How Howard W. Gilmore, commander of the USS Growler, earned the Medal of Honor in WW2

Today is the 80th anniversary of a very brave, self-sacrificial act that is well known by all American submariners. The story I talk about below occurred on February 7th, 1943, when America was at war against Japanese imperialists. It took place aboard the USS Growler, a Gato-class submarine. The hero of the story is Commander Howard W. Gilmore. Let’s take a look.

My first brush with the story of the Growler occurred when I was very young, and was playing a game called “Gato” (made by Spectrum Holobyte) on the Macintosh computer that my parents bought for my older brother. In the game, you played as the commander of the USS Growler. COMSUBPAC (Commander of Submarines in the Pacific) would send me missions, and I would execute them. I was able to find an online version that ran in Microsoft’s Edge browser on

So, here is an article from the Submarine Force Museum about the USS Growler and Commander Howard W. Gilmore.

It says:

Howard Walter Gilmore was born in Selma, Alabama on September 29, 1902. He enlisted in the Navy on November 15, 1920 and was appointed to the US Naval Academy in 1922. In 1926 he was sent to his first station on the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41). By 1930, Gilmore was seeking something new and exciting and underwent submarine training in New London.

[…]By March of 1942, construction of the Growler was finished, and Gilmore and his crew would operate out of Pearl Harbor in the Pacific theater.

Their first war patrol would come in late June 1942 in the Aleutian Islands. During this patrol, Gilmore once again narrowly escaped disaster, avoiding two torpedoes that were fired at him during an attack by three Japanese destroyers. In August, they would leave for their second patrol in the East China Sea near Taiwan. During what would end up being Growler’s most successful war patrol, they sunk four merchant ships totaling 15,000 tons. Her third patrol was quiet, and she would remain in Brisbane, Australia for the rest of 1942.

The Growler and her crew left Brisbane on New Year’s Day 1943 for her fourth war patrol. Her mission was to target Japanese shipping lanes in the Bismarck Archipelago. In early February, while charging her batteries on the surface, Gilmore spotted a provision ship and prepared for a surface attack. The 900-ton provision ship Hayasaki saw the on-coming submarine and attempted to ram the Growler. In the darkness, Gilmore “sounded the collision alarm and shouted, ‘Left full rudder!’-to no avail.

Perhaps inadvertently, Growler hit the Japanese adversary amidships at 17 knots, heeling the submarine 50 degrees, bending sideways 18 feet of her the bow, and disabling the forward torpedo tubes.” The Japanese crew began firing at the bridge, killing the assistant officer and a lookout who were on deck. Gilmore and two other men were also wounded during the burst of gun fire. Gilmore, without thinking, called for the bridge to be cleared. Gilmore realized that if they dove, the Growler could be saved, but there was no time for him to make it below. Despite this, he gave the call to “Take her down!”

LCDR Arnold Schade, shaken and unsure, followed the last order his captain would ever give him. Schade would surface the ship a few hours later but found no sign of the Hayasaki. There was also no sign of Gilmore. Schade and the crew were able to keep the battered ship together long enough to make it back to Brisbane on February 17th. Gilmore’s death would unfortunately not be the only tragedy for the Growler. On her 11th war patrol in 1944, she was lost at sea. By her end, The Growler received eight battle stars for her role in the Pacific War.

CDR Howard Gilmore was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice to save his ship.

Whenever I see that someone has earned a Medal of Honor – the highest military award that can be given – I always look up their Medal of Honor citation.

Here is Gilmore’s.

There’s a good episode of “The Silent Service” about Gilmore:

As a Christian, I try to make the words of the Bible more practical by reading stories that parallel some of the teachings of Jesus. In this case, Gilmore is pretty clearly living out that command to “love your neighbor as yourself” and “in humility consider others more important than yourselves” and “greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”. What’s interesting to me about this story is that it’s not an enlisted man or a lower officer who is doing it, it’s the Commander of the boat.

If you’re at all interested in getting started in learning military history, a good place to start is with the American submarine commanders in the Pacific. The enemy we fought was very clearly evil, and treated civilians and prisoners horribly. They attacked us first at Pearl Harbor. I have found the commanders to be mostly men of extraordinary intelligence and character. I especially recommend the books “Wahoo” and “Clear the Bridge!” by Richard O’Kane, and “Thunder Below” by Eugene Fluckey. Right now, I am reading Charles Lockwood’s “Sink ‘Em All”. Those can all be obtained as audio books, too. I just got “Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War against Japan” in the mail.

