Ship Commanders....

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Lucky13, Dec 10, 2007.

  1. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Never seen any discussion about greatest ship commander... Forget the BIG boys, Generals and so on. Was there any ship commander that excelled above the crowd during WWII?

    [​IMG]

    Captain Arleigh A. Burke of Destroyer Squadron 23 comes to mind...

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    Destroyer Squadron 23

    Officers of the squadron enjoy a beer at "Cloob Des-Slot", Purvis Bay, Solomon Islands, on 24 May 1944.
    Those present are (from left to right):
    Commander R.A. Gano, Commanding Officer, USS Dyson (DD-572);
    Commander Luther K. Reynolds, Commanding Officer, USS Charles Ausburne (DD-570);
    Captain Arleigh A. Burke, Squadron Commodore;
    Commander B.L. Austin, Commander Destroyer Division 46;
    Commander D.C. Hamberger, Commanding Officer, USS Converse (DD-509);
    Commander Herald Stout, Commanding Officer, USS Claxton (DD-571); and
    Commander Henry J. Armstrong, Commanding Officer, USS Spence (DD-512).

    Or what about Jesse Bartlett "Oley" Oldendorf on USS West Virginia BB-48?

    [​IMG]
     
  2. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    I'm sure everyone has heard of Arleigh "31 Knot" Burke, but do you know how
    he got the nickname "31 Knot Burke" ? The story goes..... "he was
    commanding a destroyer that was going after a downed pilot. The Destroyer
    Squadron commander radio'd Burke and asked "Burke, what are you doing in
    that minefield ?"

    His reply was.... "31 knots, sir".....

    He was quite a skipper, quite a DesRon Commander and the CNO every sailor
    ever wished for. He gets my vote too....

    Charles
     
  3. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    I find it hard to pick someone else other then Capt Johnny Walker RN who invented the hunter killer group for anti sub warfare , while in command of this initial group they destroyed 18 U boats he was awarded the DSO 4 times
     
  4. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    31 Knot Burke of Desron 23, "The Little Beavers" I always thought he got his nickname when, during one of the battles near the Solomons he kept reporting his squadron was "proceeding at 31 knots," when everyone knew his ships could not maintain a squadron speed as high as 31 knots. He was certainly a good one. How about Willis Augustus (Ching) Lee?
     
  5. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    Cmdr. Ernest Edwin Evans of the destroyer USS Johnston assigned to Taffy 3.

    The day Johnston was commissioned, Cmdr. Evans made a speech to the crew: "This is going to be a fighting ship. I intend to go in harm's way, and anyone who doesn't want to go along had better get off right now."[

    At 7:50 a.m., Admiral Sprague ordered destroyers to make a torpedo attack: "small boys attack". But Johnston had already expended torpedoes. With one engine, she could not keep up with the others: "But that wasn't Cmdr. Evans' way of fighting: 'We'll go in with the destroyers and provide fire support,' he boomed."[citation needed] Johnston went in, dodging salvos and blasting back. As she charged out of blinding smoke, pointed straight at the bridge of USS Heermann (DD-532), "All engines back full!" bellowed Cmdr. Evans.[citation needed] That meant one engine for Johnston who could hardly do more than slow down. But Heerman’s two engines backed her barely out of the collision course—Johnston missed her by less than 10 feet. Now there was so much smoke that Evans ordered no firing unless the gunnery officer could see the ship. "At 8:20, there suddenly appeared out of the smoke a 30,000-ton Kongō-class battleship, only 7,000 yards off our port beam. I took one look at the unmistakable pagoda mast, muttered, 'I sure as hell can see that!" and opened fire. In 40 seconds we got off 30 rounds, at least 15 of which hit the pagoda superstructure.... The battleship belched a few 14 inchers at us, but, thank God, registered only clean misses."[citation needed]

    Johnston soon observed the carrier Gambier Bay (CVE-73) under fire from an enemy cruiser: "Cmdr. Evans then gave me the most courageous order I've ever heard: 'Commence firing on that cruiser, draw her fire on us and away from Gambier Bay.'"[citation needed] Johnston scored four hits in a deliberate slugging match with a heavy cruiser, then broke off the futile battle as the Japanese destroyer squadron was seen closing rapidly on the American escort carriers. Johnston outfought the entire Japanese destroyer squadron, concentrating on the lead ship until the enemy quit cold, then concentrated on the second destroyer until the remaining enemy units broke off to get out of effective gun range before launching torpedoes, all of which went wild. But then, the cruiser and destroyers opened fire on Johnston, and right when it was most needed, the damaged remaining engine quit, leaving Johnston dead in the water.


    USS Johnston (DD-557) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    .
     
