Forces.
Recognition of Petty Officer French is long overdue, and I support ongoing efforts to address this oversight. As the most diverse and integrated part of American society, it is appropriate that the Armed Forces recognize its heroes regardless of the prevailing racial inequities of the time.  We owe this to ourselves, our military, our veterans, and every future American who will answer the call.
Thank you for your service to the nation and for your fair consideration of this request to honor the bravery displayed by Petty Officer French.
Don Bacon – Member of Congress


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3 years ago

This is truly magnificent and long overdue.

3 years ago

This is great!

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