Marc Mitscher

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Marc Andrew Mitscher
Marc Mitscher.jpg
Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher during World War II
BornJanuary 26, 1887
Hillsboro, Wisconsin
DiedFebruary 3, 1947(1947-02-03) (aged 60)
Norfolk, Virginia
Place of burial
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1910–1947
RankUS-O10 insignia.svg Admiral
Service number7591
Commands heldUSS Wright
USS Hornet
Commander Air, Solomon Islands
Fast Carrier Task Force
Eighth Fleet
Atlantic Fleet
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsNavy Cross (3)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Legion of Merit

Marc Andrew "Pete" Mitscher (January 26, 1887 – February 3, 1947) was a pioneer in naval aviation who became an admiral in the United States Navy, and served as commander of the Fast Carrier Task Force in the Pacific during the latter half of World War II.

Early life and career[edit]

Mitscher was born in Hillsboro, Wisconsin on January 26, 1887, the son of Oscar and Myrta (Shear) Mitscher.[1] Mitscher's grandfather, Andreas Mitscher (1821–1905), was a German immigrant from Traben-Trarbach.[citation needed] His other grandfather, Thomas J. Shear, was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly. During the western land boom of 1889, when Marc was two years old, his family resettled in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where his father, a federal Indian agent, later became that city's second mayor.[2] His uncle, Byron D. Shear, would also become mayor.

Mitscher attended elementary and secondary schools in Washington, D.C.[3] He received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland in 1904 through Bird Segle McGuire, then U.S. Representative from Oklahoma.[4]

An indifferent student with a lackluster sense of military deportment, Mitscher's career at the naval academy did not portend the accomplishments he would achieve later in life. Nicknamed after Annapolis's first midshipman from Oklahoma, Peter Cassius Marcellus Cade, who had "bilged-out" in 1903, upperclassmen compelled young Mitscher to recite the entire name as a hazing. Soon he was referred to as "Oklahoma Pete", with the nickname shortened to just "Pete" by the winter of his youngster (sophomore) year.[5]

Having amassed 159 demerits and showing poorly in his class work, Mitscher was saddled with a forced resignation at the end of his sophomore year. At the insistence of his father, Mitscher re-applied and was granted reappointment, though he had to re-enter the academy as a first year plebe.[4]

This time the stoic Mitscher worked straight through, and on June 3, 1910, he graduated 113th out of a class of 131. Following graduation he served two years at sea aboard USS Colorado, and was commissioned ensign on March 7, 1912. In August 1913, he served aboard USS California on the West Coast. During that time Mexico was experiencing a political disturbance, and California was sent to protect U.S. interests and citizens.

Naval aviation[edit]

Naval aviator Marc A. Mitscher, circa 1916. Mitscher was among the first naval aviators.[6]

Mitscher took an early interest in aviation, requesting a transfer to aeronautics while aboard Colorado in his last year as a midshipman, but his request was not granted. After graduating he continued to make requests for transfer to aviation while serving on the destroyers USS Whipple and USS Stewart. Mitscher was in charge of the engine room on USS Stewart when orders to transfer to the Naval Aeronautic Station in Pensacola, Florida came in.[7]

Mitscher was assigned to the armored cruiser USS North Carolina, which was being used to experiment as a launching platform for aircraft. The ship had been fitted with a catapult over her fantail. Mitscher trained as a pilot, earning his wings and the designation Naval Aviator. Mitscher was one of the first naval aviators, receiving No. 33 on June 2, 1916. Almost a year later, on April 6, 1917, he reported to the renamed armored cruiser USS West Virginia for duty in connection with aircraft catapult experiments.[6]

At this early date the Navy was interested in using aircraft for scouting purposes and as spotters for direction of their gunnery. Lieutenant Mitscher was placed in command of NAS Dinner Key in Coconut Grove, Florida.[6] Dinner Key was the second largest naval air facility in the U.S. and was used to train seaplane pilots for the Naval Reserve Flying Corps.[8] On July 18, 1918, he was promoted to lieutenant commander. In February 1919, he transferred from NAS Dinner Key to the Aviation Section in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, before reporting to Seaplane Division 1.

Interwar assignments (1919–1939)[edit]

Transatlantic crossing[edit]

NC-4 prior to the transatlantic crossing.

