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Urge the US Navy to stop denying the Medal of Honor to a heroic African-American officer

This petition had 18,351 supporters

Please join in the call of veterans and family members, to have the U.S. Navy correct an injustice that was done to Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Frank Louis Hunter 90 years ago.

CPO Hunter enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1902. He served for 33 years during the Jim Crow era of the Navy.  He rose up the ranks to Chief Petty Officer (the then highest rank for an enlisted man in the Navy) and in 1942 was recalled to duty at the age of 61.

CPO Hunter heroically attempted to save another sailor’s life with great peril to his own life. On September 16, 1925 Fireman Michael Sullivan fell overboard from the destroyer U.S.S. Peary during a typhoon in the South China Sea.  In light of the extremely perilous conditions the Commander of the U.S.S Peary ordered the man overboard rescue crew to stand down.

CPO Hunter saw Sullivan struggling and drifting towards the destroyer U.S.S. Pillsbury where he was stationed. Without hesitation or concern for his own life CPO Hunter jumped into the violent South China Sea, without the security of a tether rope, in an effort to rescue him.  Following CPO Hunter's lead, two other crewmates from the Pillsbury tethered themselves with ropes, and jumped into the water to help Hunter rescue Sullivan. They recovered Sullivan, and he was pulled aboard ship. Shortly thereafter CPO Hunter grabbed ahold of the legs of one of the other crewmen in the water. While they were being hauled back aboard they were struck by two huge waves. After being stuck by the second wave CPO Hunter was dislodged and swept out to sea. He was eventually hauled back on board. CPO Hunter and his crewmates were issued letters of commendation aboard ship.

During the Jim Crow era, white sailors routinely were awarded either a Medal of Honor or Gold Star for similar life saving attempts. The U.S. Navy did not issue a single medal for similar acts of heroism to any African-American from 1902 up to 1941.  Although we will never know their names, it is reasonable to conclude that other African-American sailors committed similar acts of heroism during the same period of time. It should be noted history reveals that prior to the Jim Crow era, the Navy did award Medals of Honor to African-Americans for life saving efforts.

The Secretary of the Navy upon hearing of the events of September 16, 1925 requested an explanation as to why CPO Hunter and the 2 other men did not receive medals and other public recognition. This was in 1926. Ninety years later, CPO Hunter has not received equal and just treatment. Please sign this petition requesting the US Navy to do the right thing and issue posthumous awards.

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