Be Inspired By The Eagle Scout Who Earned Four Navy Crosses & The Medal of Honor During World War II
They Called Him "Lucky" But His Success Was Due To These Five Leadership Traits
By JF Murphy
January 16, 2018
Eugene “Lucky” Fluckey was an incredible leader and a true American hero. He received the Medal of Honor as well as four Navy Crosses for actions while commanding the USS Barb, the submarine that sank the most Japanese shipping in World War II.
Fluckey personifies every one of the INVICTA leadership trait, but he is an especially great example of valor, initiative, curiosity, tenacity and accountability.
Eugene "Lucky" Fluckey. (above).
The USS Barb, sailing into harm's way. (above).
Without a doubt, Fluckey was mentally, morally and physically courageous. It takes guts to seal yourself up in a tin can and swim beneath enemy ships. Fluckey not only did that repeatedly, he inspired others to a sense of valor by his persistent example.
Battle pennant of the USS Barb.
A sense of initiative is indispensable to effective submarine command, where the ship and crew operate for long periods out of communication with more senior leadership.
Fluckey’s greatest example of initiative was when he sent a small crew to set demolitions on a train route on the coast of the Japanese home islands, leading to the destruction of a sixteen car train. Fluckey picked unmarried men who had been Boy Scouts for this mission, because he knew they would show initiative themselves and should be able to navigate if they got lost.
This was the sole landing by U.S. military forces on the Japanese home islands during World War II!
The USS Barb rescuing aviators who were downed at sea (above).
Fluckey was a life-long student, constantly questioning the best way to do the job at hand and always pushing his gear and technology to do more.
For example, he invented the “night convoy attack from astern”, which he labeled the “Barbarian Attack”, a new way to approach, target and sink more enemy ships that was extremely effective and adopted throughout the Fleet.
The Japanese carrier Un'yo, which the Barb sank in 1944.
The most successful submarine commanders were tenacious, doggedly pursuing convoys and returning to them to do more damage. Fluckey’s second of four Navy Crosses praised him for “pursuing aggressive and tenacious tactics despite strong countermeasures by the enemy, [and for launching] damaging torpedo attacks against Japanese shipping and combatant units to sink a 10,000-ton auxiliary aircraft carrier and to damage a tanker of 5,000 tons.”
James Howard defending the B-17's (above).
At the end of the day, Fluckey knew the source of his leadership success – the valor and faithfulness of his crews. He showed a sense of accountability in accepting the Medal Of Honor on behalf of his men.
The Barb's crew, holding their pennant.(above).
Of course, Fluckey showed Integrity and Nobility throughout his life and career and we would not want to short change his legacy in these areas. But we wanted to focus on the other five traits and Fluckey’s was a perfect example of each of them.
Fluckey went on to a long Naval career before retiring from active duty as a Rear Admiral in 1972. He wrote about his World War II exploits in Thunder Below! Which won the 1993 Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature.
Fluckey continued serving others with his second wife, Margaret, running an orphanage in Portugal for many years, before passing away in 2007 at age 93. Fluckey is buried at the United States Naval Academy cemetery.
Fluckey is a tremendous example to young sailors today, who know that, despite his nickname, Fluckey’s success was due more to effective leadership than mere luck.
Medal of Honor Citation
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Barb during her 11th war patrol along the east coast of China from 19 December 1944 to 15 February 1945.
After sinking a large enemy ammunition ship and damaging additional tonnage during a running 2-hour night battle on 8 January, Comdr. Fluckey, in an exceptional feat of brilliant deduction and bold tracking on 25 January, located a concentration of more than 30 enemy ships in the lower reaches of Nankuan Chiang (Mamkwan Harbor).
Fully aware that a safe retirement would necessitate an hour's run at full speed through the uncharted, mined, and rock-obstructed waters, he bravely ordered, "Battle station — torpedoes!" In a daring penetration of the heavy enemy screen, and riding in 5 fathoms [9 m] of water, he launched the Barb's last forward torpedoes at 3,000 yard [2.7 km] range.
Quickly bringing the ship's stern tubes to bear, he turned loose 4 more torpedoes into the enemy, obtaining 8 direct hits on 6 of the main targets to explode a large ammunition ship and cause inestimable damage by the resultant flying shells and other pyrotechnics.
Clearing the treacherous area at high speed, he brought the Barb through to safety and 4 days later sank a large Japanese freighter to complete a record of heroic combat achievement, reflecting the highest credit upon Comdr. Fluckey, his gallant officers and men, and the U.S. Naval Service.