Commander Arthur M. Preston, USNR, (1913-1968)

Arthur Murray Preston was born on 1 November 1913 in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Yale University and the University of Virginia, he practiced law in Washington D.C. before enlisting in the U.S. Navy's V-7 Program as an Apprentice Seaman from Maryland in September 1940. He completed training at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School at Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois and was commissioned an Ensign in March 1941. Following a brief tour with Motor Boat Submarine Chaser Squadron One, he received additional training at the U.S. Naval Torpedo School, Newport Rhode Island and at Packard Marine Engine School at Detroit, Michigan. In August, Preston was assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron One at Hawaii and was with his squadron when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December. In June 1942, he was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade and to Lieutenant that December. In July 1943, he returned to the U.S. and instructed at Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Four at Newport, Rhode Island.

In October 1943, Preston assumed command of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Thirty-Three and joined the Seventh Fleet's Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons within the Aitape-Wewak area. Accompanied by PT 363 on 16 September 1944, he departed in PT 489 and rushed through 60 miles of heavily mined waters to rescue Ensign Harold A. Thompson, a Navy pilot from the escort carrier USS Santee shot down in Wasile Bay, near Halmahera Island. Twice turned back due to intense Japanese fire, PT 363 picked-up Thompson and both boats returned at high speed back to safety. For his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity" on this occasion, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

In the Fall of 1944, Preston's squadron helped to prepare for the landings at the Battle of Leyte Gulf and at the Battle of Surigao Strait. That December, he became the Senior Squadron Commander, Motor Torpedo Boats at the Philippine Islands and Operations Officer for all PTs in the Leyte area. In the late Winter and early Spring of 1945, he participated in the various landings within the Southern Visayas of the Philippine Islands. Returning to the U.S. in May, he served as the Aide and Flag Secretary to the Commandant of the Fifth Naval District at Norfolk, Virginia. In July, he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. That November, he was released from active duty and resumed his prior military career as a lawyer in Washington, D.C. while also remaining in the inactive reserves. In November 1953, he was transferred to the retired list and promoted to Commander due to his combat awards. Arthur M. Preston died on 7 January 1968 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

This page features the only image we have concerning Arthur M. Preston.

Photo #: NH 106427

Lieutenant Arthur M. Preston, USNR

Halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 246.
Arthur M. Preston was awarded the Medal of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity" while serving as Commander of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Thirty-Three that rescued Ensign Harold A. Thompson, a Navy Pilot from the escort carrier USS Santee, who was shot down in Wasile Bay, Halmahera Island on 16 September 1944.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 45KB; 580 x 765 pixels


Medal of Honor citation of Lieutenant Arthur Murray Preston, USNR (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 246):

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commander Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THIRTY-THREE while effecting the rescue of a Navy Pilot shot down in Wasile Bay, Halmahera Island, less than 200 yards from a strongly defended Japanese dock and supply area, 16 September 1944. Volunteering for a perilous mission unsuccessfully attempted by the pilot's squadron mates and a PBY plane, Lieutenant Commander (then Lieutenant) Preston led PT 489 and PT 363 through 60 miles of restricted, heavily mined waters. Twice turned back while running the gantlet of fire from powerful costal defense guns guarding the 11-mile strait at the entrance to the bay, he was again turned back by furious fire in the immediate area of the downed airman. Aided by an aircraft smoke screen, he finally succeeded in reaching his objective and, under vicious fire delivered at 150-yard range, took the pilot aboard and cleared the area, sinking a small hostile cargo vessel with 40-mm. fire during retirement. Increasingly vulnerable when covering aircraft were forced to leave due to insufficient fuel, Lieutenant Commander Preston raced PT boats 489 and 363 at high speed for 20 minutes through shell-splashed water and across minefields to safety. Under continuous fire for 2 1/2 hours, Lieutenant Commander Preston successfully achieved a mission considered suicidal in its tremendous hazards, and brought his boats through without personnel casualties and with but superficial damage from shrapnel. His exceptional daring and great valor enhance the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

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