Monday, December 12, 2011

Commander Cassin Young, Medal of Honor Recipient

Commander Cassin Young was the commanding officer of my dad’s ship, the USS Vestal, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For his exceptional performance during the attack, Young was awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
For distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism and utter disregard of his own safety, above and beyond the call of duty, as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Vestal, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by enemy Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Commander Young proceeded to the bridge and later took personal command of the 3-inch antiaircraft gun. When blown overboard by the blast of the forward magazine explosion of the U.S.S. Arizona, to which the U.S.S. Vestal was moored, he swam back to his ship. The entire forward part of the U.S.S. Arizona was a blazing inferno with oil afire on the water between the two ships; as a result of several bomb hits, the U.S.S. Vestal was afire in several places, was settling and taking on a list. Despite severe enemy bombing and strafing at the time, and his shocking experience of having been blown overboard, Commander Young, with extreme coolness and calmness, moved his ship to an anchorage distant from the U.S.S. Arizona, and subsequently beached the U.S.S. Vestal upon determining that such action was required to save his ship.
Capt. Cassin Young, USN, receives his Medal of Honor
from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Februaryi889ioo 1942
Source: NavSource

Dad remembered Commander Young as a personable man who earned his respect. He said that he saw and saluted Cmdr. Young often, since his personal gear was stowed near the captain’s deck on the US  Vestal.

Young was promoted to Captain in February 1942, and later was given command of the cruiser USS San Francisco. He commanded San Francisco in the Battle of Cape Esperance and the subsequent Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, with great distinction. During the latter battle, just 11 months after Pearl Harbor, Young guided his ship in action against a superior Japanese force. Sadly, he was killed by enemy shells while closely engaging the enemy battleship Hiei. Captain Young was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the campaign, and San Francisco received the Presidential Unit Citation.

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