Marc Andrew Mitscher
Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1910
Engagements: • World War I (1914 - 1918)• World War II (1941 - 1945)
Marc Andrew "Pete" Mitscher was born in Hillsboro, WI, on 26 January 1887, the son of Oscar and Myrta (nee Shear) Mitscher. Marc's grandfather, Andreas Mitscher, was a German immigrant from Traben-Trarbach. In 1854, Andreas married Constantina Moln who was also of German descent.
During the western land boom of 1889, when Marc was two years old, his family resettled in Oklahoma City, OK, where his father, a federal Indian Agent, later became that city's second mayor. Despite the family settlement in Oklahoma, records attest that Mitscher attended elementary and secondary schools in Washington, DC, and he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD, in 1906. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1910.
Marc's first assignment was serving his two-year assignment at sea on the armored cruiser USS Colorado (ACR-7). [Until 1912, a Midshipman graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy was required to have two years of sea duty as a warrant officer before receiving a commission as an Ensign.] He was commissioned an Ensign on 7 March 1912. In August 1913 he served aboard the armored cruiser USS California (ACR-6) on the West Coast of the U.S. during the Mexican Campaign. During the next two years, Marc also served on the destroyers USS Whipple (DD-15) and USS Stewart (DD-13).
Mitscher reported for aviation training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL, in September 1915. On 2 June 1916, Mitscher was designated Naval Aviator No. 33. Almost a year later, on 6 April 1917, he reported to the armored cruiser USS Huntington (ACR-5) for duty in connection with aircraft catapult experiments. This duty was followed by Lieutenant Mitscher taking command of NAS Dinner Key in Coconut Grove, FL. Dinner Key was the second largest naval air facility in the U.S. and was used to train seaplane pilots. On 18 July 1918, he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and, 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.
Early in his career as a Naval Aviator, Mitscher learned the value of commitment, dedication and perseverance. In 1919, the Navy planned an attempt to be the first to fly across the Atlantic. Mitscher was assigned as one of the pilots aboard the NC-1 aircraft. His aircraft was part of a three-plane squadron attempting the trans-Atlantic flight. As one of the pilots, he quickly learned about courage and honor during the attempted trans-Atlantic flight. To fly this massive NC (Navy Curtiss) Flying Boat seaplane required skill, endurance and perseverance. The physical exertion and skill to maintain the aircraft in flight, especially in rough weather, was a true test of a person's mettle. His plane, along with the NC-3, was forced down in heavy seas due to thick fog before reaching the Azores; the midway point en route to Portugal. Keenly disappointed in not achieving the goal of being the first to cross the Atlantic, he drew from this experience a sharpened sense of duty and commitment necessary for success, thus setting the stage for his future accomplishments in Naval Aviation. For this attempted trans-Atlantic flight he was awarded the Navy Cross and the citation reads:"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 Newfoundland to the vicinity of the Azores in May 1919."
Lieutenant Marc A. Mitscher (he reverted back to the rank of lieutenant after the war ended) reported for duty aboard the mine layer USS Aroostook (CM-3) on 14 October 1919, serving under the Commanding Officer, Captain Henry C. Mustin. The Aroostook was assigned temporary duties as flag ship for the Air Detachment, Pacific Fleet. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander with date of rank 1 July 1921. In May 1922, Mitscher was detached from Air Squadrons, Pacific Fleet (San Diego, CA) to command Naval Air Station Anacostia, in Washington, DC. He was a member of the Navy team in air races held in 1922 and 1923.
In 1927 Mitscher helped place the new aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) in commission. He was Executive Officer of the carrier USS Langley (CV-1) in 1929-30 and of the Saratoga in 1934-35. From 1937-39, he commanded the seaplane tender USS Wright (AV-1) and Patrol Wing One.
World War II
Between June 1939 and July 1941, Mitscher served as Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. Thereafter, he fitted out the carrier USS Hornet (CV-8), and he assumed command at her commissioning in October 1941. He was Captain of the Hornet when Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941. While under his command, the Hornet launched the legendary Doolittle Raid on 18 April 1942, the first air raid by the U.S. to strike the Japanese Home Islands (specifically Honshu) during World War II. By demonstrating that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack, it provided a vital morale boost and opportunity for U.S. retaliation after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle using sixteen U.S. Army Air Forces B-25B Mitchell medium bombers.
