A brave sailor’s sacrifice on the high seas

Joan Hart

In the early morning hours of June 17, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a heavily laden Philippine cargo vessel about 56 miles off the coast of Japan. Most of the crew were asleep in the berths below.

The Fitzgerald took a direct hit below the water line. The cargo ship’s bow punctured the steel armor of the destroyer, opening a hole in the quarters where more than 100 sailors were sleeping. Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm, Jr. immediately went into action.

Although he was safe where he was, he began going down to the sleeping berths and rescuing his shipmates, helping them to get to safety. There wasn’t a lot of time as the ship began taking on water, and the crew was finally faced with making the difficult decision to close the hatch. Rehm was sealed in with six other sailors. They all perished in that watery grave.

Rehm’s family was told by the Navy that his efforts saved at least 20 sailors, according to WBNS-10TV in Columbus, Ohio. “He entered a flooded berthing compartment several times to free and evacuate sailors trapped in the wreckage until the flooding reached a stage so dangerous to the ship’s own survival that the order was given to close the water tight door.”

For the complete column, see the Weekend print edition of The Daily Record, or view the e-Edition online.


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