John Frederick was born on December 13, 1923, in Manito, Illinois. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on May 7, 1942, and was trained as a tail gunner on TBF and TBM Avenger carrier-based bombers, serving in the Pacific Theater for most of the war. Sgt Frederick remained in Asia after the war, flying missions in China during the Communist takeover of that country. He again saw combat during the opening year of the Korean War, where he flew as an Airborne Intercept Operator on F7F-2N Tigercat night fighters with VMF(AW)-542 from September 1950 to June 1951. After the war, Frederick served with VMF(N)-533 and VMF(N)-531 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, where he advanced to Master Sergeant (E-8). He served with VMF(N)-513 at NAS Atsugi, Japan during the mid-1950's. Frederick became a Warrant Officer on October 25, 1961, and served with the Marine Aviation Detachment at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, from August 1961 to December 1964. He joined VMA-533 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, in late December 1964, and then joined VMFA-323, also at Cherry Point, in May 1965. CWO Frederick deployed with VMFA-323 to Da Nang AB in the Republic of Vietnam on December 1, 1965, and was shot down over North Vietnam and taken as a Prisoner of War a week later, on December 7, 1965. Frederick spent the next 2,417 days in captivity before dying of typhoid on July 19, 1972. His remains were returned to the United States on March 13, 1974. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his service while a POW, but it was downgraded to the Navy Cross. John Frederick remains one of the most highly decorated Warrant Officers in U.S. Marine Corps History.
The Citation for the Medal of Honor that was downgraded to the Navy Cross reads:
The President of the United States in the name of the Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER JOHN W. FREDERICK, JR. UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS for service as set forth in the following CITATION: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while interned as a Prisoner of War in various camps throughout North Vietnam during the period June 1967 to August 1968. Chief Warrant Officer Frederick distinguished himself by his relentless rejection of any attempts to gain his cooperation or assistance. This steadfast resistance in the face of grave personal danger was a constant source of inspiration to the other prisoners of war who observed him daily. As a result of his dogged resistance and sheer tenacity in the face of extreme cruelty, he developed in his captors a sense of admiration, even one of genuine fear. Through his personal sacrifice he provided his fellow prisoners with an example of highly professional conduct which enabled them to find additional inner strength with which to resist the attempts of their captors to subjugate them through intimidation and indoctrination. Accepting the role of a hard core resistor, fully aware that by doing so he would arouse the increased wrath of his captors, Chief Warrant Officer Frederick personified the very highest epitome of leadership, bravery, and resistance to a degree far above what would normally be expected under any circumstances. Although his great courage resulted in a level of cruelty which ultimately lead to his death in captivity, Chief Warrant Officer Frederick left a lasting impression on both his fellow prisoners and even his guards. His valiant leadership and courageous fighting spirit served to inspire his comrades and reflect the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Services."