Ens. Albert Thomas Harris reported for duty on board heavy cruiser San Francisco (CA-38) at Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of 6 January 1942. Ten months later, on the afternoon of 12 November, 21 Japanese twin-engined torpedo planes attacked San Francisco’s task group off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal.
Commanding an antiaircraft battery, the newly promoted Lt. (jg.) Harris directed the fire of his guns on an approaching plane that had been set ablaze by gunfire from a nearby transport. As the enemy unswervingly bore in, Harris and his gunners exhibited equal determination and remained at their posts, maintaining a heavy fire until the bomber crashed into them, killing Harris and three of his four crews.
San Francisco’s senior surviving officer praised “the remarkable fire discipline and courage” of the 27-year old Georgian and his Sailors: “They met their deaths without flinching and in a manner which has been an inspiration to us all.” For conspicuous bravery “in the face of certain death,” Harris was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously. USS Albert T. Harris (DE-447) was named in his honor and sponsored by his mother, Mrs. J.D. Harris.
In conflicts throughout the history of the U.S. Navy, Sailors have met a sometimes suicidal enemy with commensurate courage and resolve, exemplifying the service’s core values.