FRANCIS J. BRIDGET, CDR, USN
Francis Bridget '21
Date of birth: August 2, 1897
Date of death: January 23, 1945
From the 1921 Lucky Bag:
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.
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.
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.” In January 1942, “the only naval facilities remaining in the Philippines were at Mariveles. Here all the unattached naval personnel were congregated.” 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.” 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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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.