On June 30, 1903, Fadden was a Coxswain on board the USS Adams during a training cruise off the coast of California. They had been at sea for two days and Fadden was standing on the deck. He had watched as Landsman O.C. Hawthorne, a newcomer to the ship, climbed the ladder to his station above. The ship was about to make a turn when it lurched, pitching Hawthorne, who hit his head on the railing before landing unconscious in the shark-infested water. Without any hesitation twenty-year-old Fadden immediately jumped in after him. He used his long arms and legs to swim quickly to his shipmate’s side and then held the unconscious Sailor’s head above water while waiting the fifteen minutes or so that it took for the ship to turn back for them.
His citation reads, in part, “For gallantry, rescuing O.C. Hawthorne, landsman for training, from drowning at sea, June 30, 1903.” The Medal of Honor is our nation’s highest military decoration, making it quite rare indeed, but the fact that this award was issued for Coxswain Fadden’s extreme heroism during peacetime makes it even more extraordinary.