Admiral Marc Andrew Mitscher, USNR
1887 - 1947
Marc Andrew Mitscher, the son of Oscar A. Mitscher and Mrs. Myrta V. Shear Mitscher, was born on 26 January 1887, in Hillsboro, Wisconsin. He attended grade and high schools in Washington, DC, and in 1906 received his appointment to the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, from Oklahoma. Graduated on 3 June 1910, he served the two years at sea, then required by law, was commissioned Ensign, to rank from 7 March 1912, and subsequently progressed in grade to that of Admiral to date from 1 March 1946.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1910, he joined the USS Colorado, operating with the US Pacific Fleet. Continuing service with the Pacific Fleet he had short duty in the USS South Dakota between June and August 1912, prior to reporting aboard the gunboat Vicksburg. Detached from the latter in January 1913, he served in the USS Annapolis until August 1913 when he transferred to the USS California (renamed the USS San Diego in January 1914). He was attached to that vessel, operating on the West Coast during the Mexican Campaign. From February to September 1915 he had consecutive duty in the destroyers Whipple and Stewart, after which he reported for aviation training on board the USS North Carolina, one of the first ships of the Navy to carry an airplane.
Designated Naval Aviator #33 on 2 June 1916, he was assigned the same month to the Naval Aeronautic Station, Pensacola, Florida, for duty and further instruction. He remained there until the entry of the United States into World War I, on 6 April 1917, then reported to the USS Huntington, for duty in connection with catapult experiments. Detached from the Huntington in October 1917, after participation in troop convoy, he had service at the Naval Air Station, Montauk Point, Long Island, New York, before assuming command, on February 2, 1918, of the Naval Air Station, Rockaway, Long Island, New York. Following short duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, DC, he became Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station, Miami, Florida. Upon relief in February 1919, he was assigned to the Aviation Section in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
On 16 May 1919, a division of three seaplanes, the NC-l in which he was a pilot, the NC-3, and NC-4 took off from Trepassey, Newfoundland, for England, via the Azores and Spain. The NC-1 and NC-3 came down in a heavy fog, near the Azores, to determine their positions, but the heavy seas prevented their taking off again. The NC-4, however, reached Horta on 17 May, took off again on the 20th and arrived at Ponta Delgada two hours later. She left the Azores on 27 May, and arrived at Lisbon, Portugal the same day. The final leg of the flight to Plymouth, England, was completed four days later, 31 May, the NC-4 being the first airplane to make a trans-ocean flight.
"For distinguished service in the line of his profession as a member of the crew of the Seaplane NC-1, which made a long overseas flight from Newfoundland to the vicinity of the Azores in May 1919," he was awarded the Navy Cross.
In July 1919 he resumed his duties in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, where he remained until September of that year. He then joined the USS Aroostook, flagship of the Commander Air Detachment, Pacific Fleet, and in December 1920, assumed additional duty in command of the Detachment of Air Forces at the Fleet Air Base, San Diego, California. Between May and November 1922, he was in command of the Naval Air Station, Anacostia, DC, after which he was assigned to the Plans Division in the Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department. While in that latter duty he commanded the teams of Navy pilots who took part in the International Air Races at Detroit, Michigan, in October 1922, and at St. Louis, Missouri, in October of the following year.
He remained in the Department until May 1926, when he reported aboard the USS Langley. After six months’ service in that carrier, he had duty in connection with fitting out the USS Saratoga at the American Brown-Boveri Company, Camden, New Jersey. He served in the Saratoga, the first United States vessel to be launched as an aircraft carrier, from her commissioning on 16 November 1927 until June 1929. He then transferred to the USS Langley as Executive Officer and remained aboard until June 1930.
Following duty in the Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department, he joined the staff of Commander Aircraft, Base Force, USS Wright flagship, as Chief of Staff. He continued to serve as such until June 1934 when he again reported aboard the USS Saratoga as Executive Officer. Detached from that carrier in June 1935, he was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics. In May 1937 he assumed command of the USS Wright, and upon relief in November 1938, became Commander Patrol Wing ONE. Between June 1939 and July 1941, he served as Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, after which he had fitting out duty in the USS Hornet, building at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia.
