WASHINGTON, DC - On Friday, Rep. Don Bacon (NE - 02) and Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) and Adrian Smith (NE-03) introduced H.R. 4168 to name the U.S. Post Office in Omaha’s Benson area, 6223 Maple St., after Petty Officer First Class Charles Jackson French, a World War II hero with ties to Omaha, who rescued fifteen of his injured shipmates by swimming for hours through shark-infested waters off the coast of the Guadalcanal.
Petty Officer French served as a mess attendant on the USS Gregory, when the military was racially segregated. However, this did not stop him from rescuing fifteen of his injured fellow sailors when their ship was attacked and sunk by Japanese gunfire. French helped his crewmates into a life raft and tied it to himself, swimming for nearly eight hours through nightfall and swarming sharks until they were finally identified and rescued.
Despite his extraordinary display of valor, French and his family received little recognition that his service and sacrifice deserve. Honoring the legacy of an American hero like Charles Jackson French is long overdue.
“French’s bravery and sacrifice to save his injured mates off the coast of the Guadalcanal are truly admirable. His story of devotion and service is one that we all should know and learn from. As a three-decade veteran, I am inspired by French’s decision to put his own life on the line for his fellow sailors, especially in the face of such grave danger,” said Rep. Bacon. “Naming a U.S. Post Office in the Omaha area after Charles Jackson French, a hero with ties to our community is the first step we can take to honor French and his family with the recognition they deserve.”
“Petty Officer French demonstrated unbelievable selflessness in the face of unconscionable danger. I am proud to sponsor this bill that honors his bravery by naming a United States Post Office after him in Omaha,” said Smith. “French became a true hero during World War II when he put the lives of injured sailors above his own, and it is time we pay tribute to his legacy and cement it in our history.”
“We appreciate what has been done so far for Charles Jackson French,” said Chester French and Roscoe Harris, nephews of Petty Officer French. “The French family thanks Rep. Bacon for this first step. It is long overdue.”