Award Citation as published in April 1944:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Ormsby M. Mitchel, Jr., United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the River Gunboat USS Plymouth (PG 57), during and after the sinking of that vessel through enemy action near Cape Henry, along the United States' Atlantic coast, on 5 August 1943. Lieutenant Mitchel was on the bridge at the time of the submarine attack. He had just completed evaluation of sound contact as a possible submarine, had given the "stations" order, had increased speed to 13 knots, and had started turning the ship on the attack course when a torpedo, unseen by the lookouts, crashed into the port side, amidships, and exploded. Flames immediately broke out from the engine room level to the bridge, trapping and killing many in the forward part of the ship. Lieutenant Mitchel, thrown violently against a bulkhead by the explosion sustained serious injuries including dislocation of the left knee. Nevertheless, he remained at his post during the three remaining minutes before the ship sank. When driven from the bridge by the enveloping flames, Lieutenant Mitchel was forced to jump from the bridge to the well-deck because ladders had been carried away by the initial explosion. In spite of this painful leap Lieutenant Mitchel insisted on being supported so that he could continue to give orders for abandoning ship. Several life rafts were cut away, all depth charges were set on "safe" and numerous officers and men who had been on the upper decks went over the side. Lieutenant Mitchel remained aboard his ship until it sank. He went down with his ship; then was able to reach the surface. When a raft was brought alongside Lieutenant Mitchel in the water, he pointed to other men in greater need of assistance, and refused to be taken aboard the raft until those about him had been rescued. Once aboard USCGC Calypso, Lieutenant Mitchel immediately insisted that he be supported on deck until he was assured that all rescue operations were completed or nearing completion. Subsequently he was treated for multiple burns on both hands, extending over his forearm, first and second degree burns of the face, the right leg and foot, the left leg and ankle. The conduct of Lieutenant Mitchel throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.