George Levick Street, III, was born in Richmond, Virginia, on 27 July 1913. He joined the Naval Reserve in 1931 and was chosen to attend the Naval Academy in 1933, graduating in 1937. He served aboard a light cruiser and a battleship before volunteering for submarine duty. Street spent the next three years aboard USS GAR (SS-206), during which time he completed nine war patrols and was twice awarded the Silver Star.
On 6 July 1944, Street arrived at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME to take on his first command: USS TIRANTE (SS-420), which would be commissioned in November. She ventured out from Pearl Harbor for her first war patrol on 3 March 1945. It was during this maiden voyage that Street would earn his Medal of Honor. In his summary of the patrol, the commander of the submarine force, Pacific Fleet, wrote that it “adds a glorious chapter to the nation’s history.” The commander of Submarine Squadron 32 called it “one of the most outstanding patrols of the war” and “a superlative example of aggressiveness, intelligent planning, and expert execution of the primary functions of a wartime submarine.”
The hunting near the Japanese home islands, TIRANTE’s patrol area, was good. In a little over a week at the end of March and beginning of April, the sub sent a tanker, a freighter, and a lugger to the bottom and captured a Japanese fishing vessel, taking three prisoners before sinking the boat. Crewmembers believe they sank at least two additional vessels, but Japanese records examined after the war’s end failed to confirm the kills.
TIRANTE was prowling the Yellow Sea when, on 14 April, she received two pieces of news: President Roosevelt had died, and a Japanese transport ship was at anchor at the port of Cheju on Quelpart Island (now Jeju Province), which lies just off the southern coast of South Korea. Street’s Medal of Honor citation describes what happened next.
“…With the crew at surface battle stations, Comdr. (then Lt. Comdr.) Street approached the hostile anchorage from the south within 1,200 yards of the coast to complete a reconnoitering circuit of the island. Leaving the 10-fathom curve far behind he penetrated the mined and shoal-obstructed waters of the restricted harbor despite numerous patrolling vessels and in defiance of 5 shore-based radar stations and menacing aircraft. Prepared to fight it out on the surface if attacked, Comdr. Street went into action, sending 2 torpedoes with deadly accuracy into a large Japanese ammunition ship and exploding the target in a mountainous and blinding glare of white flames. [Street characterized it in his patrol report as a “tremendous beautiful explosion.”] With the Tirante instantly spotted by the enemy as she stood out plainly in the flare of light [“like a snowman in a coal pit”], he ordered the torpedo data computer set up while retiring and fired his last 2 torpedoes to disintegrate in quick succession the leading frigate and a similar flanking vessel. Clearing the gutted harbor at emergency full speed ahead, he slipped undetected along the shoreline, diving deep as a pursuing patrol dropped a pattern of depth charges at the point of submergence.”
For this spectacular attack, the entire crew was rewarded: in addition to the C.O.’s Medal of Honor, a Navy Cross was presented to executive officer Lieutenant Edward “Ned” Beach (future C.O. of USS TRITON (SSRN-586)) and a Presidential Unit Citation was given to the entire crew. Street was most proud of this final recognition: “I really treasure that more than the Medal of Honor because every man was there with us.”
On their second patrol together, which began on 20 May, Street and the crew of TIRANTE managed to virtually replicate the 14 April attack, stealing into a Japanese harbor to sink an enemy vessel and then racing out before retaliation could be attempted. The sub also sank a dozen junks carrying supplies to the Japanese, as well as two patrol reports. (These boats were stopped and their crews transferred to lifeboats and captains questioned before the empty vessel was set aflame.) For this patrol, Street received the Navy Cross; he was also promoted to Commander. He and his boat were just setting out on a third patrol when the war ended; in October they put into the Washington Navy Yard so the C.O. could travel to the White House to receive his Medal of Honor.
Street remained on active duty until 1966. During that time he commanded another sub, USS REQUIN (SS-481), as well as the destroyer USS HOLDER (DDE-819) and the attack transport USS FREMONT (APA-44). He also spent time as a Professor of Naval Science at MIT and commanded Submarine Squadron 5; Submarine Group, San Francisco Bay Area; and Mare Island Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet. Having concluded an illustrious career, Street took on the task of bringing aboard the next generation by becoming Senior Naval Instructor and Chairman of the Department of Naval Science of Woburn Senior High School in Woburn, MA. There he ran the JROTC program whose role was to attract talented young people to the navy. After he passed away on 26 February 2000, Street’s remains were cremated and the ashes divided in half. One portion was scattered at sea by the crew of a submarine. The other portion was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a ceremony that featured a 150-man honor guard and was attended by thirty-three submarine commanding officers.