  6. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    Capt Edward Fegen RN VC is another one from the Atlantic
    He was 49 years old, and an Acting Captain in the Royal Navy during World War II when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

    On 5 November 1940 in the Atlantic, Captain Fegen, commanding the armed merchantman HMS Jervis Bay, was escorting 37 ships of Convoy HX-84, when they were attacked by the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. Captain Fegen immediately engaged the enemy head-on, thus giving the ships of the convoy time to scatter. Out-gunned and on fire Jervis Bay maintained the unequal fight for three hours, although the captain's right arm was shattered and his bridge was shot from under him. He went down with his ship but it was due to him that 31 ships of the convoy escaped including the SS San Demetrio.

    He was remembered in Winston Churchill's famous broadcast speech on 13 May 1945 "Five years of War", as having defended Ireland's houour:

    "When I think of these days I think also of other episodes and personalities. I do not forget Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde, V.C., D.S.O., Lance-Corporal Kenneally, V.C., Captain Fegen, V.C., and other Irish heroes that I could easily recite, and all bitterness by Britain for the Irish race dies in my heart. I can only pray that in years which I shall not see, the shame will be forgotten and the glories will endure, and that the peoples of the British Isles and of the British Commonwealth of Nations will walk together in mutual comprehension and forgiveness."
     
  7. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Pb, outstanding post and thank you.
     
  8. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Excellent choices PB, I was also thinking about Captain (later Commodre) Walker.

    Or how about Lt. Cdr Beattie VC, who led the st. Nazaire raid in the HMS Cambelton? It takes some steely nerves to ram your ship into a drydock at 36 knots when the bow is packed with 9,000 pounds of high explosive!
     
  9. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Captain Elliott Buckmaster of USS Yorktown CV-5 is worth mentioning as well...
     
  10. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    Although his combat command lasted less than 15 minutes, it would seem proper to mention Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh, Commanding Officer of BB-39, the USS Arizona.
     
  11. royster

    royster New Member

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    If you were to ask other Admirals - I think they would concur with Admiral Arleigh Burke. I know my Grandfather, Admiral Gano thought so.
     
  12. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Arleigh Burke.

    Known to many as the father of the modern US Navy, Arleigh Burke received the Medal of Freedom in 1977 and was the first living US naval officer to have a class of ships named for him.

    USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), the lead ship of her class of Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyers, was commissioned in his honor in 1991, when he was still alive.

    The class is named for Admiral Arleigh "31-Knot" Burke, the most famous American destroyer officer of World War II. Admiral Burke was alive when the class leader was commissioned, and his words to the plankowners echo in the class' distinguished service to date: "This ship is built to fight; you had better know how."



    Admiral Burke received numerous combat awards during his forty-two years in the Navy including the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Navy Cross, Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart. None were more cherished than two awards which came early in his career. In 1928, while serving aboard USS Procyon, he was commended for the "rescue of shipwrecked and seafaring men," and in 1939, in his first command, USS Mugford, he was commended when his destroyer won the fleet gunnery trophy with the highest score in many years. His ship also stood third in engineering competition and high in communication competition.

    Admiral Burke, himself of Swedish descent, was the senior representative of the United States of America on the funeral of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden in 1973.

    For his service in Destroyer Squadron 23, Admiral Burke was awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to Destroyer Squadron 23. The citations follow in part:


    Navy Cross
    Citation:

    For extraordinary heroism and distinguished service...as the commander of a destroyer squadron operating in the Northern Solomon Islands area during the period from midnight 30 October to noon 2 November 1943. (His) squadron, as a part of a task force, participated in the first bombardment of the Buka-Bonis area and in the first daylight bombardment of the Shortland area... During the night of 1 November-2, a heavier gunned Japanese naval force was met and decisively defeated with the loss to the enemy of one cruiser and four destroyers sunk, and an additional two cruisers and two destroyers damaged. The action contributed much to the success of our operations at Empress Augusta Bay. Thereafter, a heavy air attack by sixty-seven enemy dive bombers was fought off with a total of seventeen enemy planes being destroyed...

    Navy Distinguished Service Medal
    Citation:

    For exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility as Commanding Officer of a Destroyer Division and subsequently a Destroyer Squadron operating against enemy Japanese forces in the South Pacific Area from early February to 1 December 1943. Throughout this period, Captain Burke led his forces in many offensive operations... His indomitable fighting spirit and great personal courage contributed directly to the success of our forces in that area and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

    Legion of Merit (with Combat "V")
    Citation:

    For exceptionally meritorious conduct...as Commander Destroyer Squadron Twenty-three, in action against enemy Japanese forces northwest of the Bismarck Archipelago, at Kavieng, New Ireland, and Duke of York Island, 17 February to 23, 1944... (He) expertly directed his squadron in destroying two Japanese naval auxiliary vessels, one large cargo ship, a mine layer, four barges and inflicting severe damage on enemy shore installations and subsequently effected a skillful withdrawal without damage to his vessels...

