From EagleSpeak, the amazing story of Navy Rear Admiral Eugene “Lucky” Fluckey, who passed away Friday at the age of 94. Among the Pacific Fleet sub commanders of World War II–a group renonwed for its tenacity and daring–Fluckey was perhaps the most daring and tenacious, and easily the most successful.
As skipper of the USS Barb during five wartime patrols, he sank 146,000 tons of Japanese shipping, earning the Congressional Medal of Honor, four Navy Crosses and the Distinguished Service Medal, among other decorations. Some of his engagements are legendary, including the battle that won Fluckey the Medal of Honor. He was also the only sub commander of World War II–or any other conflict–to “sink” a train.
Fluckey’s passing reminds us that it takes more than technology to win wars–it takes men (and women) with courage, vision and leadership. It’s been said that Fluckey knew every job onboard the Barb, and could often perform technical tasks with the same skill as an experienced chief. His outstanding technical knowledge allowed Fluckey to push the boat–and its crew–to their operational limits.
But more importantly, Admiral Fluckey knew how to motivate and lead his men. He kept cases of beer on the Barb (in violation of Navy regulations), and rewarded the crew for their exceptional performance. Once, with Japanese vessels thrashing overhead, Fluckey got on the sub’s intercom and ordered his men to put beer in the cooler–a reminder of his supreme confidence in the boat and its crew. In his later years, Admiral Fluckey used proceeds from his book “Thunder Below” to fund free reunions for his former crew members.
It’s been said that Eugene Fluckey’s most cherished accomplishment could be found in the decoration that was never awarded to the commander or his crew–the Purple Heart. Over the course of five combat patrols, during some of the most audacious attacks by any World War II sub commander, no one on the Barb was killed or injured.
Rear Admiral Eugene Fluckey was the most decorated American military member at the time of his passing. He was a hero in the truest sense of that word.