« BACK TO RECIPIENT LISTING

John Mihalowski

Born in 1910 or 1911, Milahowski enlisted from his home state of Massachusetts and trained as a diver, serving with the Experimental  Diving Unit and then as a crew member on the USS Falcon.

He played an important role in rescuing survivors from the sinking of the submarine USS Sailfish (originally called the Squalus) in 243 feet of water during test dives, and during the subsequent salvage of the submarine. Although 26 men drowned in the initial flooding of the submarine, Mihalowski and others were able to rescue 33 survivors and later raise the sub for study. Using new technology and medical knowledge, the divers also contributed to scientific advances in confirming Behnke's theory of nitrogen narcosis. He received the Medal of Honor along with three other Navy divers.

During World War II, he took part in rescue and salvage operations on six ships exploded in Pearl Harbor, and again, as executive officer aboard the USS Shackle, during the battle of Okinawa in 1945. After the war, he participated in harbor clearance in Japan and in salvage work after the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests.

He transferred to Fleet Reserve in 1948 but was returned to active duty in 1950, reinstated as Lieutenant and assigned to the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, D.C. He retired as a Lieutenant Commander in 1954. He died in 1983.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession during the rescue and salvage operations following the sinking of the USS Squalus on 23 May 1939. Mihalowski, as a member of the rescue chamber crew, made the last extremely hazardous trip of the rescue chamber to attempt the rescue of any possible survivors in the flooded after portion of the Squalus. He was fully aware of the great danger involved, in that, if he and the other member of the crew became incapacitated, there was no way in which either could be rescued. During the salvage operations Mihalowski made important and difficult dives under the most hazardous conditions. His outstanding performance of duty contributed much to the success of the operations and characterizes conduct far above and beyond the ordinary call of duty.