    Presidential Unit Citation to Destroyer Squadron 23
    Citation:

    For extraordinary heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces during the Solomon Islands Campaign, from 1 November 1943 to February 23, 1944... Destroyer Squadron Twenty-three operated in daring defiance of repeated attacks by hostile air groups, closing the enemy's strongly fortified shores to carry out sustained bombardments against Japanese coastal defenses and render effective cover and fire support for the major invasion operations in this area ... The brilliant and heroic record achieved by Destroyer Squadron Twenty-three is a distinctive tribute to the valiant fighting spirit of the individual units in this indomitable combat group of each skilled and courageous ship's company...

    Gold Star in lieu of second Navy Distinguished Service Medal
    As Chief of Staff, Commander Fast Carrier Task Force, Pacific (Task Force 38.), Admiral Burke was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star Medal, a Gold Star in lieu of a second Legion of Merit, and a Letter of Commendation, with authorization to wear the Commends Ribbon. The citations follow in part:

    "For... outstanding service...as Chief of Staff to Commander First Carrier Task Force, Pacific, during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War from 15 December 1944 to 15 May 1945... Commodore Burke was in large measure responsible for the efficient control under combat conditions of the tactical disposition, the operation, the security and the explosive offensive power of his task force in its bold and determined execution of measures designed to force the capitulation of the Japanese Empire...throughout the seizure of bases at lwo Jima and Okinawa, including two carrier strikes on Tokyo, a carrier strike on the Kure Naval Base, and engagement with the Japanese Fleet on 7 April, in which several hostile man-o-war were destroyed by our aircraft..."

    Silver Star Medal
    Citation:

    "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Chief of Staff to Commander First Carrier Task Force in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War Area, 11 May 1945. When the flagship on which he was embarked was hit by two enemy suicide dive bombers, Commodore Burke proceeded to a compartment in which personnel were trapped by fire and heavy smoke, and succeeded in evacuating all hands. When the flagship to which he had removed his staff was in turn hit by a suicide plane on 14 May, he again arranged for the transfer of his command to a new ship. In spite of all difficulties, he maintained tactical control of the Task Force throughout, thereby contributing materially to the success of the operations..."

    Gold Star in lieu of second Legion of Merit
    "For exceptionally meritorious conduct...as Chief of Staff to Commander, Carrier Task Force, Pacific Fleet, from 27 March to 30 October., 1944... (He) planned and executed a long series of successful offensive operations in support of the reduction of the other perimeter of Japanese defenses in New Guinea, the Carolines, the Marianas, Halmshera, and the Philippine Islands. Largely as a result of Commodore Burke's superb professional skill, tireless energy and coolness of decision throughout these operations and during repeated air attacks carried out in strength against heavily fortified strongholds in enemy-controlled waters, the Pacific Fleet has been brought within range of the Japanese Empire itself to continue our relentless drive against the enemy."

    Letter of Commendation
    "For distinguishing himself in action with the enemy, while serving as a Chief of Staff to Commander First Carrier Task Force, Pacific on 11 May 1945. When the ship in which he was embarked was hit by two enemy aircraft...with utter disregard for his personal safety, (he) efficiently organized the evacuation of endangered personnel. His courage together with his prompt and efficient action was responsible for saving these men..."

    Presidential Unit Citations
    Admiral Burke is also entitled to wear the Presidential Unit Citation presented to the USS Bunker Hill, the Presidential Unit Citation presented to the USS Lexington, and the Navy Unit Commendation presented to the USS Enterprise. Those vessels were, at various times during his period of service, flagships of the Fast Carrier Task Forces in the Pacific.


    Gold Star in lieu of third Legion of Merit
    From September 1950 until May 1951, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Far East, and, for "exceptionally meritorious conduct (in that capacity) from 3 September 1950 to 1 January 1951..." he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a third Legion of Merit. The citation further states:

    "Bringing a sound knowledge of Naval Administration and professional skill to his assigned task, Rear Admiral Burke reorganized the rapidly expanded staff to meet its ever increasing responsibilities and, through his unusually fine conception of the essentials of modern warfare, materially improved the mutual functioning of the operation, plans and intelligence sections of the staff...(and) contributed immeasurably to the success of Naval operations in the Korean theater..."
     
