Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, US Navy
27 May 1888 - 27 July 1957
Frederick Carl Sherman was born in Port Huron, Michigan, 27 May 1888, son of Frederick Ward and Charlotte Sherman. He attended Port Huron High School before his appointment to the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, from his native state in 1906. At Annapolis he won his 'N' in lacrosse, was runner up for the boxing championship in 1908-1909, and won the Thompson Trophy for the sailing championship.
After graduation on 2 June 1910, he had consecutive duty in the battleships Montana, Ohio, and Maryland and, upon completion of the two years of sea duty, then required by law before commissioning, was commissioned Ensign to rank from 7 March 1912. He progressed in rank to that of Captain, effective 23 June 1938. He was appointed Rear Admiral, for temporary service, to rank from 3 April 1942, and on 13 July 1945, was appointed to the rank of Vice Admiral. He was transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy, in the rank of Admiral, on 1 March 1947.
Upon detachment from the USS Maryland in January 1914, he was ordered to the USS Cheyenne on the Pacific Station for submarine duty. He was transferred to the USS H-3 in April 1915, and from her to command of the USS H-2. In December 1917, he reported for duty in charge of fitting out the USS O-7 at Quincy, Massachusetts and assumed command when she was commissioned on 4 July 1918. The USS O-7 was engaged in patrol duties in the Atlantic during World War I. He was awarded the Navy Cross for duty in that submarine during World War I, with the following citation:
'For distinguished and heroic action as Commanding Officer of the USS O-7, engaged in the important, exacting and hazardous duty of patrolling the waters infested by enemy submarines, destroyers, and mines; protecting vitally important convoys of troops and supplies, and in offensive and defensive action, vigorously and unremittingly prosecuted against all forms of enemy naval activity.'
He served as Navigator of the USS Minnesota between February and May 1919, after which he had duty in the Bureau of Engineering, Navy Department, Washington, DC. He had command of Submarine Division 9 from August 1921 until April 1924, followed by instruction at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. He was assigned in June 1925 to the Division of Fleet Training, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, and in May 1926, joined the USS West Virginia as gunnery officer. Detached from that battleship in June 1929 he had duty in the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department until July 1931, when he returned to the Division of Fleet Training, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
He joined the USS Detroit in June 1932 and after serving as her Navigator for a year assumed command in May 1933, of Destroyer Division EIGHT. He was transferred to command of Destroyer Division ONE in February 1934 and, following that duty, served as Aide to the Commandant of the Eleventh Naval District with headquarters in San Diego, California.
In June 1935 he reported for flight training at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida. Designated Naval Aviator on 9 March 1936, the following month he became Executive Officer of the USS Saratoga. He was Executive Officer of the Naval Air Station, San Diego from June 1937 to July 1938 and for a year thereafter commanded Patrol Wing THREE based at Coco Solo, Canal Zone. In May 1940 he completed the Senior Course at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island.
He assumed command of the USS Lexington on 13 June 1940. At the time of the sudden outbreak of World War Two, the Lexington together with the USS Enterprise, was at sea near Midway. When word of the attack on Pearl Harbor was received, the two carriers engaged in a prolonged search for the Japanese ships which launched the attack, but the enemy forces succeeded in escaping in a weather front. Moving to the South Pacific sometime later the Lexington was attacked by a large formation of enemy horizontal bombers near Bougainville. He was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the Second Navy Cross for 'distinguished service...as Commanding Officer, USS Lexington, on February 20, 1942, when that ship was attacked by eighteen Japanese bombers...' The citation further states in part:
'As a result of the brilliant performance of the fighting squadrons under his command, the outstanding manner in which he coordinated and timed the employment and relief of his combat patrols, and his own expert handling of his ship, sixteen of the eighteen enemy bombers were destroyed, without damage to the USS Lexington.'
For the attack on Salamaua and Lae, one of the first carrier strikes of the war on the advancing Japanese, he was designated Commander Air, and was placed in command of an air unit comprising the carriers Lexington and Yorktown and their attached air groups. The attack on 10 March 1942, was fully successful. Enemy troops had landed three days earlier at the New Guinea ports, and the attack resulted in the sinking and damaging of many enemy vessels and transports. He received a Letter of Commendation, with authorization to wear the Commendation Ribbon, from the Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet. As follows:
'For distinguished service...as Commander Air, of a task force in planning the aviation details and coordinating the aircraft of his own and another carrier in a successful and destructive attack on enemy shipping in enemy waters on March 10, 1942, with the result that fifteen enemy ships were sunk or badly damaged with the loss of only one plane to the task force.'
