The family of the late Francis W. Sherman was honored Sept. 9 when a representative of the Russian Embassy presented them with the Medal of Ushakov for his wartime deeds — specifically for helping protect the northern convoys that delivered resources and weapons to the Soviet Union during World War II.
The presentation ceremony took place at the Sandy Spring office of Transportation Management Services, owned by Frank Sherman Jr. of Sandy Spring. Besides Sherman and his wife, Carroll, others present included Francis Sherman’s widow, Elizabeth “BJ” Sherman of Silver Spring, and their children Elizabeth Sherman of Brookeville and Kathleen Hutson of Laurel.
“Today was a pretty awesome day,” said his daughter Elizabeth. “Vlad Chernyshov of the embassy of the Russian Federation came to present Dad’s medal and we learned that he is the last U.S. recipient to receive the Ushakov Medal. There were only 45 medals given to U.S. servicemen and a total of 1,915 worldwide. Mr. Chernyshov also said that this medal was one of distinction and honor in Russia because it was earned during a dangerous mission during World War II.”
Family members say that in June 1943, the crew of the battleship USS Alabama participated in a mission to protect Allied convoys to Murmansk, Russia, when the ship was stationed in Reykjavik, Iceland. During one of these operations, the Alabama received orders to try to lure the German battleship Von Tirpitz — sister ship of the famed Bismarck — out of its Norwegian lair. The Germans, however, did not rise to the challenge, keeping their ship hidden among the fjords along the Norwegian coast. The Von Tirpitz was considered a major threat to the British and Russians until its destruction in 1944.
At a reunion aboard the Alabama in 2011, Francis Sherman learned from fellow crew members that they had received recognition from Russia for a particular tour of duty aboard the Alabama during the war.
After returning home from the reunion, family members researched the criteria for receiving the medal. Sherman wrote to the embassy and learned in September 2012 that he would receive the medal from Russia.
He died soon thereafter, on Oct. 9.
“He was thrilled with this news and asked every day until the day before he died if the medal had come yet,” his daugher Elizabeth said.
The Alabama was launched in February 1942 at Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Va. When he was 15, Sherman boarded the ship and he was one of the few crewmen who remained on the ship from the time it was launched until its decommissioning in 1947.
Sherman was born in Massachusetts in 1927. After his service in the Navy, he married Elizabeth “BJ” Holmes, a Navy nurse, and they lived in Garrett Park for 40 years.