They Were Expendable

They Were Expendable

How Many Remember Watching John Wayne In The Movie “They Were Expendable”

Although a work of fiction the screenplay was loosely based in fact:

John D. Bulkeley was one of the most decorated naval officers of World War Two. Bulkeley received the Medal of Honor for actions in the Pacific Theater during the war. He was also the PT boat skipper who evacuated General Douglas MacArthur from Corregidor in the Philippines and commanded a PT- Boat Squadron at the Battle of La Ciotat.

At the dawn of World War II, Bulkeley was a lieutenant in command of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three, a Philippine-based detachment of six motor torpedo boats. He hit his stride as a daring, resourceful and courageous leader. He picked up General Douglas MacArthur, his family, and his immediate staff, who had been ordered to flee the Philippines, and took them aboard PT 41 and other 77-foot motor torpedo boats through over 600 nautical miles of open ocean. On arriving at Mindanao, MacArthur said, “You have taken me out of the jaws of death. I shall never forget it.”

Bulkeley earned many of his array of decorations while in command of that squadron and a subsequent one.

In 1944, he took part in the Normandy invasion. Bulkeley led torpedo boats and minesweepers in clearing the lanes to Utah Beach, keeping German E-boats from attacking the landing ships along the Mason Line, and picking up wounded sailors from the sinking minesweeper USS Tide (AM-125), destroyer escort USS Rich (DE-695), and destroyer USS Corry (DD-463).

As invasion operations wound down, he received command of his first large ship, the destroyer USS Endicott (DD-495). One month after D-Day, he came to the aid of two British gunboats under attack by two German corvettes. Charging in with only one gun working, he engaged both enemy vessels at point-blank range, sinking both. When asked, he explained, “What else could I do? You engage, you fight, you win. That is the reputation of our Navy, then and in the future.”

Citation of Merit .. Medal of Honor


Rank and organization: Lieutenant Commander,
Commander of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Philippine waters, 7 December 1941 to 10 April 1942.
Entered service at: Texas.
Born: 19 August 1911, New York, N.Y.
Other awards: Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit.

For extraordinary heroism, distinguished service, and conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty as commander of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3, in Philippine waters during the period 7 December 1941 to 10 April 1942.
The remarkable achievement of Lt. Comdr. Bulkeley’s command in damaging or destroying a notable number of Japanese enemy planes, surface combatant and merchant ships, and in dispersing landing parties and land-based enemy forces during the 4 months and 8 days of operation without benefit of repairs, overhaul, or maintenance facilities for his squadron, is believed to be without precedent in this type of warfare.

His dynamic forcefulness and daring in offensive action, his brilliantly planned and skillfully executed attacks, supplemented by a unique resourcefulness and ingenuity, characterize him as an outstanding leader of men and a gallant and intrepid seaman.

These qualities coupled with a complete disregard for his own personal safety reflect great credit upon him and the Naval Service.