On May 10, 1919, Mitscher was among a group of naval aviators attempting the first transatlantic crossing by air. Among the men involved was future admirals Jack Towers and Patrick N. L. Bellinger. Mitscher piloted NC-1 under the command of Bellinger, one of three Curtiss NC flying boats that attempted the flight. Taking off from Newfoundland, he nearly reached the Azores before heavy fog caused loss of the horizon, making flying in the early aircraft extremely dangerous. What appeared to be fairly calm seas at altitude turned out to be a heavy chop, and a control cable snapped while setting the aircraft down. Mitscher and his five crewmen were left to sit atop the upper wing of their "Nancy" while they waited to be rescued. Of the three aircraft making the attempt, only NC-4 successfully completed the crossing. For his part in the effort Mitscher received the Navy Cross, the citation reading:

"For distinguished service in the line of his profession as a member of the crew of the Seaplane NC-1, which made a long overseas flight from New Foundland to the vicinity of the Azores, in May 1919".[9]

Mitscher was also made an officer of the Order of the Tower and Sword by the Portuguese government on June 3, 1919.[10]

On October 14, 1919, Mitscher reported for duty aboard Aroostook, a minelayer refitted as an "aircraft tender" that had been used as a support ship for the "Nancys" transatlantic flight. He served under Captain Henry C. Mustin, another pioneering naval aviator. Aroostook was assigned temporary duties as flagship for the Air Detachment, Pacific Fleet. Mitscher was promoted to commander on July 1, 1921. In May 1922, he was detached from Air Squadrons, Pacific Fleet (San Diego, California) to command Naval Air Station Anacostia, D.C.[11]

Service debates in Washington[edit]

After six months in command at Anacostia he was assigned to a newly formed department, the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics. Here as a young aviator he assisted Rear Admiral William Moffett in defending the Navy's interest in air assets. General Billy Mitchell was advancing the idea that the nation was best defended by an independent service which would control all military aircraft. Though Mitscher was not a vocal member of the Navy's representatives, his knowledge of aircraft capabilities and limitations was instrumental in the Navy being able to answer Mitchell's challenge and retain their own airgroups. The debate culminated in the hearings before the Morrow Board, convened to study the best means of applying aviation to national defense.[12] Mitscher testified before the board on October 6, 1925. General Mitchell sought public support for his position by taking his case directly to the people through the national press. For this action Mitchell was summoned for a court-martial. One of the witnesses called by the prosecution was Mitscher. In the end the Navy was left with its own air resources, and was allowed to continue to develop its own independent aviation branch.[13]

Development of the carrier air arm[edit]

Over the next two decades Mitscher worked to develop naval aviation, taking assignments serving on the aircraft carriers Langley and Saratoga, the seaplane tender Wright, and taking command of Patrol Wing 1, in addition to a number of assignments ashore. Langley was the navy's first aircraft carrier. A converted collier, she could only make 14 knots (26 km/h), thus limiting her ability to generate wind over her flight deck and lift under the wings of her aircraft for launching and recovery. Aboard Langley Mitscher and other naval aviation pioneers developed many of the methods by which aircraft would be handled aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. Many of these techniques continue to be used in the current-day U.S. Navy.

During this period Mitscher was assigned command of the air group for the newly commissioned aircraft carrier Saratoga. Mitscher was the first person to land an airplane onto the flight deck of Saratoga as he brought his air group aboard.[14] The vessel conducted mock attacks against the Panama Canal and Pearl Harbor in a series of Fleet Problem exercises. The key lesson learned by the naval aviation officers during these exercises was the importance to locate and destroy the other side's flight decks as early as possible, while still preserving your own. In 1938, Mitscher was promoted to captain.[4]

World War II[edit]

Lt. Colonel James Doolittle and Captain Marc Mitscher on board USS Hornet.[N 1]

Between June 1939 and July 1941, Mitscher served as assistant chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics.

Carrier commander[edit]

Mitscher's next assignment was as captain of the Yorktown-class aircraft carrier USS Hornet, being fitted out at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia.[15] Upon her commissioning in October 1941 he assumed command, taking Hornet to the Naval Station Norfolk for her training out period. She was there in Virginia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Newest of the Navy's fleet carriers, Mitscher worked hard to get ship and crew ready for combat. Following her shake-down cruise in the Caribbean, Mitscher was consulted on the possibility of launching long-range bombers off the deck of a carrier. After affirming it could be done, the sixteen B-25 bombers of the Doolittle Raid were loaded on deck aboard Hornet for a transpacific voyage while Hornet's own flight group was stored below deck in her hangar. Hornet rendezvoused with Enterprise and Task Force 16 in the mid-Pacific just north of Hawaii. Under the command of Admiral Halsey, the task force proceeded in radio silence to a launch point 650 miles (1,050 km) from Japan. Enterprise provided the air cover for both aircraft carriers while Hornet's flight deck was taken up ferrying the B-25s. Hornet, then, was the real life "Shangri-la" that President Roosevelt referred to as the source of the B-25s in his announcement of the bombing attack on Tokyo.

