(11 June 1864 26 January 1935)
2nd Chief of Naval Operations
(1 November 1919 21 July 1923)
As Chief of Naval Operations during a time of fiscal retrenchment, Admiral Coontz worked to maintain the Navy as an efficient fighting force. His support of naval aviation helped lay the essential foundation of the Navy’s World War II air power.
Robert E. Coontz, of Hannibal, Missouri, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1885. He saw action in the Spanish American War and was USS Nebraska’s executive officer during the Great White Fleet’s round-the-world cruise. After serving as Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy and governor of Guam, Coontz commanded USS Georgia and, in World War I, the 13th Naval District at Puget Sound. Following a brief period as acting Chief of Naval Operations and as a battleship division commander in the Pacific Fleet, Coontz was appointed CNO. As CNO, Coontz advised the U.S. delegation to the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-1922. He persuaded Congress to increase enlisted strength, emphasizing, “men fight, not ships.” He sponsored the conversion of the Lexington and Saratoga into aircraft carriers and brought the first aircraft carrier, USS Langley, into active service. In 1923, he established the Naval Research Laboratory. Later, Coontz served as Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Commandant of the 5th Naval District. USS Coontz (DLG-9, later DDG-40) and USS Admiral R. E. Coontz (AP-122) were commissioned in his honor.
Source: Biography compiled by the staff of the Naval Historical Center.