Frank Virden was born in Cynthia, Mississippi, on 25 January 1905, son of Walter and Fanny Mayes Harris Virden. He attended Millsaps Academy at Jackson, Mississippi, and Marion Institute, Marion, Alabama. He was appointed to the US Naval Academy as a Midshipman from his native state. Graduated and commissioned Ensign on 2 June 1927, he subsequently advanced in rank to that of Rear Admiral to date from 1 August 1955.
After graduation from the Naval Academy, he was assigned to USS Arkansas, in which he served as a junior officer until May 1929. He served briefly in USS Billingsley, had instruction in torpedoes at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode Island, July to December 1929, and returned to the Billingsley for duty on board until she was placed out of commission on 1 May 1930. He then served successively in USS J. Fred Talbot (DD 156), and then USS Chester (CA 27), until June 1935. While on board the latter, he had additional duty in July 1934, as Aircraft Gunnery Observer with Scouting Squadron, 10-S.
From June 1935 to May 1937 he was a student at the Naval Postgraduate School, Annapolis, Maryland. On 23 July 1937 he was ordered to USS Pecos, operating with the Asiatic Fleet, and served thereon during the period August 1937 to October 1938; to USS Canopus (AS 9), until February 1940 while serving on the staff of Commander Submarine Squadron 5.
From April 1940 to June 1941 he served in the Gunnery Department of USS Arizona, a battleship of the Pacific Fleet. Upon his detachment, he reported to Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, for duty until June 1942 as Assistant Professor of Naval Science and Tactics, in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Unit there. He attended Sound School at Key West, Florida, before assuming command at her commissioning on 30 July 1942, of USS Frazier. He continued in that command until 8 June 1943, operating in the Solomons and Aleutian Areas, after which he returned to the Sound School, Key West.
He assumed command of USS Knapp (DD 653) at her commissioning on 16 September 1943, at Boston, Massachusetts. Under his command that destroyer participated in the Marshall Island operation (occupation of Kwajalein, Truk and Marianas attacks, raids on Palau, Yap, etc.); the Hollandia operation; and the Marianas operation (including capture and occupation of Saipan and the Battle of the Philippine Sea).
He received a Letter of Commendation with Ribbon and combat “V,” from Commander in Chief, Pacific, “For distinguished service in the line of his profession and for gallantry in action during the operations against the Japanese bases at Tinian, Saipan and Guam, in the Marianas, on 22 February 1944.” The commendation states further: “In this action for the first time in the war in the Pacific, a carrier Task Force was discovered by the enemy and obliged to fight its way to its objective. Throughout these operations he at all times fought his ship with courage and skill. During the night of 21-22 February, the screen of which his ship was a part, shot down at least 8 enemy planes in flames and drove off all others before they could inflict damage upon the Task Force…”
During the last year of the war he served as Communications Officer on the staff of Commander Amphibious Group FIVE (attached to USS Mt. McKinley and USS Ancon, Flagships), and of Commander Amphibious Forces Pacific (attached to USS Eldorado). He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal “For meritorious achievement (in that capacity) during assaults against enemy Japanese forces on Pelelieu and Okinawa, and later as Acting Communications Officer for the Commander Amphibious Forces, U. S. Pacific Fleet, from July 1944 to June 1945…” The citation states he “procured urgently needed communication facilities and supervised the distribution, installation and maintenance by the ships of the attack force…(and) organized, trained and directed all the communications of the command, thereby contributing materially to the success of the amphibious operations…”
In October 1945 he returned to the United States, and for a year thereafter served as District Communications Officer, Eighth Naval District, Headquarters at New Orleans, Louisiana. From November 1946 until April 1949 he served in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, in the Operational Readiness Division as Coordinator of Electronics and on the Air Defense Board. In May 1949 he was sent to the Fleet Sonar School, Key West, Florida, and on 14 June that year assumed command of Destroyer Squadron 18, with additional duty as Commander Destroyer Division 181, serving until August 1950.
He was a student (Strategy and Tactics) at the Naval War College until June 1951, and for the two years thereafter served on the staff there. He had temporary duty in August and September 1953 in the Amphibious Training Command, Pacific Fleet, at Coronado, California, and on 10 September 1953 assumed command of Transport Division 15, in the Pacific. From 1 October 1954 to 15 January 1955 he commanded Amphibious Squadron SEVEN of the Amphibious Force, Pacific, and during that period had additional duty in command of Transport Division 71.
On 14 February 1955 he became Assistant Director of the General Planning Group, under the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, DC. He was Commander Destroyer Flotilla SIX from August 1955 until November 1956, when he was assigned to the Joint Staff, US Commander in Chief, Europe, as Director, Communications Electronics Division. In July 1958 he reported as Director of Naval Communications, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. On 5 May 1959 he became Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Communications)/Director of Naval Communications. He assumed command of Cruiser Destroyer Force, US Pacific Fleet in November 1961 and during April and May 1962 had additional duty as Commander FIRST Fleet.
In addition to the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V,” and the Commendation Ribbon with Bronze Star and Combat “V,” Rear Admiral Virden was entitled to the Ribbon for the Navy Unit Commendation awarded USS Mt. McKinley, and had the China Service Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Europe Clasp; National Defense Service Medal; and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon.