Naval Base San Diego
Naval Base San Diego. Photo courtesy Pinterest

The Navy dedicated a surface rescue training pool at Naval Base San Diego Saturday in honor of a World War II veteran who saved the lives of 15 of his shipmates after their vessel sank during an attack by Japanese forces.

Drawing of Steward’s Mate First Class Charles Jackson French’s rescue. Navy image

The dedication pays tribute to Steward’s Mate First Class Charles Jackson French in honor of his “heroic actions” during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942.

According to a Navy statement, French and other sailors were left adrift in a raft after Japanese forces sank the USS Gregory near Solomon Islands. In order to pull the raft away from enemy fire, French tied a rope around his waist and swam through shark-infested waters for more than six hours until the raft was spotted by an aircraft, the Navy said.

For his actions, French was awarded a Letter of Commendation by the Commander of South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force.

He lived in San Diego after the war and was buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

“The story of Charles Jackson French needs to be told and shared for generations to come,” said Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday. “He exemplified our core values and faced adversity with unwavering grit and selflessness.”

The swimming pool to be named after French is used to train Navy rescue swimmers for search-and-rescue missions at sea.

“We are absolutely elated and truly humbled to have our training pool dedicated in honor of Charles Jackson French,” said Capt. Edgardo Moreno, NASC commanding officer in a statement announcing the dedication earlier this year. “His brave and courageous actions embody the very best in our Navy and his story is a compelling example to all sailors for generations to come.