The Lexington, still under his command, participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea, 4-8 May 1942. This battle was the first major engagement in naval history in which surface ships did not exchange a single shot; it was a battle between aircraft based on carriers. In this engagement the Japanese were turned back from their prospective invasion of Australia and the vital supply lines to the Southwest Pacific were saved. During this battle, the Lexington was the principal target of the Japanese air attacks and she was hopelessly damaged after her planes had accounted for numerous enemy aircraft and ships, including the carrier Shoho. The Lexington was later sunk by torpedoes from a United States destroyer. Admiral Sherman was the last to leave his ship and was boat hooked out of the sea onto a cruiser. 'For exceptionally meritorious conduct...during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea, May 7-8, 1942...' he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat 'V.' The citation further states in part:
'...Vice Admiral (then Captain) Sherman directed his Air Squadrons in two daring attacks on enemy carriers and succeeded in sinking one and in damaging or probably destroying another. In addition, forty hostile aircraft were destroyed by Lexington aircrewmen during the two-day engagement. When enemy dive bombers and torpedo planes staged a fierce counterattack, (he) handled his ship with superb seamanship, avoiding many torpedoes and bombs. Later when an explosion made it necessary to abandon ship, he calmly conducted the orderly disembarkation of more than 2700 survivors who were subsequently rescued by accompanying vessels of the Task Force...'
Shortly after the loss of the Lexington, he was advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral (for temporary service), and became Assistant Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department. In October 1942, after three months ashore, he returned to duty in the Pacific. In November of that year he relieved the Commander of Carrier Task Force SIXTEEN in the South Pacific Area and later this unit was merged with the Central Pacific task forces and Admiral Sherman became Commander Carrier Division TWO.
Starting with aerial strikes at Buka-Bonis, 1-2 November 1943, Admiral Sherman led his carrier forces in a series of raids on enemy bases throughout the South and Central Pacific. His planes accounted for the destruction or damaging of forty-six ships and nearly three hundred and fifty aircraft during the comparatively short period from 1 November 1943 to 22 February 1944. Although his ships were in enemy waters constantly none were damaged and aircraft losses were light. Throughout this tour of duty and a subsequent period of combat, Admiral Sherman compiled a brilliant record of leading Naval air units in many first strikes against enemy strongholds. Among these first were the highly successful initial raids at Salamaua-Lae, Rabaul, Buka-Bonis, Kavieng, Nauru, Eniwetok, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Truk, Mindanao, Visayas, Manila, Formosa, Tokyo, Okinawa, Kyushu, the Pescadores Islands, and the South China Sea raids at Saigon, Kamranh Bay, Hong Kong, Hainan and Amoy. His group aided in the capture of the Gilbert Islands, providing air cover for ground forces consolidating positions on Tarawa and Makin. Joining other Naval units for the amphibious assault in the Marshall Islands, his planes strafed and bombed enemy troops and fortified positions on Kwajalein and Eniwetok.
'For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy...' he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the Third Navy Cross. The citation continues in part:
'On February 21, 1944, while serving as Officer in Tactical Command of a Carrier Task Group, the position of his group was reported to the enemy. Later that evening, his Task Group was the object of a series of attacks by enemy torpedo and bombing planes. These attacks were delivered in an aggressive, determined manner and continued throughout the night and into the following morning. During these repeated attacks, he maneuvered his Task Group in an excellent manner and presented to the enemy at all times the most difficult target possible; two enemy aircraft were destroyed at night by ships' gunfire, and three more were destroyed by ships' gunfire and Combat Air Patrol the following morning. In the face of these determined attacks he continued his approach to the aircraft launching point. Aircraft were launched from the carriers under his command and delivered repeated attacks on shipping, aircraft and shore installations on and in the vicinity of Tinian and Guam Islands, and inflicted heavy damage upon the enemy. In addition, extremely valuable photographs were obtained. The above action and subsequent retirement were completed without damage to ships of his Task Group by the enemy...'
He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and cited as follows:
'For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service...as the Commander of the Carrier Task Force which engaged in the air strike against Rabaul Harbor, New Britain Island, on November 5, 1943. Boldly leading his force deep into enemy waters, (he) skillfully directed the daring raid upon units of the Japanese fleet, rendering impotent the large hostile force concentrated at this major enemy stronghold. In neutralizing this threat to our forces, he contributed materially to the success of our operations on Bougainville. An aggressive leader and brilliant tactician, Rear Admiral Sherman enabled the ships under his command to inflict severe damage on the enemy and retire from the engagement unscathed.'
Returning to the United States for another brief interlude from combat, he was Commander Fleet Air, West Coast with headquarters in San Diego, California, from 25 March 1944 until August 1944. He then returned to the Pacific where he first took command of Task Force FIFTY EIGHT POINT THREE of the FIRST Carrier Task Force.
