George Street, USS Tirante (SS-420)

LCDR George Street – Medal of Honor Submariner

George StreetWhile on its first war patrol, the USS Tirante (SS-420), commanded by Lieutenant Commander George Street, made the fateful decision to enter enemy-held Cheju harbor on Quelpart Island (Jeju, South Korea) on the night of April 14, 1945.  Fully aware of the great risks he was taking in a shallow harbor that included mines, armed combatants, and surface radar, Street slid the Tirante quietly into the harbor. There, at anchor, he found the 4000-ton Japanese merchant ship Juzan Maru.  After firing two torpedoes into the transport ship filled with ammunition, Street reported in his logbook that “A great mushroom of white blinding flame shot 2,000 feet into the air. Not a sound was heard for a moment, but then a tremendous roar flattened our ears against our heads. The jackpot, and no mistake!” Illuminated by the huge column of flames, two Japanese Mikura-class frigates got underway to attack the American intruder.  Street deftly turned his Tench-class submarine about and headed for the harbor’s exit.  With the ships rapidly approaching, Street’s men fired aft torpedoes and sank both of the pursuing frigates.  Reaching the 10-fathom line at flank speed, the Tirante slipped under the waves and escaped.

Street’s first patrol in the Tirante, capped by his bold actions in Cheju harbor, earned a Presidential Unit Citation for his boat and the Medal of Honor for himself.  Street would later say that he treasured the Presidential Unit Citation more than the Medal of Honor “because every man was there with us.”

Street would make one more patrol in the Tirante before war’s end and the sub would be credited with 8 sunk Japanese vessels totaling 15,886 tons.

Image of the Nomi, a Mikura-class Japanese destroyer of the kind sunk by George Street in 1945.

Street was a native of Richmond, Virginia and a 1937 graduate of the United States Naval Academy.  After passing away in 2000, Street was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

Medal of Honor Citation

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Tirante during the first war patrol of that vessel against enemy Japanese surface forces in the harbor of Quelpart Island, off the coast of Korea, on 14 April 1945. With the crew at surface battle stations, Comdr. (then Lt. Comdr.) Street approached the hostile anchorage from the south within 1,200 yards of the coast to complete a reconnoitering circuit of the island. Leaving the 10-fathom curve far behind he penetrated the mined and shoal-obstructed waters of the restricted harbor despite numerous patrolling vessels and in defiance of 5 shore-based radar stations and menacing aircraft. Prepared to fight it out on the surface if attacked, Comdr. Street went into action, sending 2 torpedoes with deadly accuracy into a large Japanese ammunition ship and exploding the target in a mountainous and blinding glare of white flames. With the Tirante instantly spotted by the enemy as she stood out plainly in the flare of light, he ordered the torpedo data computer set up while retiring and fired his last 2 torpedoes to disintegrate in quick succession the leading frigate and a similar flanking vessel. Clearing the gutted harbor at emergency full speed ahead, he slipped undetected along the shoreline, diving deep as a pursuing patrol dropped a pattern of depth charges at the point of submergence. His illustrious record of combat achievement during the first war patrol of the Tirante characterizes Comdr. Street as a daring and skilled leader and reflects the highest credit upon himself, his valiant command, and the U.S. Naval Service.

USS TiranteUSS Tirante (SS-420) returning from her second war patrol off Guam on 19 July 1945. The photo is signed by Lt. Comdr. George L. Street III. (Ron & Charles Wallis/Naval History & Heritage Command)

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