Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Naval Reserve

Elmer Charles Bigelow

  • Rank: Watertender First Class
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    U.S.S. Fletcher
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Naval Reserve
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: February 14, 1945
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: off Corregidor Island, Philippine Islands
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving on board the U.S.S. Fletcher during action against enemy Japanese forces off Corregidor Island in the Philippines, 14 February 1945. Standing topside when an enemy shell struck the Fletcher, Bigelow, acting instantly as the deadly projectile exploded into fragments which penetrated the No. 1 gun magazine and set fire to several powder cases, picked up a pair of fire extinguishers and rushed below in a resolute attempt to quell the raging flames. Refusing to waste the precious time required to don rescue-breathing apparatus, he plunged through the blinding smoke billowing out of the magazine hatch and dropped into the blazing compartment. Despite the acrid, burning powder smoke which seared his lungs with every agonizing breath, he worked rapidly and with instinctive sureness and succeeded in quickly extinguishing the fires and in cooling the cases and bulkheads, thereby preventing further damage to the stricken ship. Although he succumbed to his injuries on the following day, Bigelow, by his dauntless valor, unfaltering skill and prompt action in the critical emergency, had averted a magazine explosion which undoubtedly would have left the ship wallowing at the mercy of the furiously pounding Japanese guns on Corregidor, and his heroic spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of almost certain death enhanced and sustained the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
Medal of Honor Recipient Elmer C. Bigelow
Medal of Honor Recipient Elmer C. Bigelow
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Illinois
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Presentation Date & Details: February 15, 1946
    Great Lakes Naval Base, Illinois, presented by Vice Adm. A. S. Carpender, Commandant, Ninth Naval District to his family
  • Born: July 12, 1920, Hebron, McHenry County, IL, United States
  • Died: February 15, 1945, Philippine Islands
  • Buried: Linn-Hebron Cemetery, Hebron, IL, United States

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