  13. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a fourth Legion of Merit
    While serving as Commander Cruiser Division Five from May to September 1951, and also as a Member of the Military Armistice Commission in Korea, Admiral Burke was awarded an oak leaf cluster in lieu of a fourth Legion of Merit by the Army (Headquarters U.S. Army Forces, Far East) by General Order #5, as follows:

    "For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services as a delegate with the United Nations Command (Advance) in Korea, from 9 July to 5 December 1951. Admiral Burke's keen discernment and decisive judgment were of inestimable value in countering enemy intransigence, misrepresentation and evasion with reasoned negotiation demonstrable truth and conciliatory measures. As advisor to the Chief Delegate on all phases of the Armistice Conferences, he proffered timely recommendations for solutions of the varied intricate problems encountered. Through skillful assessment of enemy capabilities, dispositions, and vulnerable abilities and brilliant guidance of supporting Staff officers (he) significantly furthered progression toward success of the United Nation's first armed bid for world peace."

    Gold Star in lieu of third Navy Distinguished Service Medal
    Admiral Burke was presented a Gold Star in lieu of a third Distinguished Service Medal by President of the United States John F. Kennedy at the White House on 26 July 1961.


    Others
    In addition to the above, Admiral Burke earned the American Defense Service Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two silver stars and two bronze stars (thirteen engagements); the American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal; the Philippine Liberation Ribbon; Korean Service Medal; and United Nations Service Medal. He also has been awarded the Ui Chi Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation from the Republic of Korea as well as the Order of the Rising Sun, First Class by the Government of Japan.

    Little Beavers: DESRON 23 spent November covering the amphibious forces in Empress Augusta Bay or escorting convoys up to the beachhead. During a brief respite, Burke and the skipper of his flagship, Charles Ausburne, Commander L.K. "Brute" Reynolds, spotted the painting of a little American Indian boy a torpedoman was putting on his mount. Intrigued, they asked what it meant and after being told "it was an American symbol," Burke asked to use it for the squadron. Ausburne's crew had already begun calling themselves "beavers" because of their busy operations schedule. Someone suggested the Indian be named "Little Beaver," after "Red Ryder's" sidekick in the popular cowboy comic strip, and the nickname stuck. DESRON 23 forever after was known as the "Little Beavers." For Burke, the Colorado farm boy who had ridden horses since he was four, the nickname was a perfect match.

    31 Knot Burke: On the afternoon of 24 November, after repairs to a troublesome boiler on the destroyer Spence that had restricted ship (and squadron) speed to 30 knots, Burke reported to Admiral Halsey's South Pacific headquarters that his ships were proceeding at his preferred non battle formation speed of 31 knots to a late evening rendezvous southeast of Bougainville. In response to an "ULTRA" radio intelligence report of a "transportation operation to Buka by destroyers" that night, Halsey's operations officer, Captain Ray Thurber, recalling Burke's previously impaired formation speed, prepared an op order: "Thirty One Knot Burke get athwart the Buka Rabaul evacuation line about 35 miles west of Buka. If no enemy contacts by 0300 Love [Local Time], 25th, come south to refuel same place. If enemy contacted you know what to do." Prepared by prior messages and operations for such an action, Burke found the new orders "ideal. ...they gave us all the information we needed, and how we did the job was entirely up to us."

    The ensuing Battle of Cape St. George, where DESRON 23's five destroyers engaged five Japanese DDs, began at 0141 on the 25th, when radar detected surface contacts 22,000 yards to the east. Burke led his three leading ships at the enemy at 25 knots while the other two DDs stood by in support. Burke's attack came as almost a complete surprise. Two enemy screen destroyers were hit and one sank immediately. Accelerating to 33 knots, Burke now began a stern chase after the three destroyer transports while the two supporting DDs finished off the Japanese ship still afloat. At 0215, on a hunch, Burke ordered a radical course change, thereby avoiding a Japanese torpedo spread. In an hour long running gun battle, a third enemy destroyer was sunk. Unscathed but low on fuel and ammunition and closing St. George's Channel leading to the enemy base at Rabaul, Burke reversed course at 4 AM and headed for home. The Thanksgiving day victory made Burke and DesRon 23 famous. Congratulations poured in from Admirals Merrill, Halsey, Nimitz, and King and General MacArthur, while the name of "31 Knot Burke" spread throughout America. A subsequent analysis by the Naval War College described Cape St. George as "an almost perfect action" and one "that may come to be considered a classic."

    Arleigh Burke: the Last CNO
     
  14. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Just watched a story about the Battle of Surigao Strait and my vote would go to Cmdr Evans of the Johnston. Freaking amazing what he did!
     
  15. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    look at my post a few notches up for details
     
  16. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Yeah, I did, Cosimo, had to read it twice to make sure it was the same guy. That was like bring a pillow to a gunfight! And still he kept going. Fantastic!
     
  17. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    :salute: to them all....
     
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