If you like board games, there is a good board game called “Silent Victory”, but it’s out of print. The manufacturer is trying to collect 500 orders in order to do a third printing. If you prefer computer games, “Crash Dive 2” puts you in command of a Gato-class submarine, and it’s not too complicated.

What’s in an apologetics book? A review of “God’s Crime Scene” by J. Warner Wallace

One of the best introductory books on the existence of God is Detective J. Warner Wallace’s “God’s Crime Scene”. The book provides a good overview of all of the areas that suggest an intelligent agent at work in the natural world. I found a good review of the book over at Luke Nix’s “Faithful Thinkers” blog.

The book begins with an introductory chapter explaining what’s in the book, then an opening statement explaining (without taking sides) how we can investigate whether or not there is a Creator and Designer of the universe. The next 8 chapters talk about 8 areas where we can investigate:

  1. the origin of the universe
  2. evidence for design in the universe
  3. the origin of life
  4. the presence of information in the cell
  5. our awareness of consciousness
  6. our experience of free will
  7. objective human value and objective moral duties
  8. the reality of evil in the world

I’ll just grab a couple of paragraphs on a couple of those points from Luke’s review:

Chapter 1: In the Beginning

Wallace’s first piece of evidence that appears to not have an explanation inside the universe is the universe’s beginning. He presents a diverse set of arguments for the beginning of the universe. These include the philosophical evidence of the impossibility of infinite regresses, theoretical evidence of mathematics and physics, observational evidence from astronomy, thermal evidence provided by the second law of thermodynamics, quantitative evidence in the abundance of helium, and evidence of the cosmic background radiation. All these used together provide powerful evidence of the beginning of the universe, and since everything that begins to exist, must have a cause, the universe must have had a cause outside itself too.

Chapter 2: Tampering with the Evidence

The foundational conditions of the universe that allow for life’s existence include the physical laws governing the atom, the matter of the universe, and the creation of chemicals. The next layer (regional) moves closer to home: our galaxy and solar system. The shape, position, and size of our galaxy make it habitable for life; while our sun’s position, age, mass, and composition allow it to to host a planet fit for life. The third layer is the planet, itself. The earth’s relationship to the sun, atmosphere, terrestrial nature, and moon all play a role in making a place that is fit for life.

Chapter 5: Our Experience of Consciousness

In naturalistic worldviews it is common to believe that the brain and the mind are the same thing. Wallace explains that the only way that two things are the same is if they share all their attributes with no differences. He describes six attributes of the brain that are not shared by the mind. All of these distinctions build a powerful case for the two being completely different. He concludes that the brain is physical while the mind is non-physical and that the mind’s existence can only be explained “outside the room” of the universe being the product of another mind. He examines several attempts by naturalistic philosophers to explain the mind “inside the room” of the universe, but he shows how each of them fail to offer an adequate explanation.

Chapter 6: Free Will or Full Wiring

From a naturalistic perspective (one that holds there is no distinction between the mind and the brain) free will does not exist; it is an illusion much like the mind. If free will does actually exist, it points even more powerfully towards the existence of the mind, which must derive its origin from the supernatural, since it is supernatural itself. Wallace uses the concept of responsibility and the ability to choose other than we do to build his case for free will’s actual existence. Without the ability to chose something other than what we do, we cannot be held responsible, thus no one would be worthy of punishment (in the case of wrong-doing) or praise (in the case of doing right).

A while back I finished reading “God’s Crime Scene”, and I found something interesting in Chapter 6, on free will on p. 256:

In 2008, researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of British Columbia conducted experiments highlighting the relationship between a belief in determinism and immoral behavior. They found students who were exposed to deterministic literature prior to taking a test were more likely to cheat on the test than students who were not exposed to literature advocating determinism. The researchers concluded those who deny free will are more inclined to believe their efforts to act morally are futile and are, therefore, less likely to do so.

