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First Name: Howard

Last Name: Gilmore

Birthplace: Selma, AL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Walter

Date of Birth: 29 September 1902

Date of Death: 07 February 1943

Rank or Rate: Commander

Years Served:
Howard Walter Gilmore

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1926

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Howard Walter Gilmore
Commander, U.S. Navy
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Commander Howard Walter Gilmore (29 September 1902 - 7 February 1943) was an officer and submarine commander in the U.S. Navy who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic self-sacrifice during World War II.

Howard Walter Gilmore was born in Selma, AL, on 29 September 1902. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on 15 November 1920. In 1922 he was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy and after commissioning in 1926, reported to the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41). Gilmore underwent submarine training in 1930. In the years that followed, he served in various submarines and at stations ashore.

Gilmore served as the executive officer of USS Shark (SS-174), and in a near-fatal incident, narrowly survived an assault by a group of thugs in Panama, who cut his throat during an excursion ashore. In 1941, he assumed his first command, the Shark, only to be transferred the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor, 8 December 1941, to take command of the still-unfinished USS Growler (SS-215). Gilmore commanded his submarine skillfully during three Pacific war patrols. On his first, Growler attacked three enemy destroyers off Kiska, sinking one and severely damaging the other two, while narrowly avoiding two torpedoes fired in return. For this Gilmore received the Navy Cross. On his second patrol, Growler sank four merchant ships totaling 15,000 tons in the East China Sea near Taiwan. Gilmore received a gold star in lieu of a second Navy Cross.

The submarine continued to take a heavy toll of shipping on her fourth war patrol, and on the night of 6-7 February 1943, she approached a convoy stealthily for a surface attack. Suddenly a fast gunboat, Hayasaki, closed and prepared to ram. As the small ship charged out of the darkness, Gilmore sounded the collision alarm and shouted, "Left full rudder!" but to no avail. Perhaps inadvertently, Growler hit the Japanese adversary amidships at 17 knots, heeling the submarine 50 degrees, bending 18 feet of her bow sideways, and disabling the forward torpedo tubes.

Simultaneously, the Japanese crew unleashed a burst of machine gun fire at Growler's bridge, killing the assistant officer of the deck and a lookout, while wounding Gilmore himself and two other men. "Clear the bridge!" Gilmore ordered as he struggled to hang on to a frame. As the rest of the bridge party dropped down the hatch into the conning tower, the executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Arnold Schade - shaken by the impact and dazed by his own fall into the control room - waited expectantly for his captain to appear. Instead from above came the shouted command: "Take her down!" Realizing that he could not get himself below in time if the ship were to escape, Gilmore chose to make the supreme sacrifice for his shipmates. Schade hesitated briefly - then followed his captain's last order and submerged the crippled ship.

Surfacing some time later in hope of re-attacking the Hayasaki, Schade found the seas empty. The Japanese ship had, in fact, survived the encounter, but there was no sign of Gilmore, who apparently had drifted away in the night. Schade and Growler's crew managed to control the ship's flooding and limped back to Brisbane on 17 February.

For sacrificing his own life to save his ship, commander Howard Gilmore was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy.

Place and date: Southwest Pacific, from 10 January to 7 February 1943.

Citation: For distinguished gallantry and valor above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Growler during her Fourth War Patrol in the Southwest Pacific from 10 January to 7 February 1943. Boldly striking at the enemy in spite of continuous hostile air and antisubmarine patrols, Comdr. Gilmore sank one Japanese freighter and damaged another by torpedo fire, successfully evading severe depth charges following each attack. In the darkness of night on 7 February, an enemy gunboat closed range and prepared to ram the Growler. Comdr. Gilmore daringly maneuvered to avoid the crash and rammed the attacker instead, ripping into her port side at 11 knots and bursting wide her plates. In the terrific fire of the sinking gunboat's heavy machineguns, Comdr. Gilmore calmly gave the order to clear the bridge, and refusing safety for himself, remained on deck while his men preceded him below. Struck down by the fusillade of bullets and having done his utmost against the enemy, in his final living moments, Comdr. Gilmore gave his last order to the officer of the deck, "Take her down." The Growler dived; seriously damaged but under control, she was brought safely to port by her well-trained crew inspired by the courageous fighting spirit of their dead captain.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Navy Cross (2)


In September 1943, the submarine tender USS Howard W. Gilmore (AS-16) was named for him and sponsored by his widow. Even today "Take her down!" remains one of the legendary phrases of the U.S. Submarine Force.

Death and Burial

Commander Howard Walter Gilmore was killed in action on 7 February 1943 and his body was lost at sea.

A cenotaph in Commander Gilmore's memory and honor was placed by Ed Shields, Ward Calhoun, and the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History, Inc. at Magnolia Cemetery in Meridian, MS, in the Howard Family Plot at Section 13, Lot 5. His mother's maiden name was Howard.

In addition, Commander Howard Walter Gilmore's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Manila City, Philippines.

Honoree ID: 1408   Created by: MHOH




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