Blinn Van Mater was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 16 October 1904, son of George G. and Lillie Violet (Blinn) Van Mater. He attended Peru (Indiana) High School and the USNA Preparatory School, Annapolis, Maryland, prior to entering the US Naval Academy, in 1923. Graduated and commissioned Ensign on 2 June 1927, he subsequently advanced to the rank of Captain, his date or rank 20 March 1945. On 30 June 1957 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.
After graduation in June 1927, he remained at the Naval Academy for the brief course in Aviation, and in August of that year was assigned to USS Colorado, a unit of Battleship Division FIVE, Battle Fleet. From 1928 until 1930 he served successively in USS Paul Hamilton and USS Stoddert of Destroyer Division THIRTY-TWO, Squadron ELEVEN, Battle Fleet. He served as Engineer Officer of the latter before his transfer in March 1930 to USS Tattnall, a unit of Destroyer Division FOURTEEN, Squadron SIX, Battle Fleet, and later of Destroyer Division SEVEN, Scouting Fleet.
Detached from Tattnall in June 1932, he was ordered to USS Indianapolis, then building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He assisted in her fitting out and served on board that cruiser from her commissioning in August 1932 until April 1934. During that period in 1933, the Indianapolis, operating under the Chief of Naval Operations, was assigned to Special duty with President Roosevelt, transporting his party from Campobella Island, New Brunswick, to Annapolis, Maryland; took the Secretary of the Navy on an inspection cruise of Naval Bases; and participated in operations during the Cuban Revolution.
He next joined USS Gannet, a minesweeper assigned to survey duty in the Aleutian Islands in the summer of 1934. In September of that year he was transferred to USS Argonne, flagship of Base Force, and Train, Base Force, for a year’s duty, after which he was ordered to the Hydrographic Office, Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, Washington, DC. In June 1937 he was ordered to USS Barker, on China Station, and during his service as Executive Officer, that destroyer rescued passengers of the SS President Hoover off Hoisho Island during the occupation of Swatow, China, by the Japanese in 1937.
While on board USS Barker, 1937-1940, he received Letters of Commendation in 1939 and 1940 for communication efficiency, and a Commendatory Letter from the Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet, for performance of hazardous duty.
Returning to the United States in the spring of 1940, he was assigned to USS Farragut on the West Coast. He served as Executive Officer and Navigator of that destroyer until the fall of 1941, when he reported for duty in connection with the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Unit at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. There he served as Professor of Naval Science and Tactics until December 1942.
From February 1943 until the end the World War II, he successively commanded USS Anthony (DD-515), USS Zellars (DD-777), and Destroyer Division TWELVE. For his outstanding war time service, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Gold Stars in lieu of the Second, Third, and Fourth Bronze Star Medal, each with Combat “V”; and a Letter of Commendation with Ribbon and “V”. The citations follow in part:
Bronze Star Medal: “For heroic service as Commanding Officer of the USS ANTHONY, attached to Destroyer Squadron FORTY-FIVE, during combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands Area, from 1 November to 31 December 1943…(He) ably commanded the ANTHONY as she escorted troop transports to Bougainville, delivered a smashing bombardment against enemy installations at Cape Torokina and aided substantially in repelling two strongly organized air attacks directed against the ships of the Task Force…”
Gold Star in lieu of the Second Bronze Star Medal: “For meritorious achievement as Commanding Officer of the USS ANTHONY in action against the enemy Japanese-held Marianas Islands and during the First Battle of the Philippine Sea through June and July 1944… (He) was instrumental in affecting a night rescue of several downed aviators, and in addition, provided close fire support to subsequent successful landing operations…”
Gold Star in lieu of the Third Bronze Star Medal: “For heroic achievement as Commanding Officer of the USS ANTHONY, a unit of Destroyer Division NINETY, during the Division’s highly successful bombardment of the heavily fortified enemy Japanese stronghold in the Vunapope-Rabaul Area of New Britain Island, and during anti-shipping raids throughout adjacent waters, the night of February 24-25, 1944… (He) maneuvered the ANTHONY daringly close to enemy minefields and…furiously and accurately bombarded large enemy ammunition and supply dumps, barracks and strong fortifications in the Matupi area of Rabaul, New Britain…(and) made a second antishipping sweep through St. George’s Channel…”
Letter of Commendation: “For meritorious achievement as Commanding Officer of the USS ANTHONY from 16 June to 24 June 1944. He directed his ship in a superior manner in operations against the enemy particularly in the participation by his ship in the outstanding rescue of many pilots downed in the water on 20 June 1944, after their successful attacks on the Japanese fleet…”
Gold Star in lieu of the Fourth Bronze Star Medal: “For meritorious achievement…as Commander Destroyer Division TWELVE in action…from February 14 to September 2, 1945…While his unit was engaged in the capture of Okinawa from March 24 to June 24, 1945, he acted as Officer in Tactical Command of an antiaircraft screen protecting the transport area, and as Officer in Tactical Command of a Radar Picket Group, thereby aiding materially in the occupation of Tor Shima and Kume Shima. When his Flagship was badly damaged by a Kamikaze plane, Captain Van Mater gallantly assisted the Commanding Officer in saving the ship…”
Detached from Destroyer Division TWELVE in January 1946, he reported to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, DC, where he served briefly on the Selection Board and in the Office of Naval Intelligence. In June 1946 he assumed the duties of US Naval Attaché and US Naval Attaché for Air, Ankara, Turkey. He returned to the United States in August 1949, and from October of that year to October 1950 served at Headquarters, Sixth Naval District, first as Plans Officer, later as Personnel Officer.
From November 1950 until February 1951 he was the Representative of Commander Destroyer, Atlantic, in the Charleston Area, and in February 1951 assumed command of Destroyer Squadron TWENTY-SIX, with additional duty as Commander Destroyer Division TWO HUNDRED SIXTY ONE. In January 1952 he returned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and in March 1953 reported as Intelligence Officer on the Staff of Commander in Chief, Allied Forces, Mediterranean. In January 1954 he assumed command of the heavy cruiser, Columbus. He returned to the Navy Department late in 1954, and after temporary duty in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, was again assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations this time as Director, New Developments and Operational Evaluation Division.
Upon retirement from the Navy in June 1957, Rear Admiral Van Mater joined the staff of the National Academy of Sciences as Administrative Officer, US National Committee, International Geophysical Year Program. Subsequently, he joined the research firm of Human Sciences Research, Inc. and in 1963 assumed the position of Executive Officer/Administrator, the Washington School of Psychiatry, retiring in January 1971.
In addition to the Bronze Star Medal with three Gold Stars and Combat “V”, and the Commendation Ribbon with Combat “V”, Rear Admiral Van Mater has the China Service Medal; the American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, with seven engagement stars; the World War II Victory Medal; and the National Defense Service Medal.
Rear Admiral Van Mater’s wife was the former Miss Marquerite Martin of Washington, DC. He passed away 1 June 1991.