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Fireman First Class Bigelow G. Frisby

  • Unit: USS Swerve
  • Service Number: 8436130
  • Date of Birth: April 23, 1911
  • Entered the Military: April 28, 1943
  • Date of Death: July 9, 1944
  • Hometown: Picayune, Mississippi
  • Place of Death: Tyrrhenian Sea, off the coast of Anzio, Italy
  • Award(s): Purple Heart
  • Cemetery: Tablets of the Missing. Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy
Contributed by Alan Wheat
Olde Towne Middle School

Early Life

Bigelow G. Frisby was born on April 7, 1911, in Appleton, Wisconsin. His mother, Grace, died shortly after his birth, and his aunt, Elvira Frisby, raised him. Upon graduating high school, Frisby followed his father and stepfamily to Picayune, Mississippi, where he worked as an electrician for the Goodyear Yellow Pine Company.

Before enlisting, Frisby worked as a turpentine still operator for Crosby Naval Stores, a division of the Goodyear Yellow Pine Company. In 1940, he married Veda Jean Spikes of Poplarville, Mississippi, with whom he would have one daughter, Barbara. On April 28, 1943, Bigelow Frisby joined the Navy and enlisted in Jackson, Mississippi.

Military Experience

Frisby served aboard the USS Swerve, a minesweeper during World War II. Fireman First Class Frisby was a pipefitter, installing and maintaining pipe systems. He also served as the ship’s mess man for a month. The USS Swerve left from Charleston, South Carolina, on April 7, 1944, with a convoy to Bermuda on its way to Naples, Italy.

The ship arrived off the coast of Anzio, Italy, on June 5, 1944. Over the next five days, the USS Swerve faced enemy air attacks but received no damage.

On July 9, the USS Swerve was a flagship for a sweeping run with its sister ship, the USS Seer. At roughly 1:00 p.m., the USS Swerve struck a mine and sank within 12 minutes. Of the 66 men on board, three men died from the explosion and ensuing chaos. When the mine exploded, Frisby was at his station as a lookout on the fantail. The explosion obliterated the fantail of the ship, killing him and a fellow sailor.


Fireman First Class Bigelow Frisby’s body was lost at sea, along with two shipmates. He received a Purple Heart for his ultimate sacrifice. Frisby gave his life to aid in securing Italy, a vital step for the Italian Campaign. Frisby is commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. Two months after Frisby’s death, his daughter, Barbara, was born.

Frisby is remembered fondly by his family. His wife Veda Jean put it simply, “I can’t find anyone like him.”



“Bigelow G. Frisby.” American Battlefield Monuments Commission. Accessed November 1, 2015.

Bigelow Frisby, Official Military Personnel File, Department of the U.S. Navy, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, RG 24, National Archives and Records Administration – St. Louis.

Bigelow Frisby, Individual Deceased Personnel File, Department of the Navy.

“Daughter Who Never Knew Her Father Finds Out How He Died in World War II.” Picayune Item, March 9, 2013.

Jackson, Dennis. “USS Swerve AM-121.” Accessed December 8, 2015.

Jones, H.G. The Sonarman’s War. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2010.

“The Minesweeper Swerve.” Global Underwater Explorers. Last Modified 2002. Accessed January 26, 2016.

Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations: Records Relating to Naval Activity During World War II; World War II Action and Operational Reports, Record Group 38 (Box 1460); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations: Records Relating to Naval Activity During World War II; World War II Diaries; Record Group 38 (Box 1493); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

“Swerve I (AM-121).” Naval History and Heritage Command, United States Navy. Last modified June 8, 2015. Accessed January 26, 2016.

This profile was researched and created with the Understanding Sacrifice program, sponsored by the American Battle Monuments Commission.