Monday, March 19, 2012

In Memoriam: HMCM (SS) William R. Charette (29 March 1932- 18 March 2012)

Korean War Hospital Corpsman and Medal of Honor Recipient William Richard Charette died at his home in Lake Wales, FL, on 18 March 2012. He was 79.

William Charette was born on 29 March 1932 in Ludington, MI, son of William G. and Margaret (Furlong) Charette. He graduated in 1950 from high school in Ludington and on 11 January 1951 enlisted in the Navy at Muskegon, MI. After completing recruit training at the Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, IL, Charette attended Hospital Corps School in Bainbridge, MD. On 5 February 1953, following field medical training at Camp Pendleton, CA, he was assigned to the First Marine Division before embarking for Korea.

On 12 January 1954, Charette was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics in the Korean War. His citation reads: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Medical Corpsman, serving with a Marine rifle company, in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea during the early morning hours of 27 March 1953. Participating in a fierce encounter with a cleverly concealed and well-entrenched enemy force occupying positions on a vital and bitterly contested outpost far in advance of the main line of resistance, Charette repeatedly and unhesitatingly moved about through a murderous barrage of hostile smallarms and mortar fire to render assistance to his wounded comrades. When an enemy grenade landed within a few feet of a marine he was attending, he immediately threw himself upon the stricken man and absorbed the entire concussion of the deadly missile with his own body. Although sustaining painful facial wounds, and undergoing shock from the intensity of the blast which ripped the helmet and medical aid kit from his person, Charette resourcefully improvised emergency bandages by tearing off part of his clothing, and gallantly continued to administer medical aid to the wounded in his own unit and to those in adjacent platoon areas as well. Observing a seriously wounded comrade whose armored vest had been torned from his body by the blast of an exploding shell, he selflessly removed his own battle vest and placed it upon the helpless man although fully aware of the added jeopardy to himself. Moving to the side of another casualty who was suffering excruciating pain from a serious leg wound, Charette stood upright in the trench line and exposed himself to a deadly hail of enemy fire in order to lend more effective aid to the victim and to alleviate his anguish while being removed to a position of safety. By his indomitable courage and inspiring efforts in behalf of his wounded comrades, Charette was directly responsible for saving many lives. His personal valor reflects the highest credit upon himself and enhances the finest traditions of the United States naval service.”

Following the Korean War, Charette continued his service with the Navy, training new hospital corpsmen at the Naval Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes, Illinois. In 1958, aboard USS Canberra, he had the honor of selecting the World War II remains that would be placed in the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. He eventually moved into the Submarine Force, becoming one of the first hospital corpsmen to serve on nuclear submarines. After 26 years of service, he retired as a Master Chief Hospital Corpsman in 1977.


  1. Master Chief thanks for your service and may you rest in peace while you are on "eternal patrol". Karl E. Holland HMCM(SS)/USN/RET

  2. I had the great pleasure to serve with Doc Charette on board the USS Daniel Webster SSBN626. He was a true hero.

  3. Met Master Chief briefly at the opening of the Charette Health Care Center. Was an honor to be a part of the dedication of such a fine facility named for an enlisted Hospital Corpsman and true hero,
    Mark A. Geb HM1/USN/RET