Francis C. Flaherty

Posted on Oct 1, 2015

Francis C. Flaherty

Francis Charles Flaherty (March 15, 1919 – December 7, 1941) was an officer in the United States Naval Reserve and a recipient of America’s highest military decoration – the Medal of Honor. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for helping his crewmates escape the sinking USS Oklahoma (BB-37) at the expense of his own life, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Biography

Francis Flaherty was born on March 15, 1919 in Charlotte, Michigan. He was a parishioner at St. Mary’s Catholic Church while living in Charlotte. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in July 1940 and was commissioned as an Ensign in December of that year.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Flaherty was serving on board the USS Oklahoma. The Oklahoma was based at Pearl Harbor for patrols and exercises, and was moored in Battleship Row when the attack began. Almost immediately after the first Japanese bombs fell, the ship was hit by three torpedoes and began to capsize. Those who could began to abandon ship as more torpedoes struck home. Ensign Flaherty remained in one of the ship’s turrets, providing light so that the turret crew could escape. When the Oklahoma rolled completely over, he was trapped inside the hull along with many others. Thirty-two crewmembers of the Oklahoma were rescued from inside the hull over the next few days, but Ensign Flaherty was not among them.

 USS Oklahoma (BB-37) after the attack on Pearl Harbor

USS Oklahoma (BB-37) after the attack on Pearl Harbor

Caption: USS Oklahoma (BB-37) after the attack on Pearl Harbor

Over all, 429 men were entombed in the Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor, including Flaherty. The ship was raised for salvage in 1943, and the remains inside were eventually interred in mass graves marked “Unknowns” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. Flaherty’s name is inscribed in the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and a memorial headstone was placed in Maple Hill Cemetery in his hometown of Charlotte, Michigan.

Medal of Honor citation

For conspicuous devotion to duty and extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. When it was seen that the U.S.S. Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ens. Flaherty remained in a turret, holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.