Jesse Barrett Oldendorf, USN
|Born||16 Feb 1887|
|Died||27 Apr 1974||(87)||Portsmouth, Virginia|
Warship Commands listed for Jesse Barrett Oldendorf, USN
|USS Houston (i) (CA 30)||Capt.||Heavy cruiser||16 Oct 1939||30 Aug 1941|
Jesse Bartlett "Oley" Oldendorf (16 February 1887 - 27 April 1974) was an Admiral famous for defeating the Japanese southern force by crossing the "T" in the Battle of Surigao Strait. The Battle for Surigao Strait was one of a number of battles fought for control of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.
Admiral Oldendorf graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1909 standing 141st in a class of 174. He served on Cruisers and Destroyers before World War I. After World War I he was assigned to freighter and transport duty. He was Engineering Officer on the Seattle.
As a Lieutenant, Oldendorf served aboard the USS President Lincoln. On May 31, 1918 Oldendorf was aboard the USS President Lincoln when it was struck by three torpedoes from the German submarine U-90. The President Lincoln sank about 20 minutes later.
Oldendorf then served aboard the California, Preble, Denver Whipple, San Diego, Hannibal, Saratoga, Seattle, Patricia, Niagara, and Birmingham.
This was followed by onshore assignments and a stint as flag secretary of the Special Service Squadron headquartered in Balboa, Panama Canal Zone. The Special Service Squadron patrolled the Caribbean Sea as an instrument of gunboat diplomacy.
At the rank of commander, Oldendorf's first command was a destroyer the Decatur (DD 341), which he commanded from 1922-1927. In 1930 he was the navigator of the battleship New York (BB-34). Oldendorf then served as Executive Officer West Virginia from 1935-1937 and from 1939-August 1941, at the rank of Captain, he commanded the heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30) . In September 1941 Oldendorf then joined the staff of the Naval War College where he taught navigation.
Shortly after entry into World War II on March 31, 1942 the United States Navy promoted Oldendorf to Rear Admiral and assigned him to the Aruba-Curaçao sector of the Caribbean. In August 1942 he was moved to the Trinidad sector. During this period, Anti-submarine warfare was his primary duty. From May through December 1943, Oldendorf commanded Western Atlantic escorts from Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland.
Oldendorf was then assigned to the Pacific theatre in January 1944 where he commanded Cruiser Division 4 from aboard the flagship Louisville (CA-28 ). Cruiser Division 4 supported landings in the Marshalls, Palaus, Marianas, and Leyte. On October 24, 1944, Rear Admiral Oldendorf was the commander of Task Group 77.2 at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He deployed his force of Battleships and Cruisers in a classic battle line formation across the Surigao Strait.
Early in the morning of October 25, 1944 aboard his flagship Lousville (CA-28), Oldendorf commanded the devastation and defeat Vice-Admiral Nishimura's Japanese Southern Force. At the conclusion of the battle, battleships Fuso and Yamashiro were sunk and Admiral Shoji Nishimura was killed. Oldendorf's action helped prevent the Japanese from bringing their battle fleet into Surigao Strait and attacking the beacheads on Leyte Island.
This job was originally to be Admiral William H. Halsey's, but Halsey and his carrier Task Force were drawn away in a decoy action by the Japanese Northern Force. This circumstance is what prompted Oldendorf to make the famous radio transmission "Where the Hell is Bull Halsey?".
The Battle of Surigao Strait was the last Naval battle fought by Surface ships alone. Oldendorf in his own words described his approach to the battle as follows.
"My theory was that of the old-time gambler: Never give a sucker a chance. If my opponent is foolish enough to come at me with an inferior force, I'm certainly not going to give him an even break."
Rear Admiral Oldendorf was awarded the Navy Cross for this action.
On December 15, 1944 Oldendorf was promoted to Vice Admiral and made commander of Battleship Squadron One. Oldendorf commanded Battleship Squadron One in the landings at Lingayen Gulf. At Ulithi on March 11, 1945, Oldendorf broke his collar bone when his barge hit a buoy. He was temporary replaced by Rear Admiral Morton Deyo but returned on May 1, 1945 to resume his duty.
On August 12, 1945 in Buckner Bay Okinawa Oldendorf transferred his flag from the USS Tennessee (BB-43) to the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38). On the evening of August 12, 1945, the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) was torpedoed by a single Japanese torpedo bomber. Vice Admiral Oldendorf who was in the captain's cabin at the time was wounded, breaking several ribs.
The following day August 13, 1945 with the Admiral still aboard a kamikaze attempted to crash into the stricken Pennsylvania but missed. Later that day Oldendorf transferred his flag back to the USS Tennessee.
On September 23, 1945, Vice Admiral Oldendorf commanded the occupation of Wakayama, Honshu, Japan and dictated terms of surrender to Vice Admiral Hoka and Rear Admiral Yofai.
After the war, in 1945 Oldendorf commanded the 11th Naval District and in 1947 took command of the Western Sea Frontier.
Vice Admiral Oldendorf was promoted Admiral upon his retirement in September 1948.
Admiral Jesse B Oldendorf passed on April 27, 1974 in Portsmouth, Virginia.
A destroyer USS Oldendorf (DD-972) was named in his honor.
For his service to his country, Admiral Jesse B Oldendorf received the following decorations.
NAVY CROSS with BAR
NAVY DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL with 2 STARS
ARMY DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL
LEGION OF MERIT with 1 GOLD STAR
PURPLE HEART with BAR
AMERICAN DEFENSE SERVICE MEDAL
AMERICAN CAMPAIGN MEDAL
ASIATIC-PACIFIC CAMPAIGN MEDAL
EUROPEAN-AFRICAN-MIDDLE EASTERN CAMPAIGN MEDAL
WORLD WAR II VICTORY MEDAL
WORLD WAR I VICTORY MEDAL with Transport Bar
USN MEXICAN CAMPAIGN MEDAL
USN CUBAN PACIFICATION MEDAL
Material was provided courtesy of Eugene "Pappy" Corrado USMC Marine Detachment Afloat Flag orderly to Vice Admiral Jessee B Oldendorf on the USS Tennessee and USS Pennsylvania.
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