[Congressional Record Volume 142, Number 15 (Monday, February 5, 1996)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E165-E166]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                            HON. CURT WELDON

                            of pennsylvania

                    in the house of representatives

                       Thursday, February 1, 1996

  Mr. WELDON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I am saddened today to bring 
to your attention the recent passing of Frederick Julian Becton, a 
retired Rear Admiral of the United States Navy. A true hero, Admiral 
Becton demonstrated his courage and mettle many times over throughout 
his 35 years of military service.
  A World War II hero, Admiral Becton passed away in his hometown of 
Wynnewood, PA, on Christmas Eve at the age of 87. No episode better 
portrays Admiral Becton's tenacity and bravery than when he refused to 
abandon his ship during one of the most punishing attacks of the war. 
Admiral Becton was later awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary 
heroism as Commander of the USS LAFFEY in action against Japanese 
forces off Okinawa, on April 16, 1945 . . . with his ship under savage 
attack by 30 hostile planes.''
  I would like to submit for the Record an article that appeared on 
December 26, 1995 in the Philadelphia Inquirer regarding Admiral 
Becton. When you read this article, I am sure that you too will come to 
understand what a fine gentleman and hero that America has lost. I know 
that my colleagues join me today in mourning the passing of Admiral 
Becton, an American hero.

                      F. Becton, Navy Hero in WWII

                            (By Larry Fish)

       Frederick Julian Becton, a retired rear admiral who was 
     awarded the Navy Cross for refusing to give up his ship after 
     one of the most punishing attacks of World War II, died 
     Sunday in Wynnewood at age 87.
       A native of Arkansas and a 1931 graduate of the U.S. Naval 
     Academy, Adm. Becton was a lieutenant when the war broke out. 
     He was to see action in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters and 
     would win many decorations and medals for his exploits.
       The most dramatic came in April 1945, when the destroyer 
     USS Laffey, commanded by Adm. Becton, was off Okinawa on 
     radar picket duty.
       The Laffey was a relatively new ship but had already been 
     bloodied--in June 1944, when it supported the D-Day invasion 
     of Normandy and participated in the bombardment of Cherbourg, 
     France. Among its scars from that engagement was an 
     unexploded 8-inch shell lodged in the superstructure.
       By this late stage of the war, the Japanese had begun to 
     expand the use of Kamikaze attacks, the suicidal crashing of 
     armed planes into Allied ships.
       For the Laffey, the attack began shortly after sunrise 
     April 16 with a formation of four planes. The kamikazes split 
     up to make it more difficult for the crew to keep guns 
     trained on them, and the assault was on.
       It was to last 79 minutes, and eventually, 22 planes drew a 
     bead on the Laffey. Adm. Becton, wearing a steel helmet and 
     life vest, stood in the open to better see the action.
       Planes seemed to come from every direction and altitude, he 
     said in an Inquirer interview shortly before the 50th 
     anniversary of the battle this year.
       Though the Laffey's gunners and those from nearby craft 
     were aided by U.S. warplanes, some of the kamikaze inevitably 
     found their mark.
       ``Each time one crashed, there was always a flood of 
     gasoline from the plane--and one hell of a fire,'' Adm. 
     Becton told The Inquirer.
       The guns took out at least eight of the planes, but five 
     hit the destroyer, jamming its rudder and spreading fire 
       ``Near the end of the action, one of my officers, Frank 
     Mason, came to me and said, `Captain, we're in pretty bad 
     shape aft. Do you think you'll have to abandon ship?'
       ``It never entered my mind to abandon ship. The ship might 
     sink under us. We might not be able to sail her. But I wasn't 
     going to abandon her.
       ``So I said, `No, Frank, I'll never abandon ship as long as 
     a gun will fire.' ''
       Thirty-one crew members died, and the Laffey had to be 
     towed to Seattle, where a newspaper reported that it was 
     ``riddled like a sieve above the water line.''
       The citation for the Navy Cross praised Adm. Becton's 
     ``extraordinary herosim'' in keeping his ship afloat and in 
       He was promoted to captain in 1951 and to rear admiral in 
     1959, and was assigned to the Bureau of Naval Personnel and 
     other posts. When he retired in 1966, he and his wife, the 
     former Elizabeth Hilary Reuss, moved to her hometown of 
       He wrote a book on his experience--The Ship That Would Not 
     Die--and kept in touch with many former crew members.
       He is also survived by two daughters, Hilary Becton Wagner 
     and Julie Bradford Becton.
[[Page E166]]

       A viewing will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 3 at Ardmore 
     Presbyterian Church, Montgomery Avenue and Mill Creek Road; a 
     service will follow at 11 a.m. Burial will be 11 a.m. Jan. 4 
     at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.