Eugene Bennett Fluckey

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By Matt Schudel   Washington Post Staff Writer  Monday, July 2, 2007

Eugene B. Flucket 93

Rear Adm. Eugene B. Fluckey, one of the greatest naval
heroes of World War II who was awarded the Medal of
Honor and four Navy Crosses for his daring submarine
attacks on Japanese shipping, died June 28 at Anne
Arundel Medical Center. He was 93 and had Alzheimer's
disease.

Adm. Fluckey, who was born and raised in Washington,
was a pioneer of submarine warfare and among the most
highly decorated veterans from any branch of the military.
In 1944 and 1945, as commander of the USS Barb, he
became a Navy legend for his nighttime raids that sank
dozens of enemy ships along the east coast of China.
His bold forays were complicated by continual barrages
from Japanese airplanes and boats and by shallow waters
that often forced him to bring his submarine to the surface.
He sometimes came so close to shore that his men were
able to launch sabotage missions on land. On Jan. 25,
1945, Adm. Fluckey embarked on what Navy officials,
seldom given to hyperbole, called "virtually a suicide mission -- a naval epic".  In  "an
exceptional feat of brilliant deduction and bold tracking", in the words of his Medal of
Honor citation, Adm. Fluckey found more than 30 Japanese vessels lurking in a
concealed harbor protected by mines and rocky shoals. Evading a cordon of armed
escort boats, the Barb slipped into the harbor on a moonless, cloudy night and scored
eight direct torpedo hits on six large ships. One of them was an ammunition vessel, which
exploded and caused "inestimable damage by the resultant flying shells and other
pyrotechnics", according to the Medal of Honor citation. As Adm. Fluckey watched from
the bridge of his submarine, The Washington Post reported in 1945, "Japanese ships
were erupting in the night like a nest of volcanoes". The Barb then fled at high speed
"through uncharted rocky waters thick with fishing junks", pursued by two Japanese
gunboats. Because of the shallow water,  the submarine had to stay on the surface,
dodging obstacles and steady fire for a full hour before reaching the safe depths of the
open sea. "The significance of that mission", said retired Navy Capt. Max Duncan, who
was the chief gunnery and torpedo officer of the
Barb, "was that we completely disrupted the entire shipping system the Japanese had
developed at that point in the war".

On other occasions, Adm. Fluckey maneuvered his submarine so close to shore that he
could bombard coastal installations with torpedoes and guns. On its final patrol in 1945,
the Barb became the first U.S. submarine equipped with ballistic missiles. One time,
Adm. Fluckey selected eight commandos from his crew to paddle ashore in rubber boats
and place a 55-pound bomb under railroad ties on the northern Japanese island then
called Karafuto. As the men were rowing back to the Barb in darkness, the
pressure-sensitive charge blew up a 16-car troop train. It was the only time in World War II
that U.S. forces set foot on the soil of the Japanese home islands. Adm. Fluckey and his
80-man crew were credited with sinking 29 ships, including an aircraft carrier, destroyer
and cruiser. He destroyed more gross tonnage than any other submarine commander.
For his wartime exploits, he became known as "Lucky Fluckey"  and the "Galloping Ghost
of the China Coast".

"He was extraordinary", retired Rear Adm. Robert W. McNitt, executive officer of the
Barb, said in a telephone interview. "He immediately gained the full confidence of his
officers and crew. He made a point of walking through the submarine several times a day.
He knew everybody on board and knew a lot about them". Adm. Fluckey sometimes
violated Navy regulations by stashing cases of beer in the officers' shower. Whenever the
Barb sank a ship, everyone on board was entitled to a cold beer, which endeared him to
his crew. In addition to the Medal of Honor and Navy Crosses (second only to the Medal
of Honor), Adm. Fluckey received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit
and a host of lesser decorations. His greatest achievement, he often said, was that no
one under his command ever received another well-known medal: the Purple Heart.
Rear Adm. Eugene B. Fluckey, who was awarded the Medal of Honor and four Navy
Crosses, was among the most highly decorated of any Military veterans. (Navy
Department) Confident and absolutely fearless, but fearless with good judgment, McNitt
said. He brought his ship and his people home.

Eugene Bennett Fluckey was born Oct. 5, 1913, and graduated from the District's
Western High School (1928) when he was 15. After two years at a prep school, he
enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1935. As a midshipman, he was
nearsighted and knew he would have to leave the academy if he failed an eye exam. After
studying optics, he designed a pair of glasses for himself and, with exercises, was able to
restore his vision to 20-20.

He joined the submarine corps in 1938 and served in the Pacific before taking command
of the Barb. After the war, he became the personal aide to Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz,
the chief of naval operations. Later in his career, Adm. Fluckey served as director of naval
intelligence and commanded amphibious units and the Navy's Pacific submarine force.
He also headed the electrical engineering department at the Naval Academy and led a
fundraising campaign for the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

In 1992, he wrote a dramatic account of his experiences as a submarine commander,
"Thunder Below!" It won the Samuel Eliot Morison prize for naval history.

When Adm. Fluckey retired from the Navy in 1972, he was stationed in Lisbon as the
naval attache to NATO. He continued to live in Portugal until 1979, when he moved to
Annapolis to seek medical treatment for his ailing wife, Marjorie. She died in August
1979 after 42 years of marriage.

For several years in the 1980s, Adm. Fluckey and his second wife, Margaret, maintained
a home in Portugal, where they ran an orphanage.

Survivors include his wife, of Annapolis; a daughter from his first marriage, Barbara Bove
of Annapolis and Summerfield, Fla.; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
In recent years, Adm. Fluckey treated the aging veterans of the Barb to cruises in Alaska
and on the Mississippi River.

"He was imaginative, very decisive and very quick, with a great sense of fun",  said
McNitt, his former executive officer. "He was an extraordinary submarine captain."
Fluckey, who was awarded
the Medal of Honor and
four Navy Crosses, was
among the most highly
decorated of any Military
veterans. (Navy
Department)