FRANCIS J. BRIDGET, CAPT, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Francis Bridget '21

Date of birth: August 2, 1897

Date of death: January 23, 1945

Age: 47

Lucky Bag

From the 1921 Lucky Bag:

Loss

1921 Bridget 1.jpg

From Find A Grave:

Capt Francis Bridget was held as a POW in the Philippine Islands. In December 1944, he was boarded onto the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan. The ship was sunk by American planes at Subic Bay, Philippine Islands, on December 15, 1944. The surviving POWs were boarded onto the Enoura Maru which reached Takao, Formosa. While docked it was bombed by American planes on January 9, 1945, killing many of the POWs. The surviving POWs were boarded onto the Brazil Maru, It was while he was on the ship that he died from wounds he received, on the Enoura Maru, before the ship reached Japan on January 29, 1945.

Note that some records, including his Prisoner of War Medal below, indicate he perished on Oryoku Maru. However, this site—which has much more detailed records of the "Hell Ships"—lists his date of death as January 23, 1945. There is also first-person testimony that he was alive, though wounded, following the attack.

His wife, Charlotte, was listed as next of kin.

Biography

From Navsource:

Francis Joseph Bridget was born in Washington, D.C. on 02 August 1897, the son of Bernard M. and Josephine (Moore) Bridget, He attended the Columbian Preparatory School in Washington prior to his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. Graduated and commissioned Ensign on 03 June 1921, he subsequently advanced in rank, attaining that of Commander. He was posthumously appointed Captain by the Secretary of the Navy on 28 August 1945. He was awarded the Navy Cross and the Army Silver Star Medals, and cited as follows:

Navy Cross: "For extraorinary heroism and courage during operations against Japanese forces in December 1941. Although subjected to repeated and sustained enemy aerial attacks, Commander Bridget rendered outstanding service under extremely hazardous and difficult conditions..."

Army Silver Star Medal: "For gallantry in action in the vicinity of Bataan, on 29 January 1942. On his own initiative and volition, and despite the hazards of hostile aerial attack and artillery fire, Commander Bridget accompanied an expedition aboard USS Quail, with the mission in conjunction with ground troops, of dislodging enemy forces established in a strategic area. The display of fearless devotion to duty revealed by this officer during the entire operation, as well as his superior saemanship and gunnery contributed in a large measure to the successful destruction of the enemy forces."

On 17 June 1943, Captain Bridget was reported a "prisoner of war", and on 15 December 1944 was lost on board a Japanese prison ship sunk off Olongapo, Luzon, Philippine Islands. "For exceptionally meritorious conduct... while aboard Japanese prison ship, until that vessel was sunk...", he was awarded the Legion of Merit posthumously.

"Self-sacrificing and constant in his concern for others, Commander Bridget made every effort to maintain discipline among the 800 American prisoners-of-war packed into the airless, humid holds of the ships, rendering valiant service in sustaining the morale of the starving, panic-stricken men. With conditions rapidly becoming more acute and the men growing weaker, (he) who could speak some Japanese, repeatedly risked his life to go topside, to endeavor to negotiate with the enemy and alleviate the situation for his trapped companions. Aware that certain death awaited any man attempting to leave the hold when the ship was subjected to the first of a series of attacks, he warned that attempted escape might lead to a mass slaughter by the Japanese and calmly assured the frantic prisoners that if the vessel sank all would be able to abandon ship before it went down..."

In addition to the Navy Cross, the Army Silver Star Medal, and the Legion of Merit, Captain Bridget was entitled to the Purple Heart Medal, the Victory Medal, Atlantic Fleet Clasp (WW I); the American Defense Service Medal; and the Philippine Defense Ribbon.

Career

Francis was a naval attaché in Tokyo in 1939, he then was the re-commissioning commanding officer of USS William B. Preston (AVP 20) from June 1940 to June 1941.

Prior to the war, he was operations officer and chief of staff, Patrol Wing 10. Once that command ceased to exist, he—a patrol bomber pilot who had never led troops—became the commanding officer of the Naval Battalion on Bataan and later Corregidor.

