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Photo # NH 79954:  Merrimac Operation Crew, 3 June 1898

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Lieutenant George Charette, USN, (1867-1938)

George Charette was born on 6 June 1867 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Later enlisting in the Navy from that state, he served in USS New York during the Spanish-American War as a Gunner's Mate First Class. He was one of eight volunteer crew members of the collier Merrimac, which Rear Admiral William T. Sampson ordered sunk to block the entrance of Santiago Harbor, Cuba. On the night of 2-3 June 1898, during the courageous attempt to execute this mission, Merrimac's steering gear was disabled by enemy gunfire, and she sank without obstructing navigation. Her crewmen were rescued by the Spanish and made prisoners-of-war. After the Battle of Santiago de Cuba destroyed the Spanish fleet a month later, Charette and his shipmates were released. For his "extraordinary heroism" during this operation, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Charette was promoted to the warrant officer rank of Gunner on 15 June 1898, while he was still in Spanish custody. His initial post-war assignment was to the battleship USS Iowa, which became the Asiatic Station's flagship in February 1902. His next duty was the receiving ship Wabash at Boston Navy Yard, Massachusetts, in 1903-1905. While on the Wabash, he was promoted to Chief Gunner on 15 June 1904. Chief Gunner Charette's next assignment was on board the battleship Kentucky, in which he served during the 1906 Cuban Insurrection and the 1907-1909 "Great White Fleet" voyage around the World. Following shore duty at Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts, in December 1911 he reported on board the armored cruiser Saratoga, whose name had recently changed from New York, and in which he had served during the war with Spain.

In the fall of 1915, Charette returned to the Boston Navy Yard, transferring to the Naval Ammunition Depot, Hingham, Massachusetts in May 1917. During his three years at Hingham, World War I brought Charette a temporary promotion to Lieutenant, and this rank was made permanent in August 1920. His next tour was on board the cruiser St. Louis, in which he took part in refugee assistance operations in Turkish waters. Lieutenant Charette reported to the 3rd Naval District, headquartered in New York City, in February 1923 and remained there until 31 May 1925, when he was transferred on the retired list. George Charette died on 7 May 1938 in Lowell, Massachusetts and is buried at Arlingtion National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

This page features the only image we have concerning George Charette.

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Photo #: NH 79954

USS Merrimac Operation, 3 June 1898

Halftone reproduction of a photograph, published in "Deeds of Valor," Volume II, page 370, by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907. This image shows an artistic interpretation of the scuttling of USS Merrimac across the entrance of Santiago Harbor, Cuba, with portraits of her crew on this mission. The crew members from upper left to right are Lieutenant Richmond P. Hobson, Coxswain Claus K. R. Clausen (note: official sources state Clausen's first name to be Claus, not Randolph), Coxswain Osborn W. Deignan, Watertender Francis Kelly. The crew members from lower left to right are Coxswain John E. Murphy, Chief Master-At-Arms Daniel Montague, Machinist First Class George F. Phillips, and Gunner's Mate First Class George Charette. All the crew members received the Medal of Honor for this operation.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 87KB; 585 x 765 pixels


Medal of Honor citation of Gunner's Mate First Class George Charette (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 73):

"In connection with the sinking of the U.S.S. Merrimac at the entrance to the harbor of Santiago de Cuba, 2 June 1898. Despite heavy fire from the Spanish batteries, CHARETTE displayed extraordinary heroism throughout this operation."

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 10 May 2006