Battle of Midway[edit]

F4F Wildcats of VF-8 prepare to launch off USS Hornet.

During the Battle of Midway, 4-7 June 1942, Hornet and Enterprise carried the air groups that made up the strike force of Task Force 16, while Yorktown carried the aircraft of Task Force 17. Mitscher had command of the newest carrier in the battle and had the least experienced air group. As the battle unfolded, the Japanese carrier force was sighted early on June 4 at 234 degrees and about 140 miles (230 km) from Task Force 16, sailing on a northwest heading. In plotting their attack there was strong disagreement among the air group commanders aboard Hornet as to the best intercept course. Lieutenant Commander Stanhope C. Ring, in overall command of Hornet's air groups, chose a course of 263 degrees, nearly true west, as the most likely solution to bring them to the Japanese carrier group.[16] He had not anticipated the Japanese turning east into the wind while they recovered their aircraft. Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron, in command of the torpedo bombers of Torpedo Eight, strongly disagreed with Ring's flight plan. An aggressive aviator, he assured Mitscher he would get his group into combat and deliver their ordnance, no matter the cost.[17]

Thirty minutes after the Hornet airgroups set out, Waldron broke away from the higher flying fighters and dive bombers, coming to a course of 240 degrees. This proved to be an excellent heading, as his Torpedo Eight squadron flew directly to the enemy carrier group's location "as though on a plumb line".[18] They did so with no supporting fighters. On their way Waldron's Torpedo Eight happened to get picked up by Enterprise's VF-6 fighter squadron flying several thousand feet above them. This group had launched last off Enterprise and had not been able to catch up with or locate the Enterprise dive bombers, but when Waldron dropped his group down to the deck to prepare for their attack the Enterprise fighters lost sight of them.[19] Torpedo Eight was on its own.

The fifteen Devastators of VT-8 form up as they leave Hornet.

The first of the carrier squadrons to locate the Japanese carriers, Waldron bore down upon the enemy. He brought his group in low, slowing for their torpedo drops. With no fighter escort and no other attackers on hand to split the defenders, his group was devastated by defending Japanese Zeros flying combat air patrol (CAP). All fifteen TBD Devastators of VT-8 were shot down. Though not known at the time, the efforts of Torpedo Eight failed to deliver a hit on the Japanese carriers. Of the Torpedo Eight aircrews, only Ensign George H. Gay, Jr. survived. About twenty minutes later Enterprise's Torpedo Six made their own attack, and was met with a similar hot reception. Again, no torpedo hits were made, but five of the aircraft managed to survive the engagement. Though failing to inflict any damage, the torpedo attacks did pull the Japanese CAP down and northeast of the carrier force, leaving the approach from other angles unhindered.

SBD dive bombers from Enterprise arriving from the south flew over the Japanese carrier force to reach their tipping points almost unopposed. They delivered a devastating blow to Kaga and managed to put a bomb into Akagi as well, while SBDs coming from the east from Yorktown dove down upon Sōryū and shattered her flight deck. All three ships were set ablaze, knocked out of the battle to sink later that day. While these attacks were in progress, Ring continued his search on a course of 260 degrees, flying to the north of the battle. Unable to find the enemy and running low on fuel, Hornet's strike groups eventually turned back, either toward Hornet or to Midway Island itself. All ten fighters in the formation ran out of fuel and had to ditch at sea. Several of her SBDs heading to Midway also ran out of fuel and had to ditch on their approach to the Midway base. Other SBDs attempting to return to Hornet were unable to locate her, and disappeared into the vast Pacific. All these aircraft were lost, though a number of the pilots were later rescued. Of Hornet's air groups, only Torpedo Eight ended up reaching the enemy that morning. Hornet's air groups suffered a 50 percent loss rate without achieving any combat results.[20]