Upon the commissioning of the Hornet on 20 October 1941, he assumed command, and was aboard that carrier when war was declared on the Axis Powers on 8 December 1941. The Hornet had a short but illustrious career before she was sunk on 26 October 1942, during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. She was the Shangri-la from which the American planes under the command of Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle, US Army, took off on 18 April 1942, eight hundred miles from the coast of Japan, to bomb military objectives in Tokyo and four other Japanese cities. She had brilliant service at Midway, and between that action and her sinking, the Hornet launched an attack on the Buin-Faisi area, scoring hits on a tanker, a light cruiser and two cargo ships, shot down several planes and bombed the Kahili airfield. Her planes next made a raid at Rekata Bay, where two beached transports were hit and burned, landing barges and supplies were fired, fuel dumps and anti-aircraft installations destroyed and twelve sea-planes shot down.
He received his appointment as rear admiral on 30 May 1942 to be retroactive to 4 December 1941. He accepted the appointment on 31 May 1942. On 14 June 1942, he became Commander, Task Force 17 and remained as Commander of Hornet until 30 June 1942 when he was detached from both commands.
Relieved of command of the Hornet in July 1942, prior to her sinking, he assumed command of Patrol Wing TWO. He served as such until December 1942, when he became Commander Fleet Air, Noumea. He continued to serve in that capacity until April 1943, when he reported as Commander Air, Solomon Islands. "For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service..." in this assignment he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. The citation continues in part:
"Commanding units of the Army Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aviation groups and contingents of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, (he) achieved distinctive success in coordinating these various forces into a powerful offensive weapon against the enemy Japanese...inflicted tremendous losses upon the enemy, destroying more than five hundred Japanese aircraft and sinking more than twenty vessels."
For five months, August 1943 to January 1944, he was in command of Fleet Air, West Coast, after which he assumed command of Carrier Division THREE. He was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Distinguished Service Medal for "exceptionally meritorious service...as Commanding Officer of the Carrier Force, Central Pacific Force...in January and February 1944..." The citation further states: "By his vigorous and fearless air attacks against the Japanese-held objectives of our landing forces and against hostile bases within supporting distance, (he) skillfully prevented interference without invasion operations by enemy aircraft, contributing directly to the seizure of the strategic Marshall Islands. Following the successfully directed carrier-based air attack on Truk on February 16-17, he led a Carrier Task Force against Tinian-Saipan on 22 February and although intercepted by enemy torpedo and bombing planes throughout the night of the approach and during the day of the assault, pressed home his attack with bold determination, inflicting heavy material damage on this Japanese strong-hold and seriously injuring the morale and prestige of the enemy..."
In March 1944 he assumed command of the First Carrier Task Force and Task Force FIFTY-EIGHT, which operated alternately in the Pacific with the Second Carrier Task Force and Task Force THIRTY-EIGHT. For outstanding services in this assignment he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a Third Distinguished Service Medal; the Legion of Merit with Combat Distinguishing Device "V"; and Gold Star in lieu of the Second and Third Navy Crosses. The citations follow in part:
Gold Star in lieu of a Third Distinguished Service Medal "For exceptionally meritorious service as Commander Fast Carrier Task Forces, Pacific, in offensive operations against Japanese-held islands in the Central and Western Pacific from March 19 to August 27, 1944. Penetrating deep into enemy-controlled waters, (he) led his forces in daring and brilliantly executed attacks against heavily fortified Japanese bases, inflicting severe damage on installations at Palau, Yap, and Woleai. The forces under his command covered our amphibious landing at Hollandia, they carried out a two day devastating attack on Truk, Satawan and Ponape, fiercely blasting the defenses of these important hostile strongholds and, in preparation for the invasion of Saipan, they bombarded and strafed the attack force objectives and islands within supporting distance. During the early stages of the actual landing, (he) sighted the Japanese fleet at maximum range and, swiftly launching the attack planes of his powerful Task Force FIFTY-EIGHT, not only disrupted a hostile sortie threatening the operation but also won the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 20, 1944..."
