Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Friday, August 14, 2009

Award of Navy and Marine Corps Medal

During the summer of 1961, CT3 Robert G. Harris was presented with the Navy and Marine Corps Medal by VADM Roland N. Smoot in front of the main entrance to USTDC. He was offered the opportunity to fly off to Washington to be presented the award by the Secretary of the Navy, but he would have none of it.

If you didn't already know, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal is awarded to service members who, while serving in any capacity with the Navy or Marine Corps, distinguish themselves by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. Typically, it is awarded for actions involving the risk of one's own life. The Airman's Medal, the Soldier's Medal and the Coast Guard Medal are the equivalent awards for the other services.

Robert told me that there was a hostel fire and he was credited with getting everyone out. He was in the day room with a couple of other guys when they saw smoke. The other two ran to call the fire department, but Robert remembered seeing several guys who had returned from an evening on the town and he went from room to room waking everyone up and carrying, kicking and shoving them outside.

He reentered the building several times and was inside when the roof collapsed. He remembers that he made it out the back of the building but doesn't remember whether it was through a door, window or just a burned opening. He then hopped over a (broken glass covered) wall and helped some of the locals get their belongings out of their homes as well. By the time he returned to the hostel, searchers were looking for his body which, fortunately, was positioned vertically, alive and well, in front of them. There were no casualties.

He believes that the old hostel was located somewhere between the Navy Club and the Club 63.

He says that his biggest concern at the time was losing the stack of gifts that he'd bought to send home for Christmas.

Good on ya', Robert.

1 comment:

sarj said...

This is an interesting item. It must have been about 4 or 5 months before I got there and I never heard anything about it. I got there in Sept '61.
A new guy at the golf course Gene was talking to me and he was a Corpman at the Naval Hospital about the same time I was there and he mentioned a fire in a downtown hotel and lots of servicemen had to jump from windows etc, but the way he said it had to be worse than this story because I am sure there was life lost. I'll try to get more info from him next time I see him. He said he would ask his wife what hotel and what the date was. I'll get back to you.