The battle was a great victory and Mitscher congratulated his crew for their efforts, but Hornet's performance had not lived up to his expectations and he felt he had failed to deliver the results he should have done.[21] In addition, he felt great regret for the loss of John Waldron and Torpedo Eight.[22] For the next three years he would try to secure the award of the Medal of Honor to the entire unit, but without success. The pilots of Torpedo Eight were eventually awarded the Navy Cross.[23]

Mitscher's decisions in the battle have come under scrutiny largely due to the questionable actions of his subordinates and discrepancies in his After Action report. According to author Robert J. Mrazek, Mitscher backed up Ring's decision to take the heading of 263 degrees, as well as the decision to keep the fighters at high altitude, too high to effectively cover the torpedo bombers. Mrazek states that Waldron vehemently protested both decisions in front of Ring and Mitscher, but was overruled by the latter.[24] At the time, American intelligence reports indicated that the Japanese might be operating their carriers in two groups, and the search plane contact report stated that only two carriers had been found.[25] Mitscher and Ring had agreed on the westerly heading in order to search behind the enemy task force for a possible trailing group.[26] A further controversy exists in that the only official report from Hornet states that the strike took a course heading of 239 degrees and missed the Japanese task force because it had turned north.[27] This statement does not agree with some testimonies of Air Group Eight pilots and other evidence, most noticeably that none of the downed VF 10 pilots who were later rescued were found along the 238 course heading. Finally, the fact that no After Action reports were filed other than the one signed by Mitscher containing the 239 course heading is unusual. Mrazek believes that the lack of reports indicates a cover-up, possibly in an effort to protect Mitscher's reputation.[28]

Commander Air Solomon Islands[edit]

Prior to the Midway operation Mitscher had been promoted to Admiral in preparation for his next assignment, the command of Patrol Wing 2. Though Mitscher preferred to be at sea, he held this command until December when he was sent to the South Pacific as Commander Fleet Air, Nouméa. Four months later in April 1943, Halsey moved Mitscher up to Guadalcanal, assigning him to the thick of the fight as Commander Air, Solomon Islands (COMAIRSOLS). Here Mitscher directed an assortment of Army, Navy, Marine and New Zealand aircraft in the air war over Guadalcanal and up the Solomon chain. Said Halsey: "I knew we'd probably catch hell from the Japs in the air. That's why I sent Pete Mitscher up there. Pete was a fighting fool and I knew it."[29] Short on aircraft, fuel and ammunition, the atmosphere on Guadalcanal was one of dogged defense. Mitscher brought a fresh outlook, and instilled an offensive mindset to his assorted air commands.[30] Mitscher later said this assignment managing the constant air combat over Guadalcanal was his toughest duty of the war.[31]

Battles for the Central Pacific[edit]

Mitscher aboard his flagship, Lexington, in 1944.

Returning to the Central Pacific as Commander, Carrier Division 3, Mitscher soon was given operational control of the newly formed Fast Carrier Task Force, at that time operating as Task Force 58 as part of Admiral Raymond Spruance's Fifth Fleet. To that point in the conflict carriers had been able to bring enough airpower to bear to inflict significant damage on opposing naval forces, but they always acted as a raiding group. They would approach their objective, inflict damage and then escape away into the vast reaches of the Pacific. Even the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, devastating though it was, was a carrier raid. Naval airpower was not thought to have the capacity to challenge land-based airpower over any length of time. Mitscher was about to change that, leading U.S. naval airpower into a new realm of operations.

Mitscher speaks with Air Group Commander David McCampbell, the task force's leading pilot.
Contrails streak the sky during the defense of Task Force 58 in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

The fleet had recently completed operations in the Gilbert Islands, taking Tarawa in a bloody and costly invasion in the process. This mission was done for the purpose of providing a land base for aircraft to support naval operations against the next objective, the Marshall Islands. The idea that land-based air support was necessary to successfully conduct an amphibious operation was traditional doctrine. The Marshalls would be the first key step for the Navy's march across the Pacific to reach Japan. Mitscher's objective was to weaken Japanese air defenses in the Marshalls and limit their capability of flying in reinforcements, in preparation for a U.S. invasion of the Marshalls, code named Operation Flintlock. Intelligence estimates of the Japanese defenders of the Marshall Islands believed they had approximately 150 aircraft at their disposal. Two days before the intended landings Mitscher's task force groups approached to within 150 miles (240 km) of the Marshalls and launched their airstrike groups, fighters first to soften up the defenders, followed by bombers to destroy supplies and crater the defender's airfields. It was thought it would take two days to attain air superiority. Though the Japanese battled briskly, they lost control of the skies over the Marshall Islands by noon of the first day. What came next was an aerial bombardment of the Japanese defenses, followed by a naval bombardment from the big guns of Spruance's surface force. The two days of destruction saved a great many of the lives of the Marines that were landed. The Japanese are estimated to have lost 155 aircraft. Mitscher's task force lost 57 aircraft, from which 31 pilots and 32 crewmen were lost. The manner in which the fast carrier task force operated established a pattern for future Pacific operations. In his summary report for the month of January, Admiral Nimitz commented it was "typical of what may be expected in the future."[32]