From US Navy History:

Besides the Army, the Navy also had a vital role in the Battle of Bataan. The southern tip of the Bataan peninsula was the Navy Section Base at Mariveles. That was the headquarters for the 16th Naval District commanded by Rear Admiral Francis W. Rockwell, who had the mission of protecting “the naval stations on the island of Luzon, primarily Olongapo and the Navy Section Base at Mariveles.”[13] In January 1942, “the only naval facilities remaining in the Philippines were at Mariveles. Here all the unattached naval personnel were congregated.”[14] They were placed under the command of Commander Francis J. Bridget, known as “Fidgety Frank,” who was a PBY aviator with no troop leading experience. Commander Bridget formed them into a naval battalion totaling 602 sailors and also marines from the 4th Marine Regiment which had redeployed to the Philippines from its longtime duty station in Shanghai, China in late November 1941.

The naval battalion was tasked to provide local security for the Mariveles naval station which was located at the Southern tip of the Bataan peninsula. The immediate area to the Southwest of Mariveles was a series of bays on the Southwest coast of Bataan adjacent to a high ridge which overlooks the Mariveles harbor and naval station. “A landing on any of the bays to the South could quickly secure the high ground behind the naval station thus cutting the only supply road on Bataan and rendering the naval facilities untenable.”[15] That key terrain was also only five miles from General MacArthur’s Headquarters. The battle began when the Japanese troops landed at Longoskawayan and Quinauan Points on the southwest coast of Bataan. Those landings were executed simultaneously when the USAFFE forces withdrew from its main line of resistance, the Abucay Line to its reserve defense line further south down the peninsula. The naval battalion was the only opposing force available for defense of the USAFFE rear echelon areas. Commander Bridget had to take a battalion of inexperienced sailors and had only two weeks to have them trained in basic infantry skills done by a handful of marines. Most of these sailors never received basic weapons marksmanship training in their naval careers and were expected to fight elite Japanese army troops. However, the naval battalion managed to contain the Japanese attack with the utmost courage and ferocity, but was unable to successfully counterattack and drive the Japanese back to the sea. The USAFFE 57th Infantry Regiment (Philippine Scouts) was able to relieve the naval battalion at the decisive point of the battle and push the Japanese landing force back to the South China Sea.

"Comdr. FJB" — almost certainly Francis — is mentioned on page 12 of Carter Simpson '39's incredible diary. Francis "arrived and presented us with a bottle of Scotch -- it surely was good" following the downing of an attacking Japanese plane.

Much later, in his final days. From Last of the Oryoku Maru:

They stacked their dead at the entrance to the court. They moved the tall referee’s platform to the middle of the court, where it became a kind of lookout and command post. Commander Warner Portz was still nominally senior officer, but so exhausting had been the experience he underwent in the aft hold that both he and Commander Frank Bridget were depleted as well as wounded. Leadership was passing into the hands of Beecher, whose forward hold had suffered greatly, but not so much.

"We saw that Bridget and Portz were fading," says one Army Lieutenant. "Their throats were almost gone from shouting orders; you could hardly hear them. Both had body wounds, and Portz was wounded in the head, too. I had never seen bravery and leadership in my life like that of Bridget when men began dying in the hold. As for Portz, I had come to think of him as I would my own father."

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander Francis Joseph Bridget (NSN: 0-19086), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving on the Staff of the Commander of Patrol Wing TEN (PatWing 10), during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Mariveles Area in December 1941. Although subjected to repeated and sustained enemy aerial attacks, Commander Bridget rendered outstanding services under the extremely hazardous and difficult conditions existing in that area. His skillful leadership and complete disregard for his own personal safety were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Service: Navy

Legion of Merit

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Legion of Merit (Posthumously) to Commander Francis Joseph Bridget (NSN: 0-19086), United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to his fellow prisoners of war in the hold of the Japanese Prison Ship, Oraku-Maru, from the time it sailed from Manila, 13 December 1944 until shortly before the ship was sunk off Olongapo on 15 December 1944. Commander Bridget helped maintain sufficient discipline among the half-mad, panic stricken prisoners in the hold when the ship was first bombed. Such an attempt would have resulted in the mass slaughter of the prisoners by the Japanese. At considerable risk to himself, Commander Bridget, who can speak some Japanese, made persistent requests to the Japanese to alleviate the conditions of the prisoners in the hold. While he was not successful he tried as well as anyone could to persuade the Japanese to open the ventilators that the prisoners might not smother to death; to provide food, to provide water that the men might not die from thirst and dehydration; to provide sanitary facilities and to remove the bodies of the some 200 prisoners who had already smothered in the hold.