In addition, a study conducted by researchers from Florida State University and the University of Kentucky found participants who were exposed to deterministic literature were more likely to act aggressively and less likely to be helpful toward others.” Even determinist Michael Gazzaniga conceded: “It seems that not only do we believe we control our actions, but it is good for everyone to believe it.”” The existence of free will is a common characteristic of our experience, and when we deny we have this sort of free agency, there are detrimental consequences.

I decided to look up these studies.

Here’s the abstract for first study: (2008)

Does moral behavior draw on a belief in free will? Two experiments examined whether inducing participants to believe that human behavior is predetermined would encourage cheating. In Experiment 1, participants read either text that encouraged a belief in determinism (i.e., that portrayed behavior as the consequence of environmental and genetic factors) or neutral text. Exposure to the deterministic message increased cheating on a task in which participants could passively allow a flawed computer program to reveal answers to mathematical problems that they had been instructed to solve themselves. Moreover, increased cheating behavior was mediated by decreased belief in free will. In Experiment 2, participants who read deterministic statements cheated by overpaying themselves for performance on a cognitive task; participants who read statements endorsing free will did not. These findings suggest that the debate over free will has societal, as well as scientific and theoretical, implications.

And the abstract for the second study: (2009)

Laypersons’ belief in free will may foster a sense of thoughtful reflection and willingness to exert energy, thereby promoting helpfulness and reducing aggression, and so disbelief in free will may make behavior more reliant on selfish, automatic impulses and therefore less socially desirable. Three studies tested the hypothesis that disbelief in free will would be linked with decreased helping and increased aggression. In Experiment 1, induced disbelief in free will reduced willingness to help others. Experiment 2 showed that chronic disbelief in free will was associated with reduced helping behavior. In Experiment 3, participants induced disbelief in free will caused participants to act more aggressively than others. Although the findings do not speak to the existence of free will, the current results suggest that disbelief in free will reduces helping and increases aggression.

So what to make of this?

If you’re an atheist, then you are a physical object. And like every other physical object in the universe, your behavior is determined by genetic programming (if you’re alive) and external inputs. Material objects do not have the ability to make free choices, including moral choices.

Here’s prominent atheist Jerry Coyne’s editorial in USA Today to explain why atheists can’t ground free will.


And that’s what neurobiology is telling us: Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output. Recent experiments involving brain scans show that when a subject “decides” to push a button on the left or right side of a computer, the choice can be predicted by brain activity at least seven seconds before the subject is consciously aware of having made it. (These studies use crude imaging techniques based on blood flow, and I suspect that future understanding of the brain will allow us to predict many of our decisions far earlier than seven seconds in advance.) “Decisions” made like that aren’t conscious ones. And if our choices are unconscious, with some determined well before the moment we think we’ve made them, then we don’t have free will in any meaningful sense.

Atheist William Provine says atheists have no free will, no moral accountability and no moral significance:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.


If you don’t have free will, then you can’t make moral choices, and you can’t be held morally responsible. No free will means no morality. Can you imagine trying to get into any sort of enterprise with someone who has this view of moral choices? A marriage, or a business arrangement, etc? It would be crazy to expect them to behave morally, when they don’t even think that moral choices is possible. It just excuses all sorts of bad behavior, because no one is responsible for choosing to do the right thing.

Believers in materialism are going to struggle with prescriptive morality, including self-sacrificial care and concern for others. Their worldview undermines the rationality of the moral point of view. You might find atheists acting morally for their own purposes, but their worldview doesn’t rationally ground it. This is a big problem for people who can see objective morality woven into the universe – and themselves – because they have the awareness of objective right and wrong.

Choosing to do the right thing

I think what atheists like to say is “I can be moral, too”. That’s not interesting. What is interesting is whether it is rational for you to be moral when doing the right thing sets you back. When I look at the adultery of Dawkins, the polyamory of Carrier, the divorces of Shermer and Atkins, etc. I am not seeing anything that really wows me about their ability to do the right thing when it was hard for them to do it. They all deny free will of course, and think that trying to resist temptation is a waste of time.

Wallace explains how the awareness of free will and moral choices caused him to turn away from atheism, in this blog post.

