In honor of Black History Month, the Intrepid Museum sheds light and commemorates the service and sacrifice of Black sailors and officers who served on Intrepid and Growler through a new exhibit on Bloomberg Connects, which debuted on February 1, 2024. (Bloomberg Connects is home to the Museum’s digital guide.) The heroism of Alonzo Swann, captain of Gun Tub 10 during the ship’s first kamikaze attack, and his decades long quest for his rightful honors, is one of the stories featured.
During Intrepid’s service, the U.S. Navy was segregated, with Black sailors primarily serving as cooks or steward’s mates, attending to the needs of white officers in the wardroom and maintaining their staterooms. Some were also assigned a secondary role: to serve as anti-aircraft gunners when the ship was under attack. These men were assigned to their own battle station, called Gun Tub 10.
On October 29, 1944, during combat in the Philippines, a Japanese kamikaze aircraft barreled toward Gun Tub 10. The gunners swiftly responded, attempting to shoot down the aircraft before it struck the ship. Despite the danger, they continued firing at the plane as it headed directly toward them, resulting in a crash that claimed the lives of 10 men and wounded 10 others.
Six surviving gunners were awarded the Bronze Star for their valor: Eli Benjamin, Harold Clark Jr., Jonell Copeland, James Dockery, Que Gant and Alonzo Swann. In the years following the war, Swann maintained that he and his shipmates were promised a higher honor, the Navy Cross, but instead received the lesser award.
Decades later, as the Navy confronted significant societal shifts, Swann took the matter to court to insist that the Navy award him the Navy Cross, and the judge found in his favor. In 1993, at a ceremony aboard Intrepid, Alonzo Swann received the Navy Cross for the bravery he demonstrated 49 years prior. Four other surviving gunners were also presented with the award, and the captain of Gun Tub 10 received a posthumous award.
Swann’s Navy Cross medal and citation, alongside a 20mm gun similar to the ones used by the men in Gun Tub 10, are now integral parts of the Intrepid Museum’s permanent collection.
Learn more about his heroism on Bloomberg Connects.