b. 13/09/1883 Trenton, New Jersey. d. 23/11/1947 New York.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 17/04/1915 Honolulu, Hawaii.
Crilley was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on September 13, 1883. After enlisting in the U.S. Navy in March 1900, he became a gunner’s mate and received additional training as a diver.
On April 17, 1915, Crilley, by then a chief gunner’s mate, participated in a dive to inspect the wreck of the submarine USS F-4 (SS-23) in preparation for a salvage operation. The F-4 had sunk weeks earlier in 300 feet (91 m) of water off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii. Another diver, Chief Gunner’s Mate William F. Loughman, became trapped underwater while returning to the surface after examining one of the F-4’s hawsers. Loughman’s lifeline and air hose became tangled in the hawser, preventing him from either ascending or descending. Crilley voluntarily dove down and untangled the lines, allowing Loughman to be pulled to safety. For these actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor thirteen years later, on November 19, 1928. He received his Medal from President Calvin Coolidge at The White House on 15 February 1929.
In 1917, Crilley was appointed to the warrant officer rank of Gunner(T), and in February 1918 became an ensign in the Naval Reserve. He commanded USS Salvor (SP-3418) in 1919 and left active duty in July of that year. In the mid-1920s, he was involved with salvaging USS S-51 (SS-162), and returned to active naval service in 1927-28 to work on the recovery of USS S-4 (SS-109). He was awarded the Navy’s second-highest decoration, the Navy Cross, for his actions as a diver during that operation.
In 1931, Crilley served as second officer and master diver during the Arctic expedition of the civilian submarine Nautilus (previously known as USS O-12). Also in 1931, he assisted with the salvage of USS Mayflower (PY-1). Transferred to the retired list in May 1932, he was again employed on Navy work in 1939, during the salvage of USS Squalus (SS-192).
Crilley died at the Naval Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, on November 23, 1947. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
For display of extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession above and beyond the call of duty during the diving operations in connection with the sinking in a depth of water 304 feet, of the U.S.S. F-4 with all on board, as a result of loss of depth control, which occurred off Honolulu, T.H., on 25 March 1915. On 17 April 1915, William F. Loughman, chief gunner’s mate, U.S. Navy, who had descended to the wreck and had examined one of the wire hawsers attached to it, upon starting his ascent, and when at a depth of 250 feet beneath the surface of the water, had his lifeline and air hose so badly fouled by this hawser that he was unable to free himself; he could neither ascend nor descend. On account of the length of time that Loughman had already been subjected to the great pressure due to the depth of water, and of the uncertainty of the additional time he would have to be subjected to this pressure before he could be brought to the surface, it was imperative that steps be taken at once to clear him. Instantly, realizing the desperate case of his comrade, Crilley volunteered to go to his aid, immediately donned a diving suit and descended. After a lapse of time of 2 hours and 11 minutes, Crilley was brought to the surface, having by a superb exhibition of skill, coolness, endurance and fortitude, untangled the snarl of lines and cleared his imperiled comrade, so that he was brought, still alive, to the surface
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
SECTION 8, LOT 6430
LOCATION OF MEDAL: UNKNOWN.