Selma should honor Medal of Honor winner

Published 7:51pm Sunday, February 23, 2014

I received a reminder this past week of the Confederate submarine CSA H. L. Hunley mission 150 years ago. It occurred on the night of Feb. 17, 1864. The Hunley’s 8-man crew hand cranked off the South Carolina coast on a mission to break the Union blockade around Charleston.

The Union Navy was strangling the Confederacy and the Hunley’s intent was to alleviate the unacceptable condition.

The Hunley was built in Mobile and transported to Charleston. The mission was historic in that it was the first submarine to sink an enemy warship.

Not only did it sink the Union warship Housatonic on that fateful night, but the Hunley mysteriously disappeared too. The crew nor the submarine was heard from until a recent discovery in 1995 and recovery in 2000 of the wreckage. Since then, a lab in North Charleston has poured over the Hunley trying to determine just what happened.

The Hunley attached a black powder charge that detonated to the Housatonic killing five Union sailors and sinking the ship. According to the latest findings, the explosion occurred while the Hunley was within 20 feet of the Housatonic rendering the crew unconscious and probably leading to their death.

Brave men were they all since two other Hunley crews had perished in accidents before the Charleston mission. They went knowing full well their odds of returning were not so good.

It brought to mind another submarine story with roots in Selma. The heroic story of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Commander Howard Walter Gilmore and the USS Growler (SS-215).

Remarkably, a prominent feature or structure around Selma remains unnamed in honor of Gilmore. Except for a small bronze plaque at Memorial Stadium bearing his name and brief biography, you might never know the WWII hero claimed Selma as his birthplace.

For the past five years I have tried in vain to rectify this grievous oversight and obvious slight of a true American hero to no avail. I cannot imagine how you could become anymore deserving than to lay down your life for your men and ultimately your country.

The facts and testimonies back up Gilmore’s claim to immortality and he was presented the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions to prove it.

There is a new bridge being constructed over Valley Creek that could be named as a memorial to Gilmore. It would take a resolution by our state senator or state representative, passed by the Legislature, to make it happen.

I call upon our legislative delegation, The Selma Times-Journal, all veterans, and all patriots in Selma to support the Commander Howard W. Gilmore Memorial Bridge effort.

Selma advertises itself as a historic city embracing “Civil War to Civil Rights and Beyond.” This is certainly a piece of that history worthy of advertising.

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