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McCaffree, Captain Burnham C. Papers 

Dates: 1926-1997

Collection Number: AR/374 (Formerly COLL/454)

Finding aid (Word)

Biographical Note

Burnham Clough McCaffree was born on 25 April 1903 in Canova, South Dakota. He was the eldest of four children of Charles David McCaffree and Ethel Clough McCaffree. He attended Sioux Falls College in South Dakota for two years before entering the United States Naval Academy in the summer of 1922. He graduated four years later in the Class of 1926.

Ensign McCaffree served in USS Idaho (BB-24) and on the staff of Commander, Battle Force, and as an officer on board USS Nokomis, assigned to survey the coast of Cuba. He next attended flight training at Pensacola, Florida, where he received his wings as a naval aviator in 1931.

His initial aviation assignment was to Fighter Squadron Five (VF-5) on board aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2). In 1933, he returned to Pensacola as a flight instructor for three years. During that time, his students included Captain (later Fleet Admiral) William F. Halsey and Captain (later Admiral) John S. McCain, who were earning their wings prior to commanding new aircraft carriers that the nation was constructing. While at Pensacola, he flew several experimental aircraft for the Navy, including the autogryo. Upon completion of that tour, Lieutenant McCaffree was assigned as Operations Officer to Bombing Squadron Five (VB-5) on board aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) in the Atlantic Fleet and later in the Pacific Fleet.

In 1938, McCaffree was ordered to be the first commanding officer of Observation Squadron Five (VO-5) at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia. This squadron consisted of nine SOC two-seat seaplanes that were embarked in three battleships of the U.S. Fleet Atlantic Squadron and Battleship Division Five: USS Arkansas (BB-33), USS New York (BB-34), and USS Texas (BB-35). Rear Admiral Hayne Ellis, USN, commanded the Battleship Division. In 1940, Lieutenant Commander McCaffree was reassigned as the Executive Officer of Patrol Squadron Thirty-two, (VP-32), composed of PBY-3 Catalina seaplanes at Naval Air Station Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone. In 1941, McCaffree became the commanding officer of the squadron, which conducted anti-submarine operations against German submarines operating in the Caribbean after the outbreak of World War II.

Commander McCaffree’s next assignment, in 1942, was as Operations Officer and Chief Staff Officer of a new Fleet Air Wing of PBYs and PBMs in Key West, Florida. He then was detailed as the Head Sea Frontier Section, the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet’s staff, and also Air Operations Officer of the Tenth Fleet in Washington, D.C. Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) Ernest J. King was Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet and Commander, Tenth Fleet. Promoted to Captain in 1944, McCaffree assumed command of USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60), whose task group conducted ASW hunter-killer operations in the Atlantic Ocean.

In early 1945, McCaffree became the U.S. Navy Liaison Officer to the Commander, 29th Air Force (Major General Curtis LeMay, U.S. Army) on Guam. Following the end of hostilities, he served as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations on the staff of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas. That was followed by his assignment to the Aviation Distribution Office of the Navy Department, and by his attending the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. In 1951, Captain McCaffree was the recommissioning commanding officer of aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-18), which then operated in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. On 26 April 1952, during maneuvers in the middle of the night, Wasp collided with one of her escorts, destroyer minesweeper USS Hobson (DMS-26). Hobson sank in less than four minutes, taking 176 of her crew with her. McCaffree was absolved of any blame in the resulting court of inquiry.

From 1952 to 1954, Captain McCaffree commanded Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, with additional duty as Commander, Naval Air Bases, Sixth Naval District. His final assignment was as Vice Deputy Commandant, Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Following his retirement from the Navy in 1956, Captain McCaffree was the Executive Director of the Committee of 100 for the Jacksonville (Florida) Chamber of Commerce. In that capacity, he was instrumental in bringing a number of industries and corporation headquarters into Duval County and Jacksonville. He died in 1966.

Scope and Content Note

The Papers of Captain Burnham C. McCaffree are a set of news clippings, message dispatches, photographs, and correspondence collected by the Captain and his son, Burnham C. McCaffree, Jr.

The collection is organized in two series. Series I is a subject file. The folders are divided by subject, and arranged alphabetically. Among items of note are a report on the collision-damaged Wasp's return to New York by Captain McCaffree’s son, materials from Wasp's recommissioning and the Wasp-Hobson collision. Photos from a photo album have been placed in clear sleeves and McCaffree's scrapbook has been photocopied, and all the loose materials within placed in the corresponding spots between the photocopied pages.

Series II, Oversize, contains a large photograph taken of Captain McCaffree's first aviation assignment, Fighter Squadron Five, when McCaffree was a young Lieutenant, j.g. He stands in the upper left corner of the picture. The series also contains Captain McCaffree's scrapbook from his time as captain of USS Wasp and commanding officer, NAS Jacksonville. Series I includes a photocopy of the scrapbook for use by researchers.

Restrictions Note

In order to preserve the original scrapbook, its use is only by permission of the processing archivist or Archives Branch Head. Researchers are to use the photocopy found in Box 1.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Papers of Burnham C. McCaffree, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.

Subject Headings (LCSH)

United States. Navy--History--Sources.
New York (Ship).
United States. Navy--Airmen
Guadalcanal (Ship).
United States. Navy--Aviation.
United States. Navy--Officers.
United States Naval Academy.
Collisions at sea.
Wasp (Ship).
Hobson (Ship).

For associated photographic materials, please visit the photo archive donated collections related to Burnham C. McCaffree


Published: Tue Aug 10 12:20:52 EDT 2021