Cecil Clinton Adell was born on 12 July 1900, in Topeka, Kansas, son of Mrs. Sarah Eleanor (Wadsworth) Adell (now Mrs. R. M .Robison) and the late Earl Francis Adell. He attended Lincoln High School, Seattle, Washington, and on 12 April 1917 enlisted in the US Navy. He served during World War I in USS New Orleans, engaged in convoy duty in the Atlantic. He was honorably discharged to accept an appointment, at large, to the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on 15 June 1918. Graduated and commissioned Ensign on 3 June 1922, he resigned from the Navy, effective 1 October 1924, and on 28 January 1925 was reappointed an Ensign in the US Naval Reserve. He again resigned (16 July 1926) to accept a commission as Ensign in the US Navy, his date of rank to date back to his original appointment, 3 June 1922. Advancing progressively in rank he attained that of Captain, to date from 1 April 1943.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1922, he joined USS Maryland and in December 1923 transferred to USS Jason. Detached from the Jason in March 1924, he returned to the Naval Academy for three months' duty in connection with the Olympic Games. In July 1924 he was assigned to the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he remained until September of that year, and after eleven days instruction at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, he resigned from the Naval Service.
Upon his reappointment in the US Navy he reported in July 1926 aboard the battleship Arkansas and during January and February of the next year was assigned to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida. Between March 1927 and May 1931, he had consecutive duty afloat in USS Patoka and USS Utah, after which he returned to the United States to attend the course in General Line at the Postgraduate School, Annapolis, Maryland. He had further training at the Naval Training Station, Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads, Virginia, after which he reported, in May 1933, as Executive Officer of USS Southard. In June 1936 he joined the staff of Commander Scouting Force as Aide and Flag Lieutenant.
Between July 1938 and May 1940 he was an Instructor in the Department of Ordnance and Gunnery at the Naval Academy, after which he returned to sea as Navigator of USS Chicago. He assumed duty as Executive Officer of that cruiser in May 1942, and served in that capacity until the Chicago was sunk on 30 January 1943. "For heroic service...(while serving in the latter assignment)...in action against enemy Japanese aircraft during two torpedo attacks near Rennell Island on 29 and 30 January 1943..."he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V." The citation further states, in part:
"With his ship listing so badly that sinking seemed imminent after two torpedo hits, (he) ably and courageously assisted in keeping the ship afloat by his skillfull direction of damage control operations and antiaircraft fire. On the following day when the ship, under tow by a fleet tug, was again attacked and struck by four more torpedoes, he assisted in manning and directing fire of the remaining guns, which resulted in the destruction of several enemy planes. When it became evident that the vessel was unable to remain afloat and his Commanding Officer was forced to give the order abandon ship, Captain Adell proceeded to the port side, making a through inspection of compartments below to ensure the complete clearance of personnel, supervising the removal of wounded, and leaving only when satisfied that all living crew members had been withdrawn..."
After the sinking of the Chicago, he served on the staff of Commander Fleet Operational Training Command, from April 1943 to May 1944, at which time he assumed command of the San Diego Shakedown Group of the Fleet Operational Training Command, Pacific. "For exceptionally meritorious conduct (in that capacity)...from may 10, 19444, to September 1, 1945..." he was awarded the Legion of Merit. The citation continues in part:
"Directing the development of highly efficient methods and procedures to process vessels through courses of underway training designed to mold inexperienced crews into competent ship's companies, Captain Adell rendered valuable service in the training of over 183,000 officers and men to operate and fight more than 400 combatant vessels..."
In October 1945 he assumed command of USS Nevada, commanding that battleship until August 1946, and two months later joined the staff of Commander Operational Development Force, US Atlantic Fleet as Chief of Staff and Aide. He served as such until October 1947, when he became Commander Naval Base, Key West, Florida. On 25 May 1948, he was assigned duty as Task Force Commander, Key West Force, with his former assignment as secondary duty.
In addition to the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V," and the Purple Heart Medal (for wounds received on 9 August 1942, while serving aboard the USS Chicago), Captain Adell had the World War I Victory Medal, Escort Clasp; the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, with three engagement stars; and the World War II Victory Medal.