WT1 ELMER CHARLES BIGELOW
Water Tender, DD-992 USS Fletcher
Off the coast of Corregidor
14 February 1945
U.S.S. Fletcher was engaging enemy positions off Corregidor Island in the Philippines, 14 February 1945. Water Tender First Class Bigelow was at his station topside when Fletcher was struck by an artillery round.
Bigelow, jumped into action as the projectile penetrated the No. 1 gun magazine and set it aflame. He grabbed a pair of fire extinguishers and rushed below into the smoke and fire.
Refusing to waste the precious time required to don rescue-breathing apparatus, Bigelow charged through the blinding smoke and dropped into the blazing compartment.
In spite of the acrid smoke searing his lungs with every breath, he worked with instinctive sureness quickly extinguishing the fires and in cooling the cases of propellant and bulkheads, preventing further damage to the stricken ship.
Bigelow saved Fletcher from further damage and had averted a magazine explosion which undoubtedly would have left Fletcher wallowing at the mercy of Japanese guns on Corregidor.
Water Tender First class Elmer C. Bigelow succumbed to his injuries on the following day, giving his life for his shipmates.