JOHN M. BERMINGHAM, LCDR, USN
John Bermingham '29
Date of birth: July 5, 1905
Date of death: February 19, 1942
From the 1929 Lucky Bag:
John was lost when USS Peary (DD 226) was sunk in Darwin harbor, Australia, by Japanese air attack on February 19, 1942. There is an extensive history of the ship's brief wartime career, beginning with the air raid at the Cavite Navy Yard, Philippines, on December 10, 1941 and including her harrowing escape to Australia.
During the 1930s, Bermingham served in many ships, including the battleships USS Utah (BB-31), USS Wyoming (BB-32) and the cruiser USS Augusta (CA-31), as well as various shore stations.
In 1940, Bermingham was appointed executive officer of destroyer USS Stewart (DD-224). At the outbreak of war with Japan, on 7 December 1941, Bermingham was on his way home for leave. During the first Japanese attack on Cavite, Philippines, on 10 December, the commanding officer of the destroyer USS Peary (DD-226), H.H. Keith, was wounded. Bermingham was ordered to take command on 11 December 1941.
The ship was assigned to offshore patrol and came under heavy air attack many times in the following days. Excellent seamanship during bombing and torpedo attacks 26 and December 27 saved her from destruction.
Despite Japanese air superiority, Bermingham succeeded in bringing his ship to Darwin, Australia, to operate with American-British-Dutch-Australian Command naval forces attempting to hold the "Malay Barrier". Peary operated with the cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) in early February.
In mid-February, Peary was part of an unsuccessful attempt to resupply Allied forces under attack on Timor. She was anchored at Darwin when the Japanese attacked in a massive bombing raid on 19 February 1942. Bermingham got his ship underway and attempted to maneuver in the restricted waters; but, despite valiant antiaircraft fire, his ship was hit with five bombs. Bermingham and about 80 of his crew went down with the ship.
From Hall of Valor:
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander John Michael Bermingham (NSN: 0-62695), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer U.S.S. PEARY (DD-226), during operations in enemy waters of the Philippine Islands and later Dutch Timor waters during the period from 10 December 1941 to 19 February 1942. After Manila Bay became untenable as an operating base, Lieutenant Commander Bermingham piloted his vessel to Darwin, N.T, Australia, narrowly escaping by his skillful maneuvering the attacks of bombers and torpedo planes on one occasion and avoiding further attacks during daylight by ingeniously camouflaging and hiding his ship near land. He later carried out a second hazardous mission in delivering gasoline to an airfield which was under continual enemy surveillance. His action and good judgment not only saved his ship in the first instance but also ensured the successful accomplishment of others. During the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by approximately 80 enemy aircraft he fought his ship valiantly against continued dive bombing attacks and went down with the U.S.S. PEARY when she finally sank. Lieutenant Commander Bermingham's inspiring leadership and the valiant devotion to duty of his command reflect great credit upon himself and are in keeping with the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
General Orders: Commander in Chief, Pacific: Serial 02457 (November 23, 1942)
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
USS John M. Bermingham (DE 530) was named for John; the ship was sponsored by his widow.