Critical to the American victory at the Battle of Midway, fought 74 years ago today, were the heroic actions of the submarine USS Nautilus, as chronicled in my book The Search for the Japanese Fleet. The commander of the famous submarine was Lt. Cdr. William H. Brockman, Jr.
William Brockman was born November 18, 1904, in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Class of 1927. During the Battle of Midway, Brockman led Nautilus and the attack on the Japanese fleet from his position in the conning tower as the approach officer. His leadership, competence, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy were recognized with the award of the Navy Cross, the highest honor the Navy can bestow, topped only by the Medal of Honor (awarded by the President in the name of Congress). The citation reads:
“The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Commander William Herman Brockman, Jr., United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of USS Nautilus (SS-168), in the Battle of Midway. On 4 June 1942, Lieutenant Commander Brockman aggressively developed a contact with major enemy forces and doggedly pushed home a torpedo attack on a screened aircraft carrier against determined and repeated enemy counter measures by gunfire barrage, depth charging and bombing from the air. The attack culminated successfully and Lieutenant Commander Brockman is credited with closing and sinking of a 10,000 ton enemy aircraft carrier. His skill, determination, courage and fortitude were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Naval Service.”
He won two more Navy Crosses and a Silver Star for further exploits as commander of Nautilus, including sinking of enemy ships, transporting of troops, and evacuation of civilians from enemy occupied territory. William Brockman departed on eternal patrol from Boca Raton, Florida, January 2, 1979, at the age of seventy-four.