George William “Bill” Fox was one of three ship doctors on the USS Franklin when the aircraft carrier was attacked by the Japanese on March 19, 1945. More than 800 Americans lost their lives during and after the attack, including Fox, who refused to leave his post with his patients in the sick bay below deck. For his heroism and disregard for his own life, Fox was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the U.S. military’s second-highest decoration for valor in combat.
Oct. 4, 1945 newspaper article: “Lt. Cdr. George William Fox received the Navy Cross posthumously for extraordinary heroism in caring for wounded men following the attack on the USS Franklin near Kobe on March 19. Dr. Fox remained at this battle station below deck in the sick bay and continued to treat casualties while the ship was under heavy attack, until he finally succumbed to the dense smoke in the room. He was survived by his wife, Mrs. Elise Scott Fox, and three children, William, Richard and Mary Lynn. A practicing physician in Milwaukee, Dr. Fox was on the staffs of Milwaukee Hospital and Milwaukee Children’s Hospital before he entered service in August 1942.“
From the letter USS Franklin Captain L. E. Gehres later wrote to Bill Fox’s widow Elise: “The USS Franklin was part of a force embarked on a mission off the coast of Japan in support of the Okinawa operations. Early in the morning of the 19th, while our aircraft were being launched, the ship was hit in a Japanese air attack. The explosions which followed started fires and spread destruction throughout the ship. The sick bay area, in which your husband had his battle station, was heavily damaged early in the action and he met his death there at his post of duty … Your husband’s devotion to duty and his splendid service to his country were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Navy. For remaining at his post of duty unflinching in the face of death he has been recommended for the Navy Cross posthumously. His shipmates will always remember him as a fine Medical Officer and a gentleman.”
From the letter to Elise Fox from USS Franklin chaplain, J.T. O’Callahan, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his own heroism aboard the USS Franklin: “Doc was one of the very few whom I came to know well in my short tour on the Franklin. He was a very great person. I know he would be alive today if he had not gone ‘thwartship to the boys in sick bay, instead of taking a passageway to certain safety. That is hard on you in a way, but it should make you very proud of him. And I was proud of him. The last time I talked with him was the evening of March 18th, the night before he died. He had served my Mass.”