Howard Adams Flanigan was born in New York, New York, on January 23, 1889, son of John and Elizabeth (Adams) Flanigan. He attended Horace Mann School there, before entering the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on appointment from the Fifteenth District of native state in 1906. Graduated on June 3, 1910, he served the two years at sea, as then required by law, before he was commissioned Ensign, to rank from March 7, 1912. He subsequently advanced in rank to that Commander, to date from October 1, 1930. On August 1, 1936 he was transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy, at his own request. He was promoted to the Retired List as follows: Captain, February 25, 1942; Commodore, April 13, 1944 and Rear Admiral, April 3, 1945.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1910, he reported on board the USS Connecticut, and was a member of the landing force ashore at Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1914. In May 1914 he was detached from that battleship for duty in the USS Trippe. From February to April 1917 he was attached to the USS Jacob Jones, after which he served as Aide and Radio Officer on the Staff of Commander Division Three, Atlantic Fleet, USS Rhode Island, flagship. In August 1917, he transferred, in a similar capacity, to the Staff of Commander Squadron One, Atlantic Fleet and the next month joined the Staff of Commander Division Three, Battleship Force One, Atlantic Fleet as Aide and Division Radio Officer. Assigned in December 1917 to the Destroyer Force based at Queenstown, Ireland, he had duty until October 1918 in the USS Rowan. He was awarded the Navy Cross and cited as follows:
“For distinguished service…. As Commanding Officer of the USS Rowan, engaged in the important, exacting, and hazardous duty of patrolling the waters infested with enemy submarine and mines, in escorting and protecting vitally important convoys of troops and supplies through these waters and in offensive and defensive action, vigorously and unremittingly prosecuted against all forms of enemy naval activity.”
In November 1918 he reported for duty in connection with fitting out the USS Hopewell, building at the Newport News (Virginia) Shipbuilding and Dry docks Company, but was detached in January 1919, before her commissioning. He next served as Drill Officer at the Naval Training Station, Newport, Rhode Island, and in December 1920 assumed command of the USS Barney. Transferred in December 1921 to the USS Bainbridge, he command that destroyer until June 1922, then reported as Commanding Officer of the USS Paul Jones. In January 1924 he was assigned to the USS Chewink, training ship at the Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut. While there, he had additional duty as Executive Officer of the Base.
From May 1926 until June 1929 he served as Gunnery Officer of the USS Arizona, after which he had duty in the Division of Fleet Training, Navy Department, Washington, D.C. he remained there until July 1931 and in September that year reported as Aide on the Staff of Admiral Luke McNamee, USN, when the latter, in the rank of Vice Admiral, had command of Battleships, Battle Force, US Fleet and Battleship Division Four, USS West Virginia flagship. In August 1932, when Admiral McNamee raised his four star Flag in the USS California as Commander Battle Force, US Fleet, he accompanied him to serve as Force Gunnery Officer on his Staff. He had duty in of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Navy Department, during the period June to December 1933, then was assigned to the Third Naval District, headquarters in New York, New York. He served for several days in May 1936 as Executive Officer of the USS Arkansas, then was detached to return home to await retirement. On August 1, 1936 he was transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy.
After his retirement, he served from 1936 until 1941 as Executive Vice President of the New York World’s Fair and during 1941 and 1942 was Chairman of the Directors of the New York Dock Company.
Reporting for active naval service in May 1941, he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department and the next month reported as Assistant Naval Attaché (title changed in September 1941 to Special Naval Observer) at the American Embassy, London, England. Returning to the United States, he had duty during the period September to November 1942 at Headquarters of the Commander in Chief, Washington, D.C, then returned to Europe to serve as Operations and Shipping Officer, Assistant and Chief of Staff for Operations and Shipping/ Deputy Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, US Naval Force, Europe and Commander Twelfth Fleet. “For exceptionally meritorious conduct… (in that capacity), prior to and during the amphibious invasion of the European Continent in June 1944…” he was awarded the Legion of Merit. The citation further states in part:
“… Commodore Flanigan directed the logistic planning and development for the Naval Forces engaged in the amphibious assault on Europe and under extremely difficult conditions, arranged for the expeditious procurement of personnel, facilities and material necessary to these vital operations. By his splendid initiative and unfailing tact, he skillfully coordinated the various services and agencies involved and sponsored the closest cooperation between the Army and Navy and all Allied forces…”
The Government of France conferred upon him the Croix de Guerrre with the Bronze Star for services during the Normandy Invasion as Deputy Chief of Staff to Commander US Naval Forces in Europe and Commander Twelfth Fleet. He was also awarded the French Legion of Honor, for “exceptional services of war rendered in the course of operations for liberation of France.” In addition the Government of Great Britain made him an Honorary Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
In December 1944 he became Director Naval Transportation Service (later redesignated Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Transportation) and served in that capacity until again relieved of active duty, November 1, 1945. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and cited as follows:
“ For exceptionally meritorious service… as Operations and Shipping Officer, Assistant and Chief of Staff for Operations and Shipping/ Deputy Chief of Staff to Commander US Naval Forces in Europe, from December 1941 to December, and as Director Naval Transportation Service from January to August 30, 1945. Rear Admiral Flanigan contributed to the integration of United States and British antisubmarine effort for both surface and air forces in Atlantic convoy activities and was instrumental in achieving efficient distribution and operations of passenger, cargo and oil-carrying vessels to meet the war needs of the United Nations. Later, he exercised overall supervision of the control of shipping for the building and support of the US Army and Navy Forces in Europe, personally directing in the beaches and in the ports of France those activities for which he was responsible. He developed new procedures in the Naval Transportation Service to expedite the flow of personnel and material to our Fleet reverse flow. In addition, he initiated and carried out comprehensive studies of the Navy’s transportation system, resulting in a cohesive, unified control of all movement of material and personnel by land, sea and air. His performance of his varied duties throughout a period of almost four years was uniformly characterized by exceptional judgment, skill and energy and contributed to the success of the United States in World War II. “
In addition to the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star, the French Legion of Honor, and the Order of the British Empire, Rear Admiral Flanigan had the Mexican Service Medal; the Victory Medal with Destroyer Clasp and Bronze Star (World War I); American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp; European- African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; American Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.
After being released from active naval service. He served as Chairman of the Board of the Inter-American Shipping Service, Inc.; Flanigan, Loveland, Inc., and was President of the Philadelphia Marine Corporation. He also continued to serve as Chairman of the Board of the New York Dock Company until 1961, when the company was sold and he retired from business.