Vice Admiral Henry Claiborne Crommelin
(1904 - 1971)
Whereas his brother, John, was involved with the U.S. fleet of aircraft carriers, Henry devoted much of his life to destroyers. Henry Crommelin was born in Montgomery, Alabama on August 11, 1904, the second son of John G. and Katharine (Gunter) Crommelin. He attended grade and high school in Montgomery, and a year at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa before his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1921. As a Midshipman he played class football four years and was a member of the varsity boxing squad three years. He graduated from the Academy with distinction, eighteenth in a class of four hundred and fifty-three, and was commissioned ensign on June 4, 1925. He subsequently advanced in rank attaining that of Rear Admiral with the date of rank, July 1, 1952.
Prior to World War II his duty assignments included tours on the battleships USS Tennessee and USS California and also duty as chief engineer on the destroyers USS Bruce and USS Schenk. After a one-year tour with the Atlantic Fleet Scouting Force Camera Party he was stationed at the Naval Academy from September, 1933 to June, 1936.
His son, Henry Jr. was born in Annapolis on August 8, 1935 while Henry was assigned to the Executive Department at the Naval Academy. From 1936 to 1940 he served at West Coast duty stations on the USS Pennsylvania and USS Preston. On the former he was Aide and Flag Lieutenant on the Staff of Commander US Fleet and served as executive officer of the latter.
In January, 1940 he returned to the East Coast serving at the Bureau of Navigation (later designated the Bureau of Naval Personnel) in Washington, D.C. In January 1942, Henry joined the USS Fitch as she was fitting out the Boston Naval Shipyard where he assumed command February 3, 1942, upon her commissioning. The destroyer, USS Fitch, served in Atlantic convoy duty and in November 1942 the invasion of North Africa.
He assumed command of the destroyer USS Guest upon her commissioning on December 15, 1942. In May of 1943, the Guest was tranferred from the Atlantic to the Pacific Fleet. Detached from command of the Guest in August 1943, he became Commander of Destroyer Division Fifty which participated in the invasion of Tarawa in November 1943. There he earned the Silver Star for taking his flagship, the USS Ringgold and another DESDIV50 destroyer, the USS Dashiel, into the uncharted lagoon at Tarawa where for four days they performed "vigorous bombardment of shore installations and contributed to the success of his division in silencing several enemy batteries and in carrying out all other assigned fire support tasks." While on this mission a Japanese five inch shell struck a torpedo tube but it failed to detonate.
Henry Crommelin was also awarded the Bronze Star "for heroic achievement as commander Destroyer Division Fifty while embarked aboard the USS Ringgold during operations against enemy Japanese forces on Guam, Marianas Islands from July 21-July 25, 1944. An additional duty at Guam was Boat Control Officer at Agot Beach where he skillfully directed the timely dispatch of assault waves on D-Day".
In August, 1944 he was transferred to command Destroyer Squadron Twenty-five in which he served until December 30, 1944. While in this command, DESRON25 participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. His next duty station was the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington where he served for two years of the Officer Distribution Division.
From December, 1946 until November, 1948 he was Chief of Staff and Aide to Commander Destroyers US Atlantic Fleet. Shore duty at the US Naval Operating Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba followed where he was Chief of Staff to the Naval Operating Base Commander and also Commanding Officer of the Naval Station there.
USS Des Moines
In October 1950, he assumed command of the heavy cruiser USS Des Moines which was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and served for a time in the Sixth Fleet operating in NATO Mediterranean exercises. The Des Moines was the first United States warship to visit Yugoslavia since World War II, steaming through the Adriatic Sea to Rijeka, Yugoslavia, in December 1950.
Staff duty followed in October 1951, where he was assigned to CINCPAC headquarters at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
After promotion to Rear Admiral in July 1952, he returned to Washington and the Bureau of Personnel to become Assistant Chief of that department. His last sea duty assignment was Commander Battleship Division Two from January 3, 1956, to June 1957. His last active duty was served as Commander Naval Base, Newport, Rhode Island.
RADM Henry Crommelin escorts President Eisenhower at Newport, Rhode Island in 1957.
In March, 1958 Henry officiated at the commissioning of USS Mullinnix, a destroyer named after Admiral Mullinnix who died aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Liscome Bay when it was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine on November 23, 1943. [Coincidentally, Henry's older brother, Capt. John Crommelin, happened to be the next senior officer of the USS Liscome Bay on this tragic day, but he managed to survive the sinking! This could have been a topic of discussion between Henry and Mrs. Kathryn Mullinnix!]
Henry Crommelin at a 1958 commissioning. C.B. Anderson, first commanding officer
of the USS Mullinnix, accepts a silver Revere bowl from Mrs. Kathryn F. Mullinnix,
widow of the Admiral for whom the ship is named.
Henry retired November 1, 1959, and was advanced to the rank of Vice Admiral on the basis of combat awards.
He and his wife returned to Montgomery and then Wetumpka, Alabama where Henry died March 2, 1971, in his 67th year. They are both buried in the Arlington National Cemetery not far from John F. Kennedy's grave.
Arlington National Cemetery.
Click to enlarge.