Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
The last man to leave his sinking ship, Rear Admiral Antrim and his sailors could only run for so long before being captured and imprisoned as POW. Faced with cruelty and brutality from guards everyday, Antrim stood up for his fellow POWs and was awarded the Medal of Honor for saving another’s life in the prison camp.
Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Rear Admiral Richard Nott Antrim was born on December 17th, 1907 in Peru, Indiana. After enlisting in the U.S. Naval reserve, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated in 1931. He then served as a fire control officer aboard multiple battleships, and attended flight school.
In 1938, at 29 years old, Antrim was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet and served as the executive officer on the USS Bittern, a minesweeper, and then as the executive officer on the USS Pope, a destroyer.
On February 19th, 1942, USS Pope took part in the two-day Battle of Badung Strait, for which Antrim received the Navy Cross. A week later, a combined Allied fleet, including the Pope, failed to escape the Imperial Japanese Navy’s cordon around the island of Java. USS Pope survived an attack from Japanese ships, but aircraft caused her to sink. Antrim helped evacuate all the sailors, and the crew evaded capture for three days, but were eventually found by a Japanese ship and then imprisoned in a POW camp in Makassar on the Celebes islands, part of the Dutch East Indies.
Two months into their imprisonment, then-Lieutenant Antrim witnessed a Japanese guard relentlessly clubbing a helpless prisoner, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Allan Fisher. Antrim stepped in, convincing the guard to stop, but his intervention attracted the attention of the camp’s commanders. The prison staff joined in, and began to whip Fisher while he was unconscious. Antrim commanded them to stop and volunteered to take the rest of the punishment, stunning the guards and leading to reduced torture and punishments at the camp.
Later during his imprisonment, Antrim was charged by the guards to oversee the construction of trenches for protection against air raids. He secretly built them in a pattern that would be identifiable to Allied pilots, potentially saving the POWs from bombing. In August 1945, after two and a half years at the camp, Antrim was repatriated to the U.S.
Two years later on January 30th, 1947, Antrim was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House by President Truman for his actions to save his fellow sailor from being beaten to death. He also received the Bronze Star with a V-device for Valor for constructing the trenches in a pattern recognizable to Allied pilots. His other awards include the Purple Heart, the Navy Cross, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Prisoner of War Medal.
Antrim continued his career commanding the destroyer USS Turner and the attack transport Montrose. He also served in Washington under the Chief of Naval Operations.
Antrim retired from the Navy, and passed away in 1969 at 61 years old. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Medal of Honor Podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our producer and engineer, León Pescador is our script writer, Declan Rohrs is our script editor and recording engineer, and I’m Ken Harbaugh.
We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, got to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.