Service: Navy
Rank: Commander

Prisoner of War Medal

From Hall of Valor:

Commander Francis Joseph Bridget (NSN: 0-19086), United States Navy, was captured by the Japanese after the fall of Corregidor, Philippine Islands, on 6 May 1942, and was held as a Prisoner of War until in death in captivity on or about 15 December 1944.

General Orders: NARA Database: Records of World War II Prisoners of War, created, 1942 - 1947
Service: Navy
Rank: Commander

Namesake

USS Bridget (DE 1024) was named for Francis; the ship was sponsored by his widow.

Memorial Hall Error

The biography provided for USS Bridget indicates he was posthumously promoted to Captain. Memorial Hall has CDR.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

January 1922

Ensign, USS Florida

Others at this command: ENS Frederick Jackson '21.

May 1923

Ensign, USS Relief

July 1923

Ensign, USS Relief

September 1923

Ensign, USS Relief

November 1923

Ensign, USS Relief

January 1924

Ensign, USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Rogers Ransehousen '21 and ENS Hugh Hadley '22.

March 1924

Ensign, USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Hugh Hadley '22.

May 1924

Ensign, USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Hugh Hadley '22.

July 1924

Ensign, USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Hugh Hadley '22 and ENS William Ostertag '24.

September 1924

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Hugh Hadley '22 and ENS William Ostertag '24.

November 1924

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Hugh Hadley '22 and ENS William Ostertag '24.

January 1925

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Hugh Hadley '22 and ENS William Ostertag '24.

March 1925

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Hugh Hadley '22 and ENS William Ostertag '24.

May 1925

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Hugh Hadley '22.

July 1925

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Hugh Hadley '22 and ENS Elmer Buerkle '25.

October 1925

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: LTjg Hugh Hadley '22 and ENS Elmer Buerkle '25.

January 1926

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: LTjg Hugh Hadley '22 and ENS Elmer Buerkle '25.

October 1926

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: LTjg Hugh Hadley '22, ENS Elmer Buerkle '25, and ENS Carlton Hutchins '26.

January 1927

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Elmer Buerkle '25 and ENS Carlton Hutchins '26.

April 1927

Lieutenant (j.g.), Treatment, Naval Hospital, Puget Sound, Washington

October 1927

Lieutenant, USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Carlton Hutchins '26.

January 1928

Lieutenant, USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS Carlton Hutchins '26, ENS John Eldridge, Jr. '27, ENS Julian Greer '27, ENS Loren Morris '27, and ENS Oddle Anderson '27.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Paul Thompson '19 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 1B).

April 1928

Lieutenant, USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: ENS John Eldridge, Jr. '27, ENS Julian Greer '27, ENS Loren Morris '27, and ENS Oddle Anderson '27.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Paul Thompson '19 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 1B).

July 1929

Lieutenant, Light Bombing Plane Squadron (VB) 1B, USS Lextingon

Others at this command: LTjg Jack DeShazo '25.

Others at or embarked at USS Lextingon: LT Arnold Isbell '21 (Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B) and ENS Carlton Hutchins '26 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 2B).

October 1929

Lieutenant, Light Bombing Plane Squadron (VB) 1B, USS Lextingon

Others at this command: LTjg Jack DeShazo '25.

January 1930

Lieutenant, Light Bombing Plane Squadron (VB) 1B, USS Lextingon

Others at this command: LTjg Jack DeShazo '25.

