Rear Admiral Samuel Fuqua

Rear Admiral Samuel Fuqua

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. – Samuel Glenn Fuqua was born to Samuel and Lulu Fuqua on October 15, 1899 in Audrain Missouri. In 1923, he married Edna A. Hammett.

Fuqua served in the U.S. Army during World War 1.  He entered the U.S. Naval Academy on July 1, 1919.  He graduated from the Academy in June of 1923 and was commissioned as an ensign.  Following his graduation, Fuqua was to spend the next seven years at sea successively attached to the USS Arizona, USS Mc-Donough and the USS Mississippi. From March 1930 until March 1932 he served in the District Communications Office of the 12th Naval District in San Francisco.

He had brief duty in the USS Hamilton and on June 25, 1932, joined the USS Perry. He was transferred in June 1933 to the USS Altair, where he had two years’ duty before reporting to the Thirteenth Naval District Headquarters, Seattle, Washington for a tour of duty as Instructor of Naval Reserves, and additional duty as instructor of the 5th Fleet Division, USNR, at Aberdeen, Washington. In March 1937 he was ordered to Destroyer Squadron 5, USS Peary, a flagship, and on December 11, 1937 he assumed command of the USS Bittern, an auxiliary minesweeper of the Asiatic Fleet, and served additionally as Commander Mine Division 3 from June 21, 1935, until detached in August 1939. From September 30, that year, until February 7, 1941, he was assigned to NTS Great Lakes, Illinois, and he then joined the USS Arizona as Damage Control Officer and First Lieutenant.

Fuqua was on board the Arizona on the morning of December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  Afterward, Fuqua described, “I was in the ward room eating breakfast about 0755 when a short signal on the ship’s air raid alarm was made. I immediately went to the phone and called the Officer-of-the-Deck to sound general quarters and then shortly thereafter ran up to the starboard side of the quarter deck to see if he had received word. On coming out of the ward room hatch on the port side, I saw a Japanese plane go by, the machine guns firing, at an altitude of about 100 feet. As I was running forward on the starboard side of the quarter deck, approximately by the starboard gangway, I was apparently knocked out by the blast of a bomb which I learned later had struck the face plate of #4 turret on the starboard side and had glanced off and gone through the deck just forward of the captain’s hatch, penetrating the decks and exploding on the third deck. When I came to and got up off the deck, the ship was a mass of flames amidships on the boat deck and the deck aft was awash to about frame 90. The anti-aircraft battery and machine guns apparently were still firing at this time. Some of the Arizona boats had pulled clear of the oil and were lying off the stern.”

Almost immediately there was a tremendous explosion forward, which made the ship appear to rise out of the water, shudder, and settle down by the bow rapidly. The whole forward part of the ship was enveloped in flames which were spreading rapidly, and wounded and burned men were pouring out of the ship to the quarterdeck. Despite these conditions, his harrowing experience, and severe enemy bombing and strafing at the time, Fuqua continued to direct the fighting of fires in order to check them while the wounded and burned could be taken from the ship, and supervised the rescue of these men in such an amazingly calm and cool manner and with such excellent judgment that it inspired everyone who saw him and undoubtedly resulted in the saving of many lives.

After realizing the ship could not be saved and that he was the senior surviving officer aboard, he directed it to be abandoned, but continued to remain on the quarterdeck and direct the abandoning ship and rescue of personnel until satisfied that all personnel that could be had been saved, after which he left his ship with the last boatload. As a result of his actions, countless lives were saved and Fuqua was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Lieutenant Commander Fuqua’s official Medal of Honor citation reads:

For distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism, and utter disregard of his own safety, above and beyond the call of duty during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941.

Upon the commencement of the attack, Lieutenant Commander Fuqua rushed to the quarterdeck of the U.S.S. Arizona to which he was attached where he was stunned and knocked down by the explosion of a large bomb which hit the quarterdeck, penetrated several decks, and started a severe fire. Upon regaining consciousness, he began to direct the fighting of the fire and the rescue of wounded and injured personnel.

Almost immediately there was a tremendous explosion forward, which made the ship appear to rise out of the water, shudder and settle down by the bow rapidly. The whole forward part of the ship was enveloped in flames which were spreading rapidly, and wounded and burned men were pouring out of the ship to the quarterdeck.

Despite these conditions, his harrowing experience, and severe enemy bombing and strafing, at the time, Lieutenant Commander Fuqua continued to direct the fighting of fires in order to check them while the wounded and burned could be taken from the ship, and supervised the rescue of these men in such an amazingly calm and cool manner and with such excellent judgment, that it inspired everyone who saw him and undoubtedly resulted in the saving of many lives. After realizing that the ship could not be saved and that he was the senior surviving officer aboard, he directed that it be abandoned, but continued to remain on the quarterdeck and directed abandoning ship and rescue of personnel untilsatisfied that all personnel that could be had been saved, after which he left the ship with the (last) boatload. The conduct of Lieutenant Commander Fuqua was not only in keeping with the highest traditions of the Naval Service but characterizes him as an outstanding leader of men.

Rear Admiral Samuel G. Fuqua died on January 27, 1987 in Decatur, Georgia and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. His grave can be found in section 59, lot 485.

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