CHARLES P. CECIL, RADM, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Charles Cecil '16

Date of birth: September 4, 1893

Date of death: July 31, 1947

Age: 53

Lucky Bag

From the 1916 Lucky Bag:

Loss

1916 Cecil 2.jpg

Charles was lost in the crash of a Navy Air Transport Service PB2Y Coronado flying boat taking off from Funafuti Atoll in the Ellice Islands (now known as Tuvalu) on July 31, 1944.

His wife was listed as next of kin; he was also survived by his son, Charles Jr., a graduate of the Naval Academy. Charles is buried in Arlington National Cemetery and has a memorial plaque in a church in North Carolina.

Biography

From NavSource:

Rear Admiral Cecil was born in Louisville, Kentucky, September 4, 1893. He was appointed to the Naval Academy from the Fifth Kentucky District in 1912. and was graduated and commissioned Ensign in June 1916. After graduation he served aboard USS MAINE, USS BALLARD, USS ROCHESTER, USS UPSHUR, USS PITTSBURGH, and USS TEXAS through 1927. The next ten years saw Admiral Cecil serving on Battleship Staffs and ashore at the Bureau of Navigation as well as the Naval Academy. During the late thirty's he commanded the destroyers GREEN and CUMMINGS followed by an assignment as Executive Officer, Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois.

In 1941, at the beginning of World War II he assumed command of Pacific Destroyer Division Eleven followed by command of Destroyer Squadron Five. He was awarded the Navy Cross for Action with Destroyer Squadron Five against superior Japanese Forces at the battle of Santa Cruz Islands on 26 October 1942. In November of 1942. Admiral Cecil assumed command of the USS HELENA. On 6 July 1943 he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism in action against Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands, Following several days of shore bombardment against numerous counter-battery fire, and the laying of a mine field in restricted waters in reduced visibility, the HELENA participated in a running engagement with numerically superior Japanese Naval Forces. She sank or damaged all hostile vessels before she was mortally hit by enemy torpedo fire.

Subsequent to the sinking of the HELENA Admiral Cecil reported for duty as Commander Service Force, Pacific Fleet. He was killed in an airplane crash in the Pacific area on 31 July 1944.

DD835, the USS CHARLES P. CECIL was named in honor of this superb seaman, destroyer tactician, and gallant leader whose personal courage and inspiring devotion to duty over his lifetime was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. His widow, Mrs. Charles Purcell Cecil christened this vessel at the launching on 22 April 1945, at the Bath Iron Works Corporation, Bath, Maine. She currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina, and she has been presented a copy of this program along with a brass duplicate of Cecil's commissioning plaque. Charles P. Cecil's decommissioning booklet

From Arlington National Cemetery.net, dated August 14, 1944:

On a day in July 1943, a sorry looking group of Navy men—officers and blue-jackets, all lucky to be alive—waded ashore on a Pacific island. Among them was Charles P. Cecil, tall, cold-eyed skipper of the heroic cruiser Helena, which had been torpedoed in the July 7 Battle of Kula Gulf. With the others, Captain Cecil had floated for hours in the oil-covered waters. He had refused to be picked up until his men were rescued.

It was the second ship Cecil had lost to the enemy. In the Battle of Santa Cruz, in October 1942, he had commanded the lost destroyer Porter. He ruefully remarked: "I guess they have my number."

Last week his number was crossed out. Rear Admiral Charles P. Cecil, 50, holder of a Navy Cross with Gold Star (i.e., two crosses), died when an airplane in which he was riding crashed at a Pacific base.

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Captain Charles Purcell Cecil, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commander, Destroyer Squadron FIVE, during the engagement with enemy Japanese forces north of the Santa Cruz Islands on 26 October 1942. Captain Cecil conducted his group so that units under his command maneuvered skillfully in forming a tight defensive screen around a United States carrier in spite of intense and violent action sustained for an hour and a half. Captain Cecil's inspiring leadership and the valiant devotion to duty of his command contributed in large measure to the outstanding success of these vital missions and reflect great credit upon the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 314 (May 1943)
Service: Navy
Division: Destroyer Squadron 5

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Captain Charles Purcell Cecil, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Light Cruiser U.S.S. HELENA (CL-50), during operations in Kula Gulf, Solomon Islands, on 5 and 6 July 1943. Commanding his warship during landing operations on New Georgia island, Captain Cecil skillfully maneuvered his ship through submarine-infested waters and effectively bombarded Japanese shore batteries in the face of intense gun and torpedo fire. Twenty-four hours later the Helena participated in an engagement with a numerically superior force and contributed materially to the sinking or severe damaging of all the enemy ships before she was struck by a torpedo. Captain Cecil, calmly and without confusion, directed the abandonment of his sinking ship, and continued supervision of rescue operations from a small life raft. Captain Cecil's inspiring leadership and the valiant devotion to duty of his command contributed in large measure to the outstanding success of these vital missions and reflect great credit upon the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 319 (October 1943)
Service: Navy
Division: U.S.S. Helena (CL-50)

Namesake

USS Charles P. Cecil (DD 835) was named for Charles; the ship was sponsored by his widow.

Related Articles

Horatio Sickel, IV ’20 was also lost in this crash.


Class of 1916

Charles is one of 16 members of the Class of 1916 in Memorial Hall.