More than seventy years ago, in early March 1942, the gunboat USS Asheville was sunk with nearly all hands. These medals were awarded to one of those sailors, Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Carl H. Lambert. Lambert was a pre-war sailor, having first enlisted in 1929. He joined the USS Asheville in late May of 1940.
There are conflicting dates on when the ship was lost. The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships gives the date at March 3. However all of the documents in Lambert’s service file list the date at March 1. The March 3 date is probably the correct one.
The following brief description of Asheville’s final fight was taken from Wikipedia:Hampered by engine troubles and sailing alone, Asheville was discovered by a shipborne scout plane south of Java and overtaken by a Japanese destroyer squadron—consisting of the destroyers Arashi and Nowaki, and the heavy cruiser Maya—on 3 March 1942. As the cruiser stood by, the two Japanese destroyers closed and engaged Asheville at close range with their guns. After an intense 30-minute gun battle, the smoldering hulk of Asheville—its superstructure almost completely shot away—finally sank. After calling if there was an officer among the swimmers, one survivor—FM/2c Fred L. Brown from Ft. Wayne, Indiana—was picked up by a Japanese destroyer, more than likely simply to identify what ship they had sunk. Afterward the remainder of the survivors in the water were shot with machine guns and left to the sharks. Fireman Brown later died in POW camp in the Celebes, N.E.I., in March 1945. If not for the fact that Brown had told several of his fellow prisoners his story, no one would have ever known what had been the fate of Asheville. Asheville was one of the few American surface ships lost with no known survivors at the end of the war.
With the medals are the original Purple Heart case and the outer mailing box, which is addressed to Lambert’s father.
This Purple Heart card was scanned in Washington, DC. These cards were originally at the Navy Yard but are now at the National Archives in College Park, MD.