b. 12/07/1920 Hebron, Illinois. d. 15/02/1945 Manila Bay, Philippines.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 15/02/1945 Manila Bay, Philippines.
Elmer Charles Bigelow was born in Hebron, Illinois, on July 12, 1920. He was the son of Albert Dewey Bigelow (son of Senaca and Isabelle Angeline (née Hamilton) Bigelow) and Verna Grabbert (daughter of Charles Grabbert and Minnie Puttresse who were both born in Germany).
He enlisted in the Naval Reserve at Chicago, Illinois in September 1942 and received training at Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago, Illinois, and at Lawrence, Kansas, before being assigned as a Fireman Third Class on board the destroyer USS Fletcher (DD-445) in June 1943. While serving in that ship, he advanced in rate to watertender second class.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving on board the U.S.S. Fletcher during action against enemy Japanese forces off Corregidor Island in the Philippines, February 14, 1945. Standing topside when an enemy shell struck the Fletcher, BIGELOW, acting instantly as the deadly projectile exploded into fragments which penetrated the No. 1 gun magazine and set fire to several powder cases, picked up a pair of fire extinguishers and rushed below in a resolute attempt to quell the raging flames. Refusing to waste the precious time required to don rescue-breathing apparatus, he plunged through the blinding smoke billowing out of the magazine hatch and dropped into the blazing compartment. Despite the acrid, burning powder smoke which seared his lungs with every agonizing breath, he worked rapidly and with instinctive sureness and succeeded in quickly extinguishing the fires and in cooling the cases and bulkheads, thereby preventing further damage to the stricken ship. Although he succumbed to his injuries on the following day, BIGELOW, by his dauntless valor, unfaltering skill and prompt action in the critical emergency, had averted a magazine explosion which undoubtedly would have left his ship wallowing at the mercy of the furiously pounding Japanese guns on Corregidor, and his heroic spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of almost certain death enhanced and sustained the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
BURIAL LOCATION: LINN-HEBRON CEMETERY, HEBRON, ILLINOIS.
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