Rank and organization: Watertender First Class, U.S. Naval Reserve.
Birth: 12 July 1920, Hebron, Ill.
Accredited to: Illinois.
conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and
beyond the call of duty while serving on board the U.S.S. Fletcher during
action against enemy Japanese forces off Corregidor Island in the Philippines,
14 February 1945. Standing topside when an enemy shell struck the Fletcher,
Bigelow, acting instantly as the deadly projectile exploded into fragments
which penetrated the No. 1 gun magazine and set fire to several powder
cases, picked up a pair of fire extinguishers and rushed below in a resolute
attempt to quell the raging flames. Refusing to waste the precious time
required to don rescue-breathing apparatus, he plunged through the blinding
smoke billowing out of the magazine hatch and dropped into the blazing
compartment. Despite the acrid, burning powder smoke which seared his lungs
with every agonizing breath, he worked rapidly and with instinctive sureness
and succeeded in quickly extinguishing the fires and in cooling the cases
and bulkheads, thereby preventing further damage to the stricken ship.
Although he succumbed to his injuries on the following day, Bigelow, by
his dauntless valor, unfaltering skill and prompt action in the critical
emergency, had averted a magazine explosion which undoubtedly would have
left his ship wallowing at the mercy of the furiously pounding Japanese
guns on Corregidor, and his heroic spirit of self-sacrifice in the face
of almost certain death enhanced and sustained the highest traditions of
the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his
This data was extracted from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, U.S. Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1973 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973)