Next, Mitscher led Task Force 58 in a raid against Truk, Satawan and Ponape (February 17–18).[33] This was a big step up. The idea of purposely sailing into the range of a major Japanese naval and air base brought great unease to Mitscher's airmen. Said one: "They announced our destination over the loudspeaker once we were underway. It was Truk. I nearly jumped overboard."[34] But Mitscher felt confident they could succeed. As tactical commander of the striking force, he developed techniques that would help give his airmen the edge of surprise. In Operation Hailstone, Mitscher's forces approached Truk from behind a weather front to launch a daybreak raid that caught many of the defenders off guard. The airmen brought devastation to the heavily defended base, destroying 72 aircraft on the ground and another 56 in the air, while a great number of auxiliary vessels and three warships were sunk in the lagoon. Chuckling over the pre-raid fears, Mitscher commented, "All I knew about Truk was what I'd read in the National Geographic."[35]

Through the spring of 1944 Task Force 58 conducted a series of raids on Japanese air bases across the Western Pacific, first in the Mariana and Palau Islands,[36] followed by a raid against Japanese bases in the Hollandia area.[37] These raids demonstrated that the air power of Task Force 58 was powerful enough to overwhelm the air defenses of not just a single island airbase, or several bases on an island, but the airbases of several island groups at one time.[38] The long-held naval rule that fleet operations could not be conducted in the face of land-based air power was brushed aside.

In the ensuing year Mitscher's aviators devastated Japanese carrier forces in the Battle of the Philippine Sea—also known as the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot"—during June 1944. Notably, when a follow-up strike was forced to return to his carriers in darkness, Mitscher turned on the flight decks' running lights, risking submarine attack to give his aviators the best chance of being recovered.

Fast Carrier Task Force TF 38 commanded by Rear Admiral Marc Mitscher was a strike force of the United States Navy. Spotter planes from one of her carriers came across the Toyofuku Maru sailing in MATA-27 convoy on the morning of 21 September 1944 and a full scale attack was soon launched. All eleven ships were sunk. At about 10.30 a.m. the Toyofuku Maru received direct hits from two ariel torpedoes and three bombs. She split in two and sank within five minutes. 1,047 Dutch en Britich prisoners were drowned, trapped below decks.

Facing the kamikaze threat[edit]

Admiral Mitscher and chief of staff Arleigh Burke transfer over to Enterprise after Bunker Hill was hit twice by kamikazes

During the next year, his carriers spearheaded the thrust against the heart of the Japanese Empire, covering successively the invasion of the Palaus, the liberation of the Philippines, and the conquest of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. During the later operation there was a delay in the Army preparing serviceable air bases to support their operations. Mitscher was obliged to keep Task Force 58 sailing in a box on station some 60 miles (97 km) off the coast of Okinawa for the next two months. During this time they were subject to air attack around the clock, and the psychological pressures of warding off these attacks was enormous. There was rarely a night that would go by that the crews would not be called to quarters, and the days were worse.

On 11 May 1945 Mitscher's flagship Bunker Hill was struck by kamikazes, knocking her out of the operation and causing much loss of life. Half of Mitscher's staff officers were killed or wounded, and Mitscher was forced to shift his command to Enterprise. Enterprise at that time was functioning as a "night carrier", launching and recovering her aircraft in the dark to protect the fleet against bomber and torpedo aircraft slipping in to attack the fleet in the relative safety of night. When Enterprise was struck by kamikaze attack as well, Mitscher had to transfer once more, this time to USS Randolph, the Essex-class aircraft carrier that had been damaged by a long-range kamikaze attack at Ulithi. Throughout this period Mitscher repeatedly led the fast carriers northward to attack airbases on the Japanese home islands. Commenting on Admiral Mitscher upon his return from the Okinawa campaign, said Admiral Nimitz "He is the most experienced and most able officer in the handling of fast carrier task forces who has yet been developed. It is doubtful if any officer has made more important contributions than he toward extinction of the enemy fleet."[39]


President Truman congratulates Mitscher during a ceremony in which eight U.S. carriers were awarded Presidential Unit Citations, July 16, 1946.

