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Senate advances bill to name Benson post office bill after WWII hero Charles Jackson French

By: - March 30, 2022 2:58 pm

This is a painting commissioned for the International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It shows Charles Jackson French swimming injured sailors to safety after their ship sunk in World War II. (Courtesy of International Swimming Hall of Fame.)

OMAHA — The Senate bill to rename the Benson branch post office after World War II hero Charles Jackson French cleared a key committee vote Wednesday and appears headed to passage as early as next week.

The Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee sent the bill to the Senate floor, where Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and committee staff expect it to pass by voice vote.

French, a petty officer 1st class, saved 15 other sailors after Japanese forces sank their ship in 1942. He tied on a rope and swam to safety while tugging a raft of injured sailors. French was living in Omaha when he enlisted in the Navy.

“It’s time Officer Charles Jackson French’s heroism during World War II be properly honored,” Fischer, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said in a statement. “This renaming is important to the French family and the Omaha community as part of an effort to dutifully recognize Officer French’s remarkable service to our nation.”

The bill needed the support of Nebraska’s full congressional delegation to get a vote. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who won’t sponsor post office naming bills, signed a letter of support after some prodding from colleagues and community members.

Rep. Don Bacon originally sponsored the House version of the post office naming bill, which passed in February. Nebraska Reps. Adrian Smith and Jeff Fortenberry were co-sponsors. Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general, has said the Benson post office ensures that the “heroism of Petty Officer French is now part of Omaha’s legacy.”

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also spent several years as an assignment editor and worked two stints as an editorial writer. From 2005 to 2007, he served as communications director for then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. Aaron most recently was the lead investigative reporter for KMTV 3 in Omaha, focusing on holding public officials accountable. His work has received awards from the Associated Press, Great Plains Journalism and more.

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