Frank Jack Fletcher

Missing image
Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, USN Photographed on board ship, 17 September 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph

Frank Jack Fletcher (29 April 188525 April 1973) was an admiral in the United States Navy during World War I and World War II. Fletcher was the operational commander at the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942, which was arguably the turning point of the Pacific War. He was the nephew of Adm. Frank F. Fletcher.


Early Life and Naval Career

Fletcher was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, on April 29, 1885. Appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy from his native state in 1902, he graduated from Annapolis on February 12, 1906 and commissioned an Ensign on February 13, 1908 following two years at sea.

The early years of his career were spent on the battleships Rhode Island, Ohio, and Maine. He also spent time on USS Eagle and USS Franklin. In November 1909 he was assigned to USS Chauncey, a unit of the Asiatic Torpedo Flotilla. He assumed command of USS Dale in April 1910 and March 1912 returned to Chauncey as Commanding Officer. Transferred to USS Florida in December 1912 he was aboard that battleship during the occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico, in April 1914. For distinguished conduct in battle at Vera Cruz he was awarded the Medal of Honor (see citation below).

World War I and Post-War Period

Fletcher became Aide and Flag Lieutenant on the staff of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet in July 1914. After a year at this post, he returned to the Naval Academy for duty in the Executive Department. Upon the outbreak of World War I he served as Gunnery Officer of USS Kearsarge until September 1917, after which he assumed command of USS Margaret. He was assigned to USS Allen in February 1918 before taking command of USS Benham in May 1918. For distinguised service as Commanding Officer USS Benham, engaged in the important, exacting, and hazardous duty of patrolling European waters and protecting vitally important convoys, he was awarded the Navy Cross.

From October 1918 to February 1919 he assisted in fitting out USS Crane at San Francisco. He then became Commanding Officer of USS Gridley upon her commissioning. Returning to Washington, he was head of the Detail Section, Enlisted Personnel Division in the Bureau of Navigation from April 1919 until September 1922.

Interwar Service

He returned to the Asiatic Station, having consecutive command of the USS Whipple, USS Sacramento, USS Rainbow, and Submarine Base, Cavite. He served at the Washington Navy Yards from March 1925 to 1927; became Executive Officer of USS Colorado; and completed the Senior Course at the Naval War College, Newport in June 1930.

Fletcher became Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet in August 1931. In the summer of 1933 he was transferred to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Following this assignment he had duty from November 1933 to May 1936 as Aide to the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Claude A. Swanson. He assumed command of USS New Mexico, flagship of Battleship Division THREE in June 1936. In December 1937 he became a member of the Naval Examining Board, and became Assistant Chief of Bureau of Navigation in June 1938. Returning to the Pacific between September 1939 and December 1941 he became Commander Cruiser Division THREE; Commander Cruiser Division SIX; Commander Cruiser's Scouting Force; and Commander Cruiser Division FOUR.

World War II

In early January 1942, Rear Admiral Fletcher was given command of a US-Australian task force, with the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) as his flagship. After supporting the reinforcement of strategically vital South Pacific islands, his task force raided Japanese positions in the Central Pacific, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. In May and June 1942, he was senior officer present during the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the Battle of Midway, in which the Japanese fleet was decisively repulsed. As the U.S. took the offensive in August 1942, Vice Admiral Fletcher commanded the invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi, and fought the carrier Battle of the Eastern Solomons later in the month.

In November 1942, he became Commander, Thirteenth Naval District and Commander, Northwestern Sea Frontier. A year later, he was placed in charge of the Northern Pacific area, holding that position until after the end of World War II, when his forces occupied northern Japan. Vice Admiral Fletcher's final duty was as Chairman of the General Board, and he was advanced to the rank of Admiral upon retirement in May 1947.

Last Years; Legacy

Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher died on 25 April 1973 at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

USS Fletcher (DD-992) is named in honor of Admiral Fletcher.

Medal of Honor Citation

For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. Under fire, Lt. Fletcher was eminent and conspicuous in performance of his duties. He was in charge of the Esperanze and succeeded in getting on board over 350 refugees, many of them after the conflict had commenced. Although the ship was under fire, being struck more than 30 times, he succeeded in getting all the refugees placed in safety. Lt. Fletcher was later placed in charge of the train conveying refugees under a flag of truce. This was hazardous duty, as it was believed that the track was mined, and a small error in dealing with the Mexican guard of soldiers might readily have caused a conflict, such a conflict at one time being narrowly averted. It was greatly due to his efforts in establishing friendly relations with the Mexican soldiers that so many refugees succeeded in reaching Vera Cruz from the interior.

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