At the conclusion of the war and in the face of markedly reduced military spending, a political battle ensued over the need for a military, with advocates from the Army Air Forces insisting that with the development of the atomic bomb the nation could be defended by the devastating power that strategic bombers could now deliver, doing away with the need for Army or Navy forces. In their view, air assets in the Navy should be brought under the control of the soon-to-be-formed Air Force. In the face of such proposals Mitscher remained a staunch advocate for naval aviation, and went so far as to release the following statement to the press:

Japan is beaten, and carrier supremacy defeated her. Carrier supremacy destroyed her army and navy air forces. Carrier supremacy destroyed her fleet. Carrier supremacy gave us bases adjacent to her home islands, and carrier supremacy finally left her exposed to the most devastating sky attack – the atomic fission bomb – that man has suffered.

When I say carrier supremacy defeated Japan, I do not mean air power in itself won the Battle of the Pacific. We exercised our carrier supremacy as part of a balanced, integrated air-surface-ground team, in which all hands may be proud of the roles assigned them and the way in which their duties were discharged. This could not have been done by a separate air force, exclusively based ashore, or by one not under Navy control.[40]

By July 1946, when he returned to the United States to serve as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air), Mitscher received, among other awards, two Gold Stars in lieu of a second and third Navy Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal with two Gold Stars.

He served briefly as commander 8th Fleet and on March 1, 1946, became Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, with the rank of admiral.

While serving in that capacity, Mitscher died on 3 February 1947 of a coronary thrombosis at Norfolk, Virginia at the age of 60.[41] He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[42]

Mitscher's style as military commander[edit]

Though reserved and quiet, Mitscher possessed a natural authority.[43] He could check a man with a single question. He was intolerant of incompetence and would relieve officers who were not making the grade, but was lenient with what he would consider honest mistakes. Harsh discipline, he believed, ruined more men than it made. He was not forgetful of the abuse he took at the Naval Academy. He believed pilots could not be successfully handled with rigid discipline, as what made for a good pilot was an independence that inflexible discipline destroyed. At the same time he was insistent on rigid "air discipline" and he would break a man who violated it.[44]

Naval aviation tactics[edit]

Before most other officers in the high command of the U.S. Navy, Mitscher had a grasp of the potential sudden, destructive power that airgroups represented. The change in the operation of carriers from single or paired carriers with support vessels to task groups of three or four carriers was a Mitscher concept, which he implemented for the purpose of concentrating the fighter aircraft available for a better air defense of the carriers.

Offensively, Mitscher trained his airgroups to engage in air attacks which delivered a maximum destructive force upon the enemy with the least amount of loss to his aviators. He sought well coordinated attacks. In a typical Mitscher-style air attack, fighter aircraft would come at the targets first, strafing the enemy ships to suppress their defensive anti-aircraft fire. In plain terms he intended his fighter pilots to wound or kill the target ship's anti-aircraft gun crews. Following the fighter runs, the ordnance-carrying aircraft would execute bombing and torpedo runs, preferably simultaneously to overburden the ship's defenses and negate evasive maneuvers. The attack would be completed in a few minutes. Once the attack was delivered the airgroups would leave, as suddenly as they had arrived.[45]


Mitscher's command style was one of few words. His small frame belied the authority he carried. A raised eyebrow was all he needed to indicate he was not pleased with the effort of one of his officers. He was not patient with incompetent personnel, yet he was forgiving of what he considered "honest" mistakes, and would allow airmen a second chance when other officers would have washed them out. He placed tremendous value on his pilots and had great respect for the risks they were willing to accept in attacking the enemy. His practice was for the flight leaders of the air groups of the carrier he was commanding from to come up to the flag bridge and report following the completion of their missions. He valued greatly the information he received from the men who had been in the air on the scene. He was devoted to these men, and made a great effort to recover as many downed aircrew as possible. One place this was demonstrated was at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where he ordered the fleet flight decks illuminated so pilots returning in the dark would have a better chance of finding the carriers, despite the risk from enemy submarines. He hated to lose a man, either adrift at sea, or worse, captured by the Japanese. Having spent time adrift on a downed aircraft himself, he was always deeply distressed that the numbers of rescued airmen were not higher.[46]


Mitscher and Arleigh Burke confer aboard USS Randolph during the Okinawa campaign.

