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Tuesday, April 10, 2012
TFH 4/10: Lieutenant Commander John D. Bulkeley, USN
John Duncan Bulkeley was born on August 19, 1911 in New York City. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1933, but due to budget restrictions that limited just the top half of graduates to naval officer commissions, found himself commissioned in the Army Air Corps. After a year though, budgetary restrictions were lifed, and he began the naval career he intended.
When the Japanese attacked the United States on December 7, 1941, Bulkeley was the commanding officer of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3 in the Philippines. His Executive Officer was yesterday's Their Finest Hour honoree: Lieutenant Robert B. Kelly. In addition to the squadron, he also commanded torpedo boat PT-41.
Among the many and varied heroic acts Bulkeley performed during the opening days of World War II was the evacuation of General Douglas MacArthur from the Philippines to safety. For the entire period from December 7, 1941 to April 10, 1942, Lieutenant Commander Bulkeley's gallantry and leadership saw him decorated with our Nation's highest honor.
From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (A-F):
BULKELEY, JOHN DUNCAN
Rank and organization: Lieutenant Commander, Commander of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3, U.S. Navy. Place and date: Philippine waters, 7 December 1941 to 10 April 1942. Entered service at: Texas. Born: 19 August 1911, New York, N.Y. Other awards: Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit. Citation: For extraordinary heroism, distinguished service, and conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty as commander of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3, in Philippine waters during the period 7 December 1941 to 10 April 1942. The remarkable achievement of Lt. Comdr. Bulkeley's command in damaging or destroying a notable number of Japanese enemy planes, surface combatant and merchant ships, and in dispersing landing parties and land-based enemy forces during the 4 months and 8 days of operation without benefit of repairs, overhaul, or maintenance facilities for his squadron, is believed to be without precedent in this type of warfare. His dynamic forcefulness and daring in offensive action, his brilliantly planned and skillfully executed attacks, supplemented by a unique resourcefulness and ingenuity, characterize him as an outstanding leader of men and a gallant and intrepid seaman. These qualities coupled with a complete disregard for his own personal safety reflect great credit upon him and the Naval Service.
Bulkeley also received three other decorations for his valor in the defense of the Philippines: two awards of the Army's Distinguished Service Cross and one of the Navy Cross. His citations for those awards follow, thanks to Military Times' Hall of Valor:
First Distinguished Service Cross Citation:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Lieutenant John Duncan Bulkeley, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commanding Officer, Motor Torpedo Squadron THREE (MTB-3), in the vicinity of Subic Bay, Luzon, Philippine Islands, on 18 January 1942 and 25 January 1942. When a hostile vessel was reported in Binanga Bay, Luzon, on 18 January, Lieutenant Bulkeley proceeded with a squadron of two motor torpedo boats to search it out and attack it. When one of the two patrol boats became disabled, Lieutenant Bulkeley continued on his mission without the other. In spite of challenges by several enemy shore observation posts and by a hostile patrolling vessel and fire from an enemy shore battery, Lieutenant Bulkeley entered Port Binanga, located the hostile vessel and attacked it with two torpedoes, one of which struck it and set it afire. Again, on the night of 24 January, he successfully attacked an enemy merchant vessel off Sampaloc Point, Luzon. After firing the first torpedo which struck the target amidships and exploded, the torpedo boat came under heavy fire from the hostile ship and from shore batteries. In spite of this fire, Lieutenant Bulkeley continued his attack to within five hundred yards, firing another torpedo and attacking with machine gun fire, seriously hampered hostile operations on the west coast of Bataan. The conduct of Lieutenant Bulkeley throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Military Forces of the United States.
Second Distinguished Service Cross Citation:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Lieutenant John Duncan Bulkeley, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commanding Officer, Motor Torpedo Boat THIRTY-FOUR (PT-34), Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THREE (MTB-3), in action in the Mindanao Sea, Philippine Islands, on the night of 8 - 9 April 1942. When Lieutenant Bulkeley, in command of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THREE encountered a hostile cruiser accompanied by destroyers, he unhesitatingly ordered an attack by the two boats in his squadron in spite of the tremendous odds. After the vessel on which he was embarked had fired all its torpedoes in an attack against the enemy cruiser, Lieutenant Bulkeley, at great personal risk, directed the aggressive maneuver of this vessel so as to draw to it the bulk of the hostile fire, enabling the other boat to deliver a torpedo attack at close range. As a result of this daring, combined maneuver, the enemy cruiser was destroyed. After this action, Lieutenant Bulkeley skillfully withdrew his command, evading the pursuing hostile destroyers. The conduct of Lieutenant Bulkeley throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Military Forces of the United States.
Navy Cross Citation:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant John Duncan Bulkeley, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as Commanding Officer of Motor Torpedo Boat THIRTY-FOUR (PT-34), Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THREE (MTB-3), in connection with military operations against the Japanese enemy forces in the Philippine Area on 18 and 19 January 1942. Despite enemy machine gun fire and three inch shore battery fire, Lieutenant Bulkeley searched Binanga Bay, Luzon, Philippine Islands, for an enemy ship reported therein, located and sank the unidentified 5,000-ton enemy ship with torpedoes without serious damage to his ship or casualty to his crew. The exceptional bravery, aggressive leadership, and outstanding devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Bulkeley were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Later in World War II, Bulkeley commanded minesweepers and torpedo boats clearing the path for American invasion forces heading for Utah Beach on D-Day. Soon after the invasion, he was placed in command of the destroyer USS Endicott (DD-495). Throughout his wartime service he also received two Silver Stars for valor, and the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for D-Day.
He served throughout the Korean War and the Cold War, initially retiring as a Rear Admiral in 1967. He wasn't retired for long, as the United States Navy brought him back into service as "retired-retained" to head up the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey - the organization responsible for assessing the condition of all the Navy's ships. He served in that capacity until 1988, receiving three Navy Distinguished Service Medals for his excellent fulfillment of this vital duty. His final retirement in 1988 was as a Vice Admiral, after 55 years of service to the United States.
He passed away on April 6, 1996 at age 84. He rests in peace in Arlington National Cemetery. Like his MTB-3 executive officer, Bulkeley's heroism during the defense of the Philippines was told by Hollywood in the 1945 film They Were Expendable; the character based upon him, Lieutenant John Brickley, was played by Robert Montgomery.
On December 8, 2001, the United States Navy accepted into commission the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG-84). The first ship ever named for this great American hero, she sails on world-wide missions and deployments from Naval Station Norfolk, VA.