He writes:

As an atheist, I chose to cling to naturalism, in spite of the fact that I lived each day as though I was capable of using my mind to make moral choices based on more than my own opinion. In addition, I sought meaning and purpose beyond my own hedonistic preferences, as though meaning was to be discovered, rather than created. I called myself a naturalist while embracing three characteristics of reality that simply cannot be explained by naturalism. As a Christian, I’m now able to acknowledge the “grounding” for these features of reality. My philosophical worldview is consistent with my practical experience of the world.

I think atheists who want to be honest about their own experience of first-person consciousness, free will, moral realism, etc. will do well to just accept that theism rationally grounds all of these things, and so you should accept theism. Theism is real. If you like morality, and want to be a virtuous person, then you should accept theism.

Frank Turek lectures on the case against same-sex marriage

About the speaker Frank Turek:

Dr. Frank Turek is a dynamic speaker and award-winning author or coauthor of four books: Stealing from God:  Why Atheists Need God to make their Case, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, Correct, Not Politically Correct and Legislating Morality. As the President of, Frank presents powerful and entertaining evidence for Christianity at churches, high schools and at secular college campuses that often begin hostile to his message. He has also debated several prominent atheists including Christopher Hitchens and David Silverman, president of American Atheists.

Frank hosts an hour-long TV program each week called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist that is broadcast Wednesday nights on DirecTV Channel 378 (the NRB Network). His radio program called CrossExamined with Frank Turek airs on 122 stations every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. eastern and is available continuously on the free CrossExamined App.

A former aviator in the US Navy, Frank has a master’s degree from the George Washington University and a doctorate from Southern Evangelical Seminary.  He and his wife, Stephanie, are blessed with three grown sons.

Frank Turek is one of my favorite speakers, and I admire him for being willing to take a public stand on controversial issues like gay marriage. He’s actually had to pay a price for that in his professional life, and I blogged about that before.

Here’s the lecture on gay marriage, featuring Christian apologist Frank Turek.


Outline of Frank Turek's lecture on same sex marriage
Outline of Frank Turek’s lecture on same sex marriage


  • how to present your case against marriage safely
  • Christians are required to go beyond tolerance
  • loving another person can mean opposing the person when they want to do something wrong, even if they hate you
  • what did Jesus say about marriage? (see Matt 19:4-6)
  • what did Jesus say about sexual morality? (Matt 15, Matt 19)


  • the same-sex marriage debate is about whether to compel people who disagree with the gay lifestyle to validate and normalize it
  • P1: the government has an interest in marriage because it perpetuates and stabilizes society – this is the purpose of marriage
  • P2-4: government can take 3 kinds of stances towards behaviors: promote, permit or prohibit
  • government promotes behaviors when it has an interest in them
  • same-sex relationships should be permitted, but not promoted
  • Q1: if same-sex marriage had serious negative consequences, would you reconsider their position?
  • Q2: are heterosexual relationships the same as homosexual relationships?
  • Q3: what would society be like if everyone married according to the natural marriage definition: one woman, one man, for life?
  • Q4: what would society be like if everyone married according to the same-sex marriage definition: man/man and woman/woman?
  • Should Christians care about law and politics? or should they just preach the gospel?
  • They should care because people often get their cues about what is moral and immoral based on what is legal and illegal
  • Many of the social problems we see today can be traced back to problems with marriage and family
  • Children do much better when they have a relationship with their mother and their father
  • Same-sex marriage necessarily destroys the relationship between a child and its mother or its father
  • When a country embraces same-sex marriage, it reinforces the idea that marriage is not about making and raising children
  • same-sex marriage shifts the focus away from the needs of the children to the feelings of desires of the selfish adults
  • does homosexuality impose any health and mental health risks?
  • what has the impact of legalizing same-sex marriage been in Massachusetts to individuals, schools, businesses and charities?
  • how same-sex marriage poses a threat to religious liberty
  • how should you respond to the view that homosexuality is genetic?

And at the very end, he shows this short video, which is only 5 minutes and explains the logic of opposing the redefinition of marriage:

My biggest concern is religious liberty, and we are seeing how same-sex marriage has proven to be incompatible with religious liberty. But I also care about children… I want them to have mothers and fathers who put their needs first. Marriage is about a commitment – it is the subjugation of feelings and desires to responsibilities and obligations. It is a promise. A promise to commit to love your spouse and children regardless of feelings and desires. It requires more self-denial, self-control and self-sacrifice. Not less.

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