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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