Charles French is a World War II hero you will hear very little about. The reason why is about as obvious as the reflection from a mirror. In September 1942, Charles was pulling a life raft with fifteen injured sailors around his waist. He swam for six to eight hours. Now imagine doing that in shark infested waters, oh by the way the Japanese are trying to kill you and oh you have to deal with racism as well.
Charles Jackson French faced all of this and more during his time of service and helped save many lives through grit and bravery. His service to this country is something that should never be forgotten, and his story is one that can inspire all of us to do good for our fellow man. (Source: Veteran Life)
How Charles Jackson French Became “The Human Tugboat”
On the night of September 4, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal, the USS Gregory was struck by an attack from multiple Japanese destroyers. Sadly, it wasn’t much of a fight. The ship was severely damaged after only minutes and began to sink into the shark-infested waters. What happened next would take Navy Messman Charles Jackson French from the mess hall and into quiet adoration for his bravery. As the attacks continued and the ship began to sink, many Sailors suffered injuries. If ever there was a time for survival mode, it’s the middle of the night when you’re injured, and your ship is sinking into the ocean. French was lucky enough to escape without much harm and began gathering injured Sailors to put into a raft. With gunfire continuing all around them, French, a nearly 23-year-old Black man who wasn’t even permitted to swim with his fellow white Sailors during training, tied a rope around his waist, tied the rope to the raft, and began to swim. (Source: Veteran Life)
Fellow troops tried to talk him out of the desperate move, to take cover and escape the shark-infested waters, but French wouldn’t listen. He said that he was more afraid of the Japanese shooting at him than the sharks, and he continued on his way.
“Just tell me if I’m going the right way,” French said.
After sunrise, French and his fellow Sailors were spotted and eventually rescued. For his bravery, Navy Messman Charles Jackson French was provided a letter of commendation from…