Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Koelsch, John Kelvin

Koelsch, John Kelvin

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Lieutenant (Junior Grade), USN, (1923-1951)

John Kelvin Koelsch was born on 22 December 1923 in London, England. He joined the Naval Reserve as an Aviation Cadet in September 1942 and was commissioned as an Ensign in October 1944 after completing flight training. During the next few years, he served in Composite Squadron 15 and in two torpedo squadrons. In August 1950, Lt(jg) Koelsch joined Helicopter Squadron One (HU-1) and was Officer in Charge of the helicopter detachment of USS Princeton (CV-37) during her 1950-51 Korean War deployment. In June 1951, he moved to Helicopter Squadron Two (HU-2), based at Wonsan, North Korea, for pilot rescue duty.


On 3 July 1951, while attempting to rescue an injured flyer, his helicopter was hit by enemy gunfire and crashed. Koelsch, his crewman and the rescued pilot survived the crash and hid from the surrounding enemy for nine days before they were captured. As a prisoner of war, Lt(jg) Koelsch exhibited great bravery and inspired his companions with his "fortitude and consideration for others". He died of malnutrition and dysentery while a captive on 16 October 1951. In August 1955, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) John Kelvin Koelsch was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his Korean War heroism.


USS Koelsch (DE-1049, later FF-1049) was named in honor of Lt(jg) Koelsch.


This page features our only view of John Kelvin Koelsch.