Legion of Merit: for "...outstanding service to the Government of the United States as Commanding Officer of Task Force THIRTY-EIGHT, Western Task Force (THIRD FLEET), in operations...in the Pacific Ocean Area, from August 26 to September 20, l944...(He) planned and executed daring aerial strikes against enemy installations on islands in the Palau Group and on Ulithi and Morotai, effectively supporting amphibious landings, and contributing essentially to the complete neutralization of these hostile strongholds. In addition he directed effective aerial attacks in support of assault against enemy forces on the Bonins, Yap and Talaud and on Southern Mindinao, Philippine Islands..."
Gold Star in lieu of a Second Navy Cross: "For extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of Task Force THIRTY-EIGHT, Western Task Forces (THIRD FLEET), during the Battle for Leyte Gulf, from October 22 to 30, 1944...(He) masterfully planned and executed a series of decisive and devastating blows against major task forces of the Japanese Fleet, greatly hampering operations of hostile combatant and carrier task forces in the vicinity of Mindoro, the Sulu Sea and northeast of Luzon, Philippine Islands, and inflicting tremendous damage to the major portion of capital ships and carrier aircraft of the Japanese Navy...(and) enabled his forces to seize every opportunity to damage or harass the enemy..."
Gold Star in lieu of a Third Navy Cross: "For extraordinary heroism as Commander Task Force FIFTY EIGHT in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Western Pacific War Area from January 27 to May 27, 1945. Leading his powerful Fast Carrier Task Force in a series of relentless attacks against the enemy in support of our amphibious operations at Iwo Jima and Okinawa (he) penetrated enemy home waters to the shores of the main Japanese Islands, striking airfields and installations in the Tokyo and Kyushu area twice each and, on one occasion, heavily attacking enemy combatant vessels in the Inland Sea. Later, when the battleship Yamato, a light cruiser and nine destroyers sortied from the Inland Sea and threatened our forces, he immediately turned north to intercept the enemy and, in a brilliant attack with carrier aircraft southwest of Kyushu on April 7, sank Yamato, the light cruiser and four destroyers..."
In July 1945, he returned to the United States for duty as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air, Navy Department, Washington, DC. He continued to serve in that capacity until March 1946, when he assumed command of the EIGHTH Fleet. Relieved of that duty in September l946, he became Commander in Chief, US Atlantic Fleet. He was so serving at the time of his death, 3 February 1947. He died at the US Naval Hospital, Norfolk, Virginia, of coronary thrombosis following a heart attack, and was buried with full military honors at Arlington, National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
In addition to the Navy Cross with two Gold Stars, the Distinguished Service Medal with two Gold Stars and the Legion of Merit with Combat "V", Admiral Mitscher was entitled to the Individual Presidential Unit Citations awarded the USS Yorktown, USS Bunker Hill and the USS Lexington, and also the Navy Unit Commendation to the USS Enterprise. His campaign medals were as follows: the Mexican Service Medal; the World War I Victory Medal, Escort Clasp; the NC-4 Medal (Trans-Atlantic Flight, May 1919); the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon. He also held the Order of Tower and Sword (grade of Official) awarded him by the Government of Portugal; and the Order of the Bath (grade of Companion), presented to him by the British Government.
He is survived by his wife, the former Frances Smalley of Tacoma, Washington.
Source: Adapted from "Admiral Marc Andrew Mitscher, US Navy, Deceased," produced by the Navy Office of Information, Internal Relations Division (OI-430) dated 23 January 1964, Mitscher, Marc Andrew file, Biographies, 20th Century, Navy Department Library.
Report of Operations of Task Force Fifty Eight in Support of Landings at Okinawa, 14 March through 28 May (East Longitude Dates), including Actions Against Kyushu, Nansei Shoto, Japanese Fleet at Kure, the Yamato, and Operations in Direct Support of Landings at Okinawa. manuscript collection, Navy Department Library.
Additional images of Admiral Mitscher.