Michael Peter Bagdanovich was born in Nashua, New Hampshire,
son of the late John and Agatha (Stanapedis) Bagdanovich. He attended elementary and junior high
schools in Nashua and on July 25, 1922, enlisted in the US Navy. He was a student at the Naval Academy
Preparatory School, Norfolk, Virginia, in 1923, and in June 1924, was appointed
to the US Naval Academy, Annapolis Maryland.
As a Midshipman he excelled in sports, winning fame on the collegiate
gridiron. He played end on the National
Championship team in 1926, and was nominated for All-American honors as a
tackle his First Class year. He was a
member of the Varsity Crew for three years (Captain his First Class year), and
participated in basketball, swimming, and wresting for four years.
Graduated and commissioned Ensign on June 7, 1928, he
progressed in rank attaining that of Captain, to date from March 25, 1945. On July 1, 1955, he was transferred to the
Retired List of the US Navy and was advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral, on
the basis of combat awards.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1928, he was
assigned to the Communications Division of USS New Mexico, flagship of
Commander Battleship Division FOUR, Battle Fleet. In May 1930, he transferred to USS Texas,
flagship of the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, to serve as
Communication Officer until December 1930, when he detached for flight training
at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida.
Designated Naval Aviator, November 23, 1931, he reported in
March 1932 as Gunnery Officer with Fighting Squadron ONE – the famous “High Hat
Squadron” – attached to USS Saratoga.
In June 1935, he joined Patrol Squadron FIVE, based at the Naval Air
Station, Coco Solo, Canal Zone, and two years later, June 1937, assumed command
of the Aviation Unit on board USS Detroit.
Detached from the Detroit in July 1940, he next served for two months as
Chief Flight Instructor of Squadron FIVE, Naval Air Station, Pensacola,
Florida, after which he had duty as Chief Flight Instructor, Executive Officer
of the Training Squadron, and Training Officer at the Naval Air Station, Miami,
In March 1942, he became Commanding Officer and Group
Commander of Escort Scouting Squadron THIRTY, attached to USS Charger, and
later that year was assigned to USS Suwanee, participating in the invasion
of North Africa. The Suwanee was awarded
the Presidential unit Citation, and he is entitled to the Ribbon for, and a
facsimile of that citation. He assumed
command in January 1943 of Air Group SEVENTEEN, operating from USS Bunker
Hill. While in command of that group, he
gained fame leading his fliers against enemy installations – wearing a baseball
cap with three gold stripes (he was a Commander then) across the visor, and a
stubby cigar in his mouth as he roared off the carrier in his TBF “Avenger”
torpedo bomber. For his exploits in the
Pacific, which contributed to the sinking of several Japanese combatant ships,
and the possible sinking and damaging of others, and after which valuable
reconnaissance photographs were obtained, he was awarded the Air Medal, the
Gold Star in lieu of a Second Air Medal, and the Distinguished Flying
Cross. The citations state in part:
Air Medal: “For
meritorious achievement…as pilot of a torpedo plane and as Commander of an air
group during a bombing strike against enemy shipping at Rabaul, New Britain, on
November 11, 1943. Despite and intense
and accurate anti-aircraft fire encountered, (he) pressed home his attack with
aggressive determination and materially aided in the sinking of an enemy
destroyer, one cruiser, the probable sinking of another cruiser, and the severe
damaging of two additional combatant ships.
After the assault had been completed, he remained over the territory and
photographed the damage inflicted on enemy vessels and shore installations…”
Gold Star in lieu of Second Air Medal: “For meritorious achievement…during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the vicinity of Tarawa and Nauru from November 18 to December 8, 1943. Completing his fifth mission during this period, (he) contributed materially to the success of his squadron in the infliction of damage on the enemy…”
Distinguished Flying Cross: “For extraordinary achievement…in the New Ireland area, from December 25, 1943 to January 5, 1944. During this period (he) led two combined air groups against eight enemy combatant ships, and several supply ships in Kavieng harbor, sinking one destroyer, two large cargo vessls and three barges. In addition, two cruisers, four destroyers, several small cargo ships, many barges and one torpedo boat were severely damaged and possibly sunk. Despite intense anti-aircraft fire and large numbers of attacking enemy fighters, (he) obtained valuable reconnaissance photographs during each action…”
He is also entitled to the Ribbon for, and a facsimile of the Presidential Unit Citation awarded the USS Bunker Hill.
In January 1944, he reported as Executive Officer of the Naval Air Station, Miami, Florida, and in October of that year assumed command of the Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Florida. He remained in that command until June 1945, after which he commanded USS Wolverine. Detached from that training carrier in November 1945, the next month, he became Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station, Orote, Guam, Marianas Islands.
Between September 1947 and August 1950, he was Head of the Aviation Ordnance Department at the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Virginia, followed by duty afloat in command of USS Norton Sound. In November 1951, he became Commanding Officer of the Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Chincoteague, Virginia, and from June 1953 to January 1955 was in command of Fleet Air Wing FOURTEEN. Following a period of hospitalization, he reported in March 1955 as Assistant to the Bureau of Aeronautics General Representative, Western District, Los Angeles, California. He was serving in that capacity when relieved of all active duty pending his retirement, effective July 1, 1955.
In addition to the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with Gold Star and the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with two stars, Rear Admiral Bagdanovich has the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the American Campaign Medal; the European-African Pacific Campaign Medal with three stars; the World War II Victory Medal; and the National Defense Service Medal.
He is a member of the US Naval Academy Alumni Association, the Naval Academy Athletic Association, and the National Rifle Association of America.
He died March 1, 1965.