During the sea-air Battle for Leyte Gulf, 24-26 October 1944, in which the Japanese fleet was defeated decisively and eliminated as a serious threat to future Allied operations in the enemy's home waters, Admiral Sherman commanded the northern carrier group in action against Japanese air and surface forces. His group bore the entire brunt of the enemy's desperate air attacks, launched by four carriers and land bases on Luzon. Of a force of nearly two hundred planes that attacked his ships the first day of the battle, one hundred and sixty-seven were shot down. The same day his fliers struck at Japanese warships in the Mindanao Sea, aiding in sinking the enemy's super-battleship Musashi. On the second day of the battle, his task group played a major part in the destruction of four enemy carriers and six other warships, including cruisers and destroyers. So effective were his fliers' blows that other Japanese fleet units, all of them severely battered and crippled, fled for the protection of home waters.
One of his most distinguished actions occurred 11 November 1944, when his forces destroyed an enemy convoy at Ormoc Bay, Leyte, smashing the Japanese attempt to reinforce its garrison on the Philippine Islands. This attack was credited with destruction of fifteen thousand enemy troops at a time when General of the Army Douglas MacArthur' forces were hard-pressed. For his success in this operation, he received congratulatory dispatches from the Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet and from General of the Army MacArthur. Two days later, Admiral Sherman was in command of the fast carriers that made a two day raid on enemy-held Manila, in which heavy damage was done to enemy shipping and harbor installations. Thereafter, his task group participated in the Fast Carrier Task Force's series of daring raids in the South China Sea, and subsequent attacks on Tokyo. Covering the invasion of Iwo Jima was their next job, then the fierce fighting off Okinawa, followed by further strikes at the Japanese home-islands.
For further heroism in the Pacific area, he was awarded Gold Stars in lieu of the Second and Third Distinguished Service Medal. The citations follow in part:
Gold Star in lieu of the Second DSM: 'For exceptionally meritorious service...as Commander of a Task Group, assigned to the First Carrier Task Force, supporting our assault landings on Peleliu and Anguar in the Palau Group and conducting air strikes against enemy Japanese bases on Mindanao, the Visayas, and Luzon in the Philippines and the Loochow Islands and Formosa in support of our landings at Leyte, from September 1 to October 30 1944; and as Commander of a Task Group, assigned to the Second Carrier Task Force, operating against enemy forces in the Philippine Islands, Formosa, the Nansei Shoto Islands and the coast of French Indo-China, from October 30, 1944 to January 25, 1945. Highly skilled in organizing and developing the forces of his command during these critical periods, Rear Admiral Sherman directed his Task Group in effective attacks against the enemy in the face of determined opposition, inflicting severe and costly damage upon aircraft, shipping and shore installations in strategic Pacific areas. By his brilliant leadership and his knowledge and expertise in all phases of aerial warfare, he inspired the men of his force to maximum effort and contributed essentially to the continued successful prosecution of the war in this theater...'
Gold Star in lieu of the Third DSM: 'For exceptionally meritorious service...as Commander Task Group FIFTY-EIGHT POINT THREE, assigned to the First Carrier Task Force, during operations against enemy Japanese forces, from February 10 to June 18, 1945. Utilizing the maximum striking power of his command, (he) directed his Task Group in a series of effective attacks against the enemy at Tokyo, Iwo Jima, Kyushu and the Inland Sea and in a dangerous photographic mission at Okinawa within a period of approximately one month of intensive activities. Under repeated aerial attacks during operations at Okinawa from March 23 to May 29, he maintained a high standard of fighting efficiency in his group and, employing brilliant defensive tactics in repulsing the Japanese, pressed home devastating strikes against the enemy, inflicting severe and costly damage upon hostile aircraft, shipping and shore installations and providing stout support for our military group units on this strategic island. (His) fearless leadership and expert tactical direction of Task Group FIFTY-EIGHT POINT THREE were vital factors in extending our control of the Pacific Area westward to the homeland of Japan and in completing a number of hazardous missions with outstanding success...'
On 13 July 1945 he became Commander FIRST Carrier Task Force, US Pacific Fleet, with the accompanying rank of Vice Admiral. He was Commander FIFTH Fleet from 18 January 1946 until 3 September that year, when he was relieved of all active duty pending his retirement, effective 1 March 1947.
Admiral Sherman died, following a heart attack, on 27 July 1957 at San Diego, California.
During World War Two, he had active combat duty in the Pacific during the entire 'War' period with the exception of two brief shore assignments totaling seven months.
In addition to the Navy Cross with two Gold Stars, the Distinguished Service Medal with two Gold Stars, the Legion of Merit with Combat 'V,' and the Commendation Ribbon, Admiral Sherman had the Nicaraguan Campaign Medal; the Mexican Service Medal; the Victory Medal, Submarine Clasp (World War I); the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal. He also had the Order of the British Empire awarded him by the Government of Great Britain.
Admiral Sherman's wife is the author of the book Admiral Wags, the story of the shipboard life of the Admiral's dog.
Source: Adapted from the biographical sketch for Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, Navy Biographies Branch, OI-450, 6 August 1957, now part of the Modern Biographies files, Navy Department Library, Naval History & Heritage Command.