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Arthur L. Bristol (DE-281)

(APD-97: dp. 2,130; l. 306'; b. 37'; dr. 12'7"; s. 23.6 k.; cpl. 204; a. 1 5", 6 40mm., 6 20mm., 2 dct.; cl. Charles Lawrence)

Arthur LeRoy Bristol, Jr., born in Charleston, S.C., on 15 July 1886, entered the Naval Academy on 23 September 1902 and graduated with the Class of 1906. After the prescribed two years of sea duty, which he served in the predreadnought Illinois (Battleship No. 7), he received his commission as ensign in 1908. Transferred to Mayflower in 1909, he remained in that Presidential yacht until ordered to Berlin, Germany, in January 1912 for a year and one-half as a naval attache. In June 1913, he returned home to command the new destroyer Cummings (Destroyer No. 44) upon her completion at Bath Iron Works. A year later, he received the concurrent command of Terry (Destroyer No. 25) and the 2d Division, Reserve Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet. He then briefly commanded Jarvis (Destroyer No. 38).

Late in 1915, Bristol was assigned the duties of aide and torpedo officer on the staff of Commander, Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet and, in the winter of 1916, he became aide and flag secretary to the Commander, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet. In the summer of 1917, soon after the United States entered World War I, he became aide and flag secretary for Commander, Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet. After serving in that capacity into the following winter, Bristol was awarded the Navy Cross for his service as flag secretary and acting chief of staff to Commander, Cruiser and Transport Force. While holding that post, he worked closely with Army authorities in the handling of troopship movements. Later, as flag secretary for the Commander, Cruiser and Transport Force, he earned the Distinguished Service Medal. Going ashore in February 1918, he labored in Washington through the end of World War I and into the spring of 1919 on duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

Bristol then commanded Breckinridge (DD-148) and Overton (DD-239) in succession, serving in the latter during that ship's operations in the Black Sea during the capitulation of White Russian forces to the Bolsheviks in November 1920. For his services rendered during the evacuation of the Crimea, a grateful Russian government-in-exile presented him with the Order of St. Stanislav, III Class.

Detached from Overton in August 1921, Bristol again served in Washington attached to the General Board and then went to Philadelphia to assist in the decommissioning of destroyers. A course of instruction at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., occupied him from July 1922 to May 1923, and he next served as an instructor on the staff of that institution from May 1923 to May 1924. Following a brief tour as aide for Commander, Scouting Fleet, he sailed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to join the American naval mission there.

Reporting to the battleship Arizona (BB-39) in February 1927, Bristol served as executive officer of that dreadnought until April of the following year and then moved to the Naval Air Station (NAS), San Diego, Calif. for aviation instruction. Following further flight training at NAS, Pensacola, Fla., he was designated a naval aviator and was sent to the Asiatic Fleet, where he served as commanding officer of the seaplane tender Jason (AV-2) and later, as Commander, Aircraft Squadrons, Asiatic Fleet.

Detached in the spring of 1931, he checked in briefly at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington before proceeding on to the United Kingdom to become naval attache in London on 1 October 1931. A brief stop in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations upon his return from England in the spring of 1934 preceded his traveling to the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va., as prospective commanding officer of the new aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4).

The original commanding officer of the Navy's first aircraft carrier to be built as such from the keel up, Bristol took Ranger to South American waters on shakedown and commanded her thereafter until June 1936, when he became Commanding Officer, NAS, San Diego. During the latter tour, he served on the Hepburn Board, participating in the investigations into suitable base sites in the United States and its possessions.

Becoming Commander, Patrol Wing 2, at Pearl Harbor, T.H., on 27 July 1939, Bristol was given flag rank on 1 August and, the following summer, became Commander, Carrier Division 1. He then served as Commander, Aircraft, Scouting Force (18 September to 12 October 1940), and as Commander, Patrol Wings, United States Fleet (12 October 1940 to 23 January 1941) before reporting to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations on 25 January 1941.

With increasing American alarm over the course of the Battle of the Atlantic, the Roosevelt administration took steps to aid the British. To help escort convoys across the Atlantic, the Navy established the Support Force, Atlantic Fleet, and based it at Newport, R.I. On 1 March 1941, Rear Admiral Bristol became the Force's first commander. He held this important position throughout the tense, undeclared war with Germany in the summer and autumn of 1941 and through America's entry into the global conflict on 7 December of that year. Designated vice admiral on 27 February 1942, Bristol remained in that important command until he suffered a fatal heart attack at Argentia, Newfoundland, on 27 April 1942.

Arthur L. Bristol (DE-281) was laid down on 1 December 1943 at the Charleston (S.C.) Navy Yard; launched on 19 February 1944; sponsored by Miss Ellen Wing Getty, who had been chosen for this honor by the brother of the late Vice Admiral Bristol; redesignated APD-97 on 17 July 1944 as the result of the decision to complete the ship as a fast transport instead of as a destroyer escort; and commissioned at her builders' yard on 25 June 1945, Lt. Comdr. Morris Beerman, USNR, in command.

After fitting out, Arthur L. Bristol proceeded to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she carried out shakedown training from 13 July to 7 August 1945. After a brief post-shakedown availability at Norfolk, the fast transport arrived at the Naval Training Center, Miami, early in September. Arthur L. Bristol operated in the Florida Keys and in Cuban waters as a training ship for student officers for the rest of her active career.

Ordered to Mobile, Ala., on 31 October, Arthur L. Bristol was drydocked there before shifting to the Naval Repair Base, Algiers, La., to commence preinactivation preservation. Assigned to the 163d Transport Division, 18th Transport Squadron, SubGroup 4, Florida Group, 16th Fleet, on 1 December, Arthur L. Bristol was berthed at Green Cove Springs, Fla., in the St. John's River berthing area, where she was decommissioned on 29 April 1946.

Never returning to active service, Arthur L. Bristol was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 June 1964 and sold for scrap the following summer. She was transferred to her purchaser, the Boston Metals Corp., Baltimore, Md., on 4 August 1965 and removed from naval custody that day.

Published: Fri Apr 15 10:12:54 EDT 2016