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Wilkinson, Theodore Stark (1888-1946)


Photograph of Theodore S. Wilkinson

National Archives #80-G-386436

Theodore "Ping" Wilkinson was born in Annapolis and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1909 at the head of his class. He participated in the Vera Cruz expedition and won the Medal of Honor for conducting a raid that capture the customs house. He helped develop antisubmarine mines during the First World War, and participated in arms limitation talks in 1933 and 1934. Wilkinson was later captain of the Mississippi and chief of staff of the Hawaii naval district.

Wilkinson had just been promoted to rear admiral and was serving as Director of Naval Intelligence when war broke out in the Pacific. Though considered brilliant by his fellow officers, he had no experience in intelligence work. His career might have been ended by the Pearl Harbor disaster had he not unsuccessfully urged the Chief of Naval Operations, Stark, to call Kimmel when his code breakers realized the significance of the famous fourteen-part message sent to the Japanese embassy just before the attack. Stark chose to send a telegraph instead, which arrived hours after the attack.

In August 1942, Wilkinson was reassigned to the South Pacific and command of Battleship Division 2. He later commanded the amphibious forces that invaded Bougainville in November 1943. This was followed by the Palaus invasion in September 1944 and the Leyte invasion in October. He was promoted to vice admiral shortly before directing the landings on Luzon.

Wilkinson died when his car unaccountably rolled off a ferry near Norfolk, Virginia.

Morison said of him: "A highly intelligent, industrious and conscientious officer, Wilkinson was also an excellent cooperator." He proved to be a superb amphibious commander. One of his subordinates from when he was director of Navy intelligence testified that "In my opinion he had a magnificent mind. He accepted my recommendations almost in toto" (Prange 1981).

Service record

1888-12-22     

Born at Annapolis, Maryland
1909
Midshipman     
Graduates from Naval Academy, standing first in his class. Assigned to BB Kansas
1911-6-5
Ensign
George Washington University
1913-7-25

BB Florida
1914-8-4

CL Tennessee
1914-9-3

Assistant to Naval Attache, France
1914-10

BB North Carolina
1916-7

Head, Experimental Section, Bureau of Ordnance
1919-7

BB Kansas
1921
Lieutenant
Commander, DD Osborne
1922

Commander, DD Goff
1922

Commander, DD Taylor
1922

Head, Experimental Section, Bureau of Ordnance
1925-1

Commander, DD King
1926-1

Head, Records Section, Bureau of Navigation
1930-6

Staff, Scouting Fleet
1931-12

Secretary, General Board
1934-9
Commander     
Executive officer, CA Indianapolis
1936-6

Head, Plannig Division, Bureau of Navigation
1939
Captain Chief of staff, Scouting Force, Pacific Fleet
1941-1

Commander, BB Mississippi
1941-9

Director, Office of Naval Intelligence
1942-8
Rear admiral      Commander, Battleship Division 2
1943-1-30

Chief of staff, South Pacific Force
1943-7-24

Commander, South Pacific Amphibian Forces
1944-8-12
Vice admiral
Commander, III Amphibious Force
1946-1

Joint Strategic Survey Committee
1946-2-21

Dies in automobile accident

References

Dupuy et al. (1992)

Morison (1950)

Naval Historical Center (accessed 2008-3-13)
Pettibone (2006)

Prange (1981)
Tuohy (2007)



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