MSC PAO 01-24
July 6, 2001
For more information, contact:
Marge Holtz or Rebecca Rogers
Forgotten Marine is ship's namesake
|USNS Gunnery Sgt. Fred W. Stockham departs Norfolk, Va., for Jacksonville, Fla., where the ship will be named at a ceremony July 6 at Blount Island Command.|
June 13, 1918. The cold night air was saturated with deadly mustard gas, and bullets rained incessantly on the men of 96th Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines.
Fighting in the confusion and darkness of the French forest, it was nearly impossible to locate the wounded amidst tangled underbrush.
Gas masks kept soldiers breathing, but dimmed their limited sight and added to the confusion under the German artillery barrage.
The place was Bois-de-Belleau -- Belleau Woods -- France.
During the intense enemy bombardment, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Fred W. Stockham noticed that a wounded comrade's gas mask had been shot away. Without hesitation, he removed his own mask and gave it to the young man, fully knowing it would cost him his own life.
Stockham directed and assisted in the evacuation of the wounded without a gas mask until he collapsed. He died in agony a few days later.
"No man has ever displayed greater heroism or courage and showed more utter contempt of personal danger," wrote Stockham's company commander, 2nd Lt. Clifton B. Cates, USMC, in his recommendation to award GySgt. Stockham the Medal of Honor. "His bravery was an inspiration to his men and his actions undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades."
Cates' recommendation was somehow lost, and the war came to a close with the brave gunny buried in France, his legacy seemingly forgotten. In 1920, Stockham's body was returned to the United States and buried in an unmarked grave in New Jersey near the only semblance of family he had -- a foster mother.
It wasn't until the late 1930s that Cates, who would become Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1948, and Barret Mattingly, the young man Stockham saved, realized that the Medal of Honor had never been awarded. Gen. Cates wrote another citation and gathered affidavits from surviving members of 96th Company.
On Dec. 21, 1939, the Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to GySgt. Fred W. Stockham by direction of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There were no next of kin to accept the medal, as Stockham was an orphan. There was not so much as a single photograph of the 37-year old Marine.
What Stockham did leave behind was a name -- a name that will grace the bow of a Navy ship in his honor. Military Sealift Command will officially name USNS GYSGT Fred W. Stockham in a ceremony at Blount Island Command in Jacksonville, Fla., on July 6.
Stockham will be joining 14 other ships that comprise MSC's Maritime Prepositioning Force. These ships are specially configured to carry supplies for the U.S. Marine Corps. USNS Stockham, which will operate out of Diego Garcia, will preposition Navy mobile construction battalion equipment, fleet hospital equipment, expeditionary airfield materials and a headquarters unit-support material.
Military Sealift Command is the ocean transportation provider for the Department of Defense. The command, part of the U.S. Navy, operates more than 110 active ships around the world. Ship missions vary from the transport and afloat prepositioning of defense cargo to underway replenishment and other direct support to Navy ships at sea to at-sea data collection for the U.S. military and other U.S. government agencies.