CMDR CASSIN YOUNG
Commanding officer U.S.S. Vestal,
during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor
Territory of Hawaii.
7 December 1941.
16 Medals of Honor were earned on 7 Dec, 1941
Commander Cassin Young represents sixteen of the bravest hardest men I have ever read about.
Comdr. Young took his post on the bridge of Vestal and when one of his gunners fell the Skipper took personal command of the 3-inch antiaircraft gun.
When Arizona’s powder magazine blew, it threw Commander Young off Vestal’s deck into the flaming inferno of burning oil between the two ships. The Commander’s training kicked in and he used a technique of spreading the flaming oil with water from below by waving his hands under the water each time he surfaced for air.
Escaping the flames – Young didn’t swim to the nearby shoreline of Ford Island like any normal person would do. Commander Young swam back INTO the battle and climbed aboard his ship.
The entire bow and forward third of Arizona was a blazing inferno with oil afire on the water between the 2 ships. Vestal was also in flames and listing hard.
The Commander returned to what was left of his Bridge and calmly maneuvered his burning and sinking ship away from Arizona to a position of relative safety and rather than let Vestal sink in the harbor, Commander Young beached her, saving the lives of his below deck crew and making recovery and repairs much simpler.
Most of Vestal’s crew survived the attack and Vestal returned to the fight because of Commander Young’s heroic leadership under fire.
There is no question that anyone with the testicular mass to swim back into battle during the Pearl Harbor attack is Watermelon Award material, but I always go ahead and pull the recipient’s military record. I want to find out as much as I possibly can about the man before I sing his praises to my readers.
Oddly enough a records search on the name Cassin Young revealed a listing for a “Cassin Young” as the recipient of the Navy Cross. I thought maybe he earned it in WW1, but the date of the award was Nov. 1942 – 11 months after Pearl Harbor. – this intrigued me.
I discovered Captain Young took command of the Heavy Cruiser U.S.S. San Francisco after Pearl Harbor… his Navy Cross Certificate states simply
– “Captain Young … engaged at close quarters and defeated a superior enemy force, inflicting heavy damage upon them and preventing the accomplishment of their intended mission…. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”