Coast Guard Heroes: Rollin A. Fritch

The Coast Guard Compass was proud to unveil the first 14 heroes the service’s new fast response cutters would be named for and we are even prouder to share the next 10 names with you in a continuation of our Coast Guard Heroes series. Over the next two weeks we’ll be sharing profiles of the namesakes of the Coast Guard’s fast response cutters, from legends of the U.S. Life-Saving Service to courageous men who served during the Vietnam War. Today, we share with you the story of Rollin A. Fritch.

USS Callaway on Sept. 18, 1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

USS Callaway on Sept. 18, 1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Written by Christopher Havern.

The transport ship USS Callaway was off the coast of Luzon, in the Philippine Islands on Jan. 8, 1945, when desperate Japanese kamikaze attacks were launched in a determined effort to break up the landings. Eventually a suicide plane broke through heavy antiaircraft fire to crash on the starboard wing of Callaway ‘s bridge. Cool and skillful work against resulting fires kept material damage to a minimum and one of the men who sprung into action that day was Seaman First Class Rollin A. Fritch.

Japanese kamikaze aircraft are under heavy fire as they attack U.S. ships in January 1945. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Japanese kamikaze aircraft are under heavy fire as they attack U.S. ships in January 1945. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Fritch served as a member of a gun crew aboard Callaway and manned his station aggressively when the Japanese kamikaze aircraft attacked the vessel. He unhesitatingly relinquished all chance of escape as the plane plunged toward the target and remained steadfastly at his gun. He continued to direct his fire with unrelenting fury upon the enemy until carried away with his weapon by the terrific impact.

Ultimately, 29 of Callaway ‘s crew were killed and 22 wounded. With indomitable fighting spirit and unyielding devotion to duty in the valiant defense of his ship he gallantly gave his life for his country. For his heroic and selfless actions in the face of the enemy, Fritch was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

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