Mitscher was considered to be a rather quiet man. He rarely spoke, never engaged in small talk and would never discuss mission details at the mess table. On the rare occasions when he would enter into conversation it would be about fishing, the love of which he picked up in his middle years.[47] Mitscher relaxed by reading inexpensive murder mysteries, and when at sea would always have one with him.[48] Though he appeared distant and severe to those who did not know him, in truth he held a deep affection for his men and was the possessor of a dry sense of humor. An example of his humor is displayed in his gentle ribbing of his chief-of-staff, Captain Arleigh Burke. Burke had come to Mitscher from destroyers, and it was well known that he preferred a fighting command over his new role as chief-of-staff. When a destroyer came alongside to refuel from the carrier, the admiral directed a Marine sentry nearby: "Secure Captain Burke, till that destroyer casts off."[49]

Relations toward superior officers[edit]

Mitscher had tactical control of Task Force 58 and operated the task groups. Strategic control was held by Spruance or Halsey. Once a decision was made by either of his superiors Mitscher would implement the decision without complaint, even though he may have disagreed with the course of action chosen. This was most prominently exemplified by the last two major naval battles of the war: the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. In each case he recommended a course of action which differed from that of his commanding officer, although he executed the decision made without protest or debate.

However, Mitscher did disobey Spruance in stopping a Japanese naval sortie centered around Japanese battleship Yamato from reaching Okinawa. Upon receiving contact reports early on 7 April, U.S. 5th Fleet commander Admiral Spruance had first ordered Task Force 54, which consisted mostly of modernized Standard-type battleships under the command of Rear Admiral Morton Deyo (which were engaged in shore bombardment), to intercept and destroy the Japanese sortie. Deyo moved to execute his orders; however, Mitscher preempted Spruance and Deyo by launching a massive air strike from his carriers of Task Force 58, without informing Spruance until after the launches were completed.[50] As a senior naval aviation officer, "Mitscher had spent a career fighting the battleship admirals who had steered the navy's thinking for most of the current century. One of those was his immediate superior, Raymond Spruance. Mitscher felt a stirring of battleship versus aircraft carrier rivalry. Though the carriers had mostly fought the great battles of the Pacific, whether air power alone could prevail over a surface force had not been proven beyond all doubt. Here was an opportunity to end the debate forever".[51] After being informed of Mitscher's launches, Spruance agreed that the airstrikes could go ahead as planned. As a contingency, Spruance ordered Admiral Deyo to assemble a force of six battleships (Massachusetts, Indiana, New Jersey, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Missouri), together with seven cruisers (including the large cruisers Alaska and Guam) and 21 destroyers, and to prepare for a surface engagement with Yamato should the airstrikes prove unsuccessful. Mitscher's airstrikes sank Yamato, a light cruiser, and four destroyers, at the cost of ten aircraft and twelve aircrew lost.[52][53]


Two ships of the Navy have been named USS Mitscher in his honor: the post-World War II frigate, USS Mitscher (DL-2), later re-designated as the guided-missile destroyer (DDG-35), and the currently serving Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Mitscher (DDG-57).

The airfield and a street at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (Naval Air Station Miramar) have also been named in his honor (Mitscher Field and Mitscher Way).

Mitscher Hall at the United States Naval Academy houses chaplain offices, meetings rooms, and an auditorium.[54]

In 1989, Mitscher was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.[55]

The words of Admiral Arleigh Burke, his wartime chief-of-staff, provide the greatest tribute and recognition of his leadership:

"He spoke in a low voice and used few words. Yet, so great was his concern for his people — for their training and welfare in peacetime and their rescue in combat — that he was able to obtain their final ounce of effort and loyalty, without which he could not have become the preeminent carrier force commander in the world. A bulldog of a fighter, a strategist blessed with an uncanny ability to foresee his enemy's next move, and a lifelong searcher after truth and trout streams, he was above all else — perhaps above all other — a Naval Aviator."

