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Photo # NH 92570:  GMC Frank W. Crilley with members of the Navy Diving School Class of June 1917

Online Library of Selected Images:

Ensign Frank W. Crilley, USNR (1883-1947)

Frank William Crilley was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on 13 September 1883. Following enlistment in the Navy in March 1900, he became a Gunner's Mate and received additional training as a diver. In 1915, while a Chief Gunner's Mate, he made dives to over 300 feet during salvage operations on the sunken submarine F-4 (SS-23) off Honolulu, Hawaii. On 17 April 1915 he rescued a fellow diver who had become entangled at a depth of 250 feet. For his heroism on this occasion, he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1929.

In 1917, Crilley was appointed to the rank of Gunner(T), and in February 1918 became an Ensign in the Naval Reserve. He commanded USS Salvor in 1919 and left active duty in July of that year. In the mid-1920s, he was involved with salvaging USS S-51 (SS-162), and returned to active Naval service in 1927-28 to work on the recovery of USS S-4 (SS-109). He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions as a diver during that operation.

In 1931, Frank Crilley served as Second Officer and Master Diver during the Arctic expedition of the civilian submarine Nautilus. Also in 1931, he assisted with the salvage of USS Mayflower (PY-1). Transferred to the Retired List in May 1932, he was again employed on Navy work in 1939, during the salvage of USS Squalus (SS-192). Ensign Frank W. Crilley died at the Naval Hospital, Brooklyn, New York, on 23 November 1947.

USS Crilley (YHLC-1), 1967-1993, was named in honor of Ensign Frank W. Crilley.

This page features all the images we have concerning Frank W. Crilley.

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the "Online Library's" digital images, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Photo #: NH 92570

Diving School, Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode Island

Group photograph of the school's Class of June 1917. Among those present (as identified by the donor) are:
Chief Gunner's Mate Frank William Crilley (seated, far left);
Gunner J.C. Heck; (seated, 4th from left); and
Gunner Clarence L. Tibbals (seated, 4th from right).

Courtesy of Mrs.J.V. Tibbals, 1967.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 135KB; 740 x 505 pixels

Photo #: NH 41836


"Naval divers who worked hard and faithfully at the difficult task of raising the submarine" (quoted from the original 1928 caption). Probably photographed at the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts, circa 19-20 March 1928, shortly after the salvaged S-4 entered dry dock there.
Those present are identified in the original caption as (standing, left to right): Michaels, Eadie, Wilson, Carr and Eissn. (Kneeling, left to right): Grilley, Mattox and Doherty.
"Michaels" may be Chief Torpedoman Michels. "Eadie" is Chief Gunner's Mate Thomas Eadie, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing Michels during the salvage work. "Grilley" is probably Ensign Frank W. Crilley.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 109KB; 740 x 600 pixels

Photo #: NH 97299

"Simon Lake's 'Explorer' -- The First Commercial Submarine for Peace and Profit"

"During the official test of the baby submarine by Dr. William Beebe on behalf of the National Geographic Society. Frank Crilley, the holder of the world's deep-sea diving record in diving suit, being dressed in his togs preparatory to going down in the submarine, passing out through its underwater hatch, and then rising to the surface outside the submarine -- the climax of the test."
Quoted from the original caption of this photograph, which was taken in late 1932, during tests on the Explorer in Pelham Bay, Long Island, New York. Frank William Crilley, the diver in this photograph, had been awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in rescuing another man during diving operations on USS F-4 (SS-23) on 17 April 1915.

Donation of William F. Searle, Jr., March 1981.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 94KB; 740 x 520 pixels


Medal of Honor citation of Chief Gunner's Mate Frank W. Crilley (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 106):

"For display of extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession above and beyond the call of duty during the diving operations in connection with the sinking in a depth of water 304 feet, of the U.S.S. F-4 with all on board, as a result of loss of depth control, which occurred off Honolulu, T.H., on 25 March 1915. On 17 April 1915, William F. Loughman, chief gunner's mate, United States Navy, who had descended to the wreck and had examined one of the wire hawsers attached to it, upon starting his ascent, and when at a depth of 250 feet beneath the surface of the water, had his life line and air hose so badly fouled by this hawser that he was unable to free himself; he could neither ascend nor descend. On account of the length of time that Loughman had already been subjected to the great pressure due to the depth of water, and the uncertainty of the additional time he would have to be subjected to this pressure before he could be brought to the surface, it was imperative that steps be taken at once to clear him. Instantly, realizing the desperate case of his comrade, CRILLEY volunteered to go to his aid, immediately donned a diving suit and descended. After a lapse of time of 2 hours and 11 minutes, CRILLEY was brought to the surface, having by a superb exhibition of skill, coolness, endurance and fortitude, untangled the snarl of lines and cleared his imperiled comrade, so that he was brought, still alive, to the surface."

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Navy Cross citation of Ensign Frank W. Crilley (as printed in his official biography):

"For extraordinary heroism and fearless devotion to duty during the diving operations in connection with the salvage of the USS S-4, sunk as a result of a collision off Provincetown, Massachusetts, 17 December 1927. During the period 17 December 1927 to 17 March 1928, on which latter date the ill-fated vessel was raised, Crilley, under the most adverse weather conditions, at the risk of his life, descended many times into the icy waters and displayed throughout that period fortitude, skill, determination and courage which characterizes conduct above and beyond the call of duty."

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the "Online Library's" digital images, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

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Page made 7 July 2000
Image added 14 October 2005