April 1930

Lieutenant, Light Bombing Plane Squadron (VB) 1B, USS Lextingon

Others at this command: LTjg Jack DeShazo '25 and ENS Eugene Lindsey '27.

October 1930

Lieutenant, Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 5B, USS Lexington

Others at this command: LTjg Eugene Lindsey '27.

Others at or embarked at USS Lexington: LT Edwin Crouch '21 (USS Lexington), LT Henry Brandenburger '21 (USS Lexington), LTjg Burton Doggett '24 (USS Lexington), LTjg Hilan Ebert '26 (USS Lexington), LTjg Dick Downer '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B), ENS William Potts '27 (USS Lexington), ENS Baylies Clark '30 (USS Lexington), and ENS Robert Haven '30 (USS Lexington).

January 1931

Lieutenant, Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 5B, USS Lexington

Others at this command: LTjg Eugene Lindsey '27.

Others at or embarked at USS Lexington: LT Edwin Crouch '21 (USS Lexington), LT Henry Brandenburger '21 (USS Lexington), LTjg Burton Doggett '24 (USS Lexington), LTjg Hilan Ebert '26 (USS Lexington), LTjg Dick Downer '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B), ENS Baylies Clark '30 (USS Lexington), and ENS Robert Haven '30 (USS Lexington).

April 1931

Lieutenant, Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 5B, USS Lexington

Others at this command: LTjg Eugene Lindsey '27.

Others at or embarked at USS Lexington: LT Arnold Isbell '21 (Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B), LT Edwin Crouch '21 (USS Lexington), LT Henry Brandenburger '21 (USS Lexington), LT James Carney '21 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 2B), LTjg Hilan Ebert '26 (USS Lexington), LTjg Dick Downer '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B), LTjg Elmer Cooper '27 (Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B), LTjg Harold Richards '27 (USS Lexington), LTjg Robert Winters '27 (Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B), ENS J. C. Riggs, Jr. '28 (Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B), and ENS Baylies Clark '30 (USS Lexington).

July 1931

Lieutenant, Keystone Aircraft Corporation, Bristol, Pennsylvania

October 1931

Lieutenant, Inspector of Naval Aircraft, Buffalo, New York

January 1932

Lieutenant, Inspector of Naval Aircraft, Buffalo, New York

April 1932

Lieutenant, Inspector of Naval Aircraft, Buffalo, New York

July 1933

Lieutenant, under instruction, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

Others at this command: LTjg Carlton Hutchins '26.

October 1933

Lieutenant, under instruction, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

Others at this command: LTjg Carlton Hutchins '26.

April 1934

Lieutenant, under instruction, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

Others at this command: LTjg Carlton Hutchins '26.

July 1934

Lieutenant, Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 9F

October 1934

Lieutenant, Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 9F

January 1935

Lieutenant, Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 9F

April 1935

Lieutenant, Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 9F

October 1935

Lieutenant, Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 9F

January 1936

Lieutenant, Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 9F

April 1936

Lieutenant, Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 9F

July 1936

Lieutenant, Bureau of Aeronautics, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR William Sample '19 and LTjg Clair Miller '29.

January 1937

Lieutenant, Bureau of Aeronautics, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR William Sample '19, LT Stephen Cooke '21, and LTjg Clair Miller '29.

April 1937

Lieutenant, Bureau of Aeronautics, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR William Sample '19, LT Stephen Cooke '21, and LTjg Clair Miller '29.

September 1937

Lieutenant Commander, assistant naval attaché, American Embassy, Tokyo, Japan

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg Francis Jordan '29 (Attaché, American Embassy, Tokyo, Japan).

January 1938

Lieutenant Commander, assistant naval attaché, American Embassy, Tokyo, Japan

July 1938

Lieutenant Commander, assistant naval attaché, American Embassy, Tokyo, Japan

January 1939

Lieutenant Commander, assistant naval attaché, American Embassy, Tokyo, Japan

October 1939

Lieutenant Commander, Patrol Squadron (VP) 14

June 1940

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS William B. Preston

November 1940

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS William B. Preston

April 1941

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS William B. Preston


Class of 1921

Francis is one of 32 members of the Class of 1921 on Virtual Memorial Hall.