Awards and decorations[edit]

Ribbon bar of Admiral Mitscher:

Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
"A" Device
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Badge Naval Aviator Badge
1st Row Navy Cross
with two gold stars
2nd Row Navy Distinguished Service Medal
with two gold stars
Legion of Merit with "V" Device Presidential Unit Citation
with two stars
3rd Row Mexican Campaign Medal World War I Victory Medal
with "Escort" Clasp
American Defense Service Medal
with "A" device
4th Row American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
with one silver and three bronze service stars
World War II Victory Medal
5th Row Philippine Liberation Medal
with two stars
Companion of the Order of the Bath
(United Kingdom)
Commander of the
Order of the Tower and Sword

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Mitscher is wearing an Army Air Force flight jacket. The photo was touched up to obscure the view of the jacket insignia of the air crews.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-18. Retrieved 2012-03-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Biographies in Naval History: Admiral Marc Andrew Mitscher, USNR". Naval History & Heritage Command. Archived from the original on 2012-09-16.
  4. ^ a b c "Mitscher, Marc Andrew (1887–1947)". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2012-11-03.
  5. ^ Taylor p. 21
  6. ^ a b c Taylor p. 48
  7. ^ Taylor pp. 33–34
  8. ^ Darden, Colgate W., Jr. (1984). "Naval Aviation in World War I". Proceedings. United States Naval Institute. 110 (11): 163–166.
  9. ^ The Navy Book of Distinguished Service: An Official Compendium of the Names and Citations of the Men of the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Foreign Governments Who Were Decorated by the Navy Department for Extraordinary Gallantry and Conspicuous Service Above and Beyond the Call of Duty in the World War (editor: Harry R. Stringer, p 107, Fassett Publishing Company: Washington DC, 1921).
  10. ^ "Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas" [Portuguese Honorary Orders]. Presidency of the Portuguese Republic (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  11. ^ Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, volume IA, pp. 400–402, Aroostook. Also, The Washington Post, Sunday edition, May 7, 1922, p. 6, column 3. Also, Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, January 1, 1922, Washington Government Printing Office, 1922, p 36, no. in grade 458.
  12. ^ Taylor p. 78
  13. ^ Taylor p. 79
  14. ^ Taylor p. 82
  15. ^ Taylor p. 102
  16. ^ Parshall and Tulley p. 174
  17. ^ Taylor p. 131
  18. ^ Gay p. 113
  19. ^ Parshall and Tulley p. 207
  20. ^ Parshall and Tulley p. 274
  21. ^ Taylor p. 138
  22. ^ Taylor p. 136
  23. ^ Taylor p. 137
  24. ^ Mrazek, A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight, (2009)
  25. ^ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword
  26. ^ Mrazek
  27. ^ Symonds, Craig L. "Mitschner and the Mystery of Midway". U.S. Naval Institute. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  28. ^ Mrazek, Symmonds
  29. ^ Taylor p. 145
  30. ^ Taylor p. xxiv
  31. ^ Taylor p. 332
  32. ^ Taylor p. 179
  33. ^ Willmott p. 176
  34. ^ Taylor p. 183
  35. ^ Taylor p. 184
  36. ^ Potter pp. 122–127
  37. ^ Potter pp. 129–132
  38. ^ Willmott p. 182
  39. ^ Taylor p. 304
  40. ^ Potter p. 266
  41. ^ Hickman, Kennedy (14 May 2018). "World War II: Admiral Marc A. Mitscher". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  42. ^ "Marc Andrew Mitscher". Arlington National Cemetery.
  43. ^ Taylor p. 74
  44. ^ Taylor p. 242
  45. ^ Taylor p. 243
  46. ^ Potter p. 133
  47. ^ Potter p. 180
  48. ^ Potter p. 138
  49. ^ Potter p. 128
  50. ^ Triumph in the Pacific by E.B. Potter, also History of United States Naval Operations in World War II by Samuel Eliot Morison.
  51. ^ Gandt, Robert (August 4, 2011). "Killing the Yamato". Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  52. ^ Order of Battle - Final Sortie of the Imperial Japanese Navy - 7 April 1945
  53. ^ Authors Garzke and Dulin speculate that the likely outcome of a battle between these two surface forces would have been a victory for the Allies, but at a serious cost due to the large margin of superiority Yamato held over the American battleships in firepower (460 mm vs. 356 mm), armour and speed (27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph) vs. 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). (Garzke and Dulin (1985)), p. 60.
  54. ^ Rodenburg, J. D. (2007). "Mitscher Hall". Wikimapia. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  55. ^ Sprekelmeyer, Linda, editor. These We Honor: The International Aerospace Hall of Fame. Donning Co. Publishers, 2006. ISBN 978-1-57864-397-4.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

External links[edit]