Joseph C. Clifton

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Joseph Clinton Clifton
Brewster F2A-3 "Buffalo" piloted by Lieutenant Commander Joseph C. Clifton August 1942.
Lt.Cdr. Joseph C. Clifton in his F2A Buffalo, August 1942
Nickname(s) Jumping Joe
Born (1908-10-31)October 31, 1908
Paducah, Kentucky
Died December 24, 1967(1967-12-24) (aged 59)
Santa Monica, California
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch Seal of the United States Department of the Navy.svg United States Navy
Years of service 1930–1963
Rank Rear admiral
Commands held Fighter Squadron 12
Air Group 12
Wasp (CV-18)
Transport Squadron 8
Corson (AVP-37)
Carrier Division 7
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Air Medal
Distinguished Service Order (UK)

Joseph C. Clifton (October 31, 1908 – December 24, 1967) was a naval officer and aviator of the United States Navy in World War II, ultimately advancing to the rank of rear admiral before his retirement in 1963.


Clifton was born in Paducah, Kentucky. He attended the University of Kentucky in 1926 and graduated from the United States Naval Academy, where he was an All-Eastern fullback, in 1930. Clifton was assigned to the battleship Tennessee (BB-43) and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1932.[1]

He served with a number of ships and flying squadrons, including the VF-2 "Flying Chiefs". From 1942 until 1944, he commanded the VF-12 "Peg Legs" flying F4U Corsairs and later F6F Hellcats from Saratoga (CV-3).[1] During this period, he flew a captured A6M2 Zero, obtaining valuable technical data that was used to refine fighter tactics against the Japanese.

Cdr. Clifton taking off from Saratoga to strike Tarawa, November 1943.

In 1944, Clifton was named Commander of Air Group 12, which combined air groups from HMS Illustrious and Saratoga.[1]

In 1945, he was officer-in-charge of fighter indoctrination in Advanced Training, at Naval Air Station, Green Cove Springs, Florida. In 1945-46, he was executive officer and then commanding officer of Wasp (CV-18).[1]

Clifton was assigned to the Air Warfare Division Office from 1946–49, and the Fleet Logistics Support Wing, Pacific Area, 1949. He was the commander of Transport Squadron 8, 1948–51,[1] also serving as commanding officer of the seaplane tender Corson (AVP-37) off Formosa during the Korean War.[2]

Clifton was deputy chief of staff training and Staff Commander, Air Forces, Pacific Fleet, 1952–53; commander of Naval Air Station Memphis, 1954–56; and commander of Barrier Atlantic, and also Airborne Early Warning Wing Atlantic and Fleet Air Detachment, Argentia, 1956–58. From 1958 to 1960, he headed the Naval Air Advanced Training Command, and in 1960 commanded Carrier Division 7, the Seventh Fleet. He was chief of naval air technical training at Memphis[1] before finally retiring in July 1963.[2]

After retirement, he became associated with Litton Industries in Beverly Hills, California.[1]

Clifton died following complications from diabetes on Christmas Eve, 1967, in Santa Monica, California.[2]

Clifton's life is commemorated with a street bearing his name in his hometown of Paducah, Kentucky.[3]


For his service in World War II, Clifton was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, with gold star, the Legion of Merit twice, the Air Medal, and the British Distinguished Service Order.[2]

He was named to the University of Kentucky Hall of Distinguished Alumni in February 1965,[1] and to the Naval Aviation Hall of Honor in 1996.

Joseph C. Clifton Award[edit]

The Joseph C. Clifton Trophy was awarded for the first time in 1968, to VF-51. The award recognizes meritorious achievement by a fighter squadron while deployed aboard a carrier.

The award is in memory of Rear Admiral Clifton, who distinguished himself as a fighter pilot during World War II. His heroism and extraordinary achievements in flight paralleled the aggressive attitude and drive and inspiring leadership he displayed throughout his life. This award recognizes meritorious achievement by a fighter squadron. The trophy, sponsored by Litton Industries, is a 22-inch high hand repoussé silver bowl on a walnut base.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "University of Kentucky Alumni Association : Joseph Clinton Clifton". Retrieved 23 August 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Market House Museum : The Naval Career of "Jumpin" Joe Clifton". Retrieved 23 August 2010. 
  3. ^ "Joe Clifton Drive". Google Maps. 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  4. ^ "OPNAVINST 1650.24B: Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Related Awards" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 20, 2004. Retrieved 23 August 2010. 

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