​August 31, 1943: The U.S.S. Harmon Is Commissioned

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The USS Harmon was the 1st U.S. Navy warship to be named after a black person. The USS Harmon (DE-678) was a Buckley-class destroyer escort of the United States Navy. 

USS Harmon was named after Mess Attendant Leonard Roy Harmon, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on the USS San Francisco during the battle of Guadalcanal.

Harmon was launched July 25, 1943 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Massachusetts; sponsored by Mrs. Nau-nita Harmon Carroll, mother of Mess Attendant Harmon; and commissioned August 31, 1943, Lt. Comdr. Kendall E. Read in command. After shakedown out of Bermuda, Harmon departed Norfolk on November 7, 1943, and transited the Panama Canal to take up duty with the 3rd Fleet.

Arriving Nouméa on December 25, she remained in that area serving as escort ship until September 18, 1944, when she proceeded to Pearl Harbor for overhaul and training.

Leonard Roy Harmon was a African-American sailor who died in action during World War II and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his valor. While serving, he became a Mess Attendant First Class and was serving aboard the USS San Francisco (CA-38) when on November 12, 1942 he was killed in action.

During the course of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal he was assigned to assist pharmacist’s mate Lyndford Bondsteel in caring for the wounded.

While doing so he deliberately interposed himself between Bondsteel and enemy gunfire in order to protect his shipmate. This action resulted in his death.

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