The extraordinary heroic act of this black man that got the world’s first warship named after him in 1943

Mildred Europa Taylor August 07, 2018
Leonard Roy Harmon got a Navy ship named in his honour in 1943 --- Crossroads Today

Leonard Roy Harmon is noted to be the extraordinary hero who died in action while rescuing others during World War II and got a Navy ship named in his honour.

Born January 21, 1917, in Cuero, Texas, Harmon enlisted in the Navy in June 1939 and in October of that year, he got assigned to the USS San Francisco.

He later trained as a mess attendant, one of the few jobs available to black men in the navy at that time, serving food to officers and crew aboard the ship.

After several training sessions in damage control and others, Harmon, by 1942, advanced to mess attendant first class.

Harmon worked aboard USS San Francisco — USS Slater

While serving aboard the USS San Francisco, the ship came under fire during the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal, on November 12, 1942.

The Japanese started the battle of Guadalcanal by crashing a plane into the USS San Francisco, specifically, the radar and fire control station of the ship, causing about 50 casualties.

The battle continued to the following day, and many officers on the bridge got severely injured. Not regarding his safety, Harmon exposed himself to danger and helped in evacuating the wounded.

Historical accounts say that he was killed while attempting to shield a wounded shipmate from gunfire with his own body.

“He basically saw the medical doctor on the ship get hit and he was laying on the deck and the attack was continuing and he went out to pull him to safety and in the process got killed,” said Wayne Adickes, Chairman of the Cuero Heritage Museum while giving an account of what ensued.

For his heroism, Harmon was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the highest medal that can be awarded by the United States Navy.

Leonard Roy Harmon got a Navy ship named in his honour —

A year after, he became the first African American to have a warship named after him – the USS Harmon, which was launched on July 25, 1943.

Harmon also has local honours including a road named after him in Cuero and a historical marker at Cuero Municipal Park.

The Cuero Heritage Museum, however, indicated last year that it wants to move the monument to a better location to make it more visible.

The move will also ensure that Harmon’s story of service and sacrifice will never be erased, it added.


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