Mitscher captained Hornet during the Battle of Midway 4-7 June 1942, but his air group's performance in that crucial engagement ranged from disappointing to outright disastrous. On the eve of the Battle of Midway, Mitscher, with the support of his Air Group Commander, CDR Stanhope C. Ring, denied fighter air cover to the Hornet's torpedo squadron, led by LCDR John C. Waldron. Mitscher then ordered the strike group to fly a course of 265 degrees true (instead of the 234 degrees of the enemy's last sighting). This resulted in most of the air group never sighting the enemy. Only Waldron's Torpedo Eight squadron flew directly to the enemy carrier group's location (because Waldron disobeyed orders and flew course 240 degrees). Torpedo Eight was the first carrier squadron to be in position to attack. Unescorted by fighters, Torpedo Eight was decimated by Japanese Zeros. Only one man survived (Ensign George H. Gay Jr.). However, Torpedo Eight's sacrifice enabled dive bombers from the carriers Enterprise and Yorktown to sink three Japanese carriers virtually unopposed. In spite of CDR Ring's hearing CDR Waldron's radioed report that he had found the enemy, CDR Ring continued on course 260 degrees to nowhere. The Hornet strike force following the orders of CDR Ring was unable to find the enemy, and eventually headed back toward either the Hornet, or Midway Island, to land and refuel. All ten fighters in the formation ran out of fuel and ditched at sea. Several dive bombers also had to ditch on their approach to the Midway base. Except for Torpedo Eight, none of the Hornet's strike force played any role on the first day of the Battle of Midway. Mitscher was detached from the Hornet on 30 June, less than four months before her loss on 26 October during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.
Promoted to Rear Admiral, Mitscher commanded Patrol Wing 2 and Navy air units in the Southern Pacific during the Guadalcanal and Central Solomons campaigns of 1942-43. In April 1943, he became Commander, Air Solomon Islands, and was the overall tactical commander of the operations that resulted in shooting-down the aircraft carrying Japanese Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto on 18 April 1943.
From August 1943 to January 1944 he commanded Fleet Air, West Coast. Returning to the central Pacific as Commander, Carrier Division 3, he was promoted to Vice Admiral on 21 March 1944 and ordered to take command of the Fast Carrier Task Force (then 5th Fleet's TF 58). With the USS Lexington (CV-16) as his flagship for this task force, (which operated alternately as 3rd Fleet's TF 38), he inflicted severe and irreparable damage on Japanese ground installations and against enemy naval and merchant shipping. His hard-hitting, wide-ranging carriers pounded the enemy from Truk to the Palau's, along the New Guinea coast, and throughout the Marianas. His eager, resourceful aviators devastated Japanese carrier forces in the Battle of the Philippine Sea - also known as the Marianas Turkey Shoot - during 19-20 June 1944. Notably, when a follow-up strike was forced to return to his carriers in darkness, Mitscher earned the gratitude of his pilots by turning on the flight decks' running lights, defying standard naval procedure and ensuring that most of them were recovered. He welded his fast carriers into a fighting team that also fought the Battle of Gulf Leyte, 24-25 October 1944.
During the next year his warring carriers spearheaded the thrust against the heart of the Japanese Empire, covering successively the invasion of the Palau's, the liberation of the Philippines, and the conquest of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. His carriers bested the Japanese Kamikazes in the Okinawa Campaign in the spring of 1945. During these operations he repeatedly led the fast carriers northward to pound the Japanese home islands.
On 10 July 1945, Mitscher returned to the U.S. to serve as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air) and was promoted to Admiral. He was offered the post of Chief of Naval Operations but turned it down to become Commander, 8th Fleet and then, on 1 March 1946, to be Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. While serving in that capacity, Mitscher died of heart problems at Norfolk, VA on 3 February 1947, at the age of 60. He was buried in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery.
Medals, Awards & Badges
Navy Cross with 2 Gold Stars
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).
In addition to the ships named after Admiral Mitscher, the airfield and a street at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA, (Naval Air Station Miramar) have been named in his honor (Mitscher Field and Mitscher Way).
These words from Admiral Arleigh Burke 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."
Admiral Marc A. Mitscher earned distinction as one of the U.S. Navy's great battle commanders in the 41 years he served his country. Throughout his naval career, he epitomized the qualities that made him an outstanding leader: honor, courage and commitment.
Certainly one of his most lasting contributions is the development of the carrier task force. Early in World War II, aircraft carriers tended to operate alone. Mitscher sought to change this doctrine with the concentration of carrier forces that would eventually become the carrier task force. During the years of bitter naval combat in the Pacific, his name and the words "fast carrier task force" came to be synonymous. Carrier forces led by Admiral Mitscher gained and maintained control of the sea and air up to the very shores of Japan.
|Origin of Nickname/Handle:|
Nicknamed after Annapolis' first midshipman from Oklahoma, one Peter Cassius Marcellus Cade who had "bilged-out" the year before in 1903, upperclassmen compelled young Mitscher to recite the entire name as a hazing. Soon he was being referred to as "Oklahoma Pete", with the nickname shortened to just "Pete" by the winter of his youngster year.
|Honoree ID: 55||Created by: MHOH|