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Calhoun, William Lowndes (1884-1963)


Photograph of William L. Calhoun

Naval Historical Center #NH 58457.

Cropped by author

"Uncle Bill" Calhoun graduated 12th in the Annapolis class of 1906, qualified as a submariner and served on battleships, but ultimately became the U.S. Navy's master of logistics.  He was commander of Service Force, Pacific Fleet, throughout the war, rising to the rank of vice admiral. The Service Force itself became a vast fleet of of 290 auxiliaries providing the logistical support that made the Central Pacific offensive of 1943-1945 possible.

Calhoun had commanded Young during the Honda Point Disaster of 8 September 1923, when his destroyer squadron ran into a reef due to a navigational error by the lead destroyer. Young capsized after grounding, but Calhoun ordered the crew to make for the port side of the ship and remain there to await rescue rather than abandon ship. Calhounwas later commended for his leadership and credited with saving three-quarters of his crew.

Time Magazine reported on 14 September 1942 that

In Honolulu last Dec. 7 Vice Admiral William Lowndes Calhoun broke a standing routine. For once he missed Sunday morning church services. Instead he found himself among officers who were directing streams of yellow obscenities at the raiders overhead. "Gentlemen," he said, "you mustn't address those fellows that way. After all, they are just fighting for their country the way we must for ours." All jaws dropped. Turning his face upward, Calhoun added meditatively, "Yes, the dirty, yellow-bellied sons of bitches."

Calhoun was criticized by King for developing the fleet train at the expense of neglecting the development of forward naval bases. Nimitz insisted that Calhoun be given a fighting command, and he ended the war in command of South Pacific Area, which had long since ceased to be an active combat zone.

Service record

1884

Born in Florida
1906     

Graduates from Naval Academy, standing 12th in his class
1915

Qualifies as submariner
1917

Commander, Submarine Division 1 and Coco Solo Submarine Base
1919

Mississippi
1921

Commander, DD Young
1924

Maryland
1925

Inspector of ordnance, Mare Island
1927

Commander, Destroyer Division 31
1929

Naval War College
1932

Commander, Rochester
1934

San Diego
1937
Captain
Commander, California
1939-12-28     
Rear admiral      Commander, Base Force, Pacific Fleet
1942-2-27

Commander, Service Force, Pacific Fleet
1943    
Vice admiral

1945-3-13

Commander, South Pacific Area
1946-12-1     

Retires
1953
Admiral 

1963

Dies


References

Carter (1953)

Find A Grave (accessed 2011-11-26)

Lundstrom (2006)

Morison (1951)

Naval Historical Center (accessed 2008-1-23)
Pettibone (2006)

Tillman (2005)



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