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 [ARIZONA], USS BALLARD, USS ROCHESTER, USS [ABEL P. 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

(Note the commissioning book seems to be incorrect in two aspects of his early service: The Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps of 1917 shows him aboard Arizona, not Maine. Later, he was aboard USS Abel P. Upshur (DD 193), not USS Upshur (DD 144).)

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.

Elmer Buerkle '25, John Mooney, Jr. '35, Arthur Yeates, Jr. '38, and Joseph Griffin '43 were lost when Helena was sunk.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

January 1917

Ensign, USS Arizona

March 1918

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Yankton

January 1919

Lieutenant, USS Yankton

January 1920

Lieutenant, USS Ballard

January 1921

Lieutenant, USS Rochester

January 1922

Lieutenant, USS Abel P. Upshur

May 1923

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 6th Naval District

July 1923

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 6th Naval District

September 1923

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 6th Naval District

November 1923

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 6th Naval District

January 1924

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 6th Naval District

March 1924

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 6th Naval District

May 1924

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 6th Naval District

July 1924

Lieutenant, staff, Naval Forces Europe, USS Pittsburgh

Others at or embarked at USS Pittsburgh: ENS Ralph Bradford, Jr. '22 (USS Pittsburgh) and ENS Luther Schmidt '23 (USS Pittsburgh).

September 1924

Lieutenant, USS Pittsburgh

Others at this command: ENS Ralph Bradford, Jr. '22 and ENS Luther Schmidt '23.

November 1924

Lieutenant, USS Pittsburgh

Others at this command: ENS Ralph Bradford, Jr. '22 and ENS Luther Schmidt '23.

January 1925

Lieutenant, USS Pittsburgh

Others at this command: ENS Ralph Bradford, Jr. '22 and ENS Luther Schmidt '23.

March 1925

Lieutenant, USS Pittsburgh

Others at this command: ENS Ralph Bradford, Jr. '22 and ENS Luther Schmidt '23.

May 1925

Lieutenant, USS Pittsburgh

Others at this command: ENS Luther Schmidt '23.

July 1925

Lieutenant, USS Pittsburgh

Others at this command: ENS Knowlton Williams '25.

October 1925

Lieutenant, USS Pittsburgh

Others at this command: ENS Knowlton Williams '25.

January 1926

Lieutenant, USS Pittsburgh

Others at this command: ENS Knowlton Williams '25.

October 1926

Lieutenant, USS Texas

Others at this command: ENS John Duke '26.

January 1927

Lieutenant, USS Texas

Others at this command: ENS John Duke '26.

April 1927

Lieutenant, USS Texas

Others at this command: ENS John Duke '26.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg William Davis '22 (Observation Plane Squadron (VS) 6).

October 1927

Lieutenant Commander, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT Eugene Burkett '20.

January 1928

Lieutenant Commander, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT Eugene Burkett '20.

April 1928

Lieutenant Commander, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT Eugene Burkett '20.

July 1928

Lieutenant Commander, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR Donald Godwin '11 and LT Eugene Burkett '20.

October 1928

Lieutenant Commander, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR Donald Godwin '11 and LT Eugene Burkett '20.

January 1929

Lieutenant Commander, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR Donald Godwin '11 and LT Eugene Burkett '20.

April 1929

Lieutenant Commander, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR Donald Godwin '11.

July 1929

Lieutenant Commander, flag secretary, Battleship Division 3, USS New York

Others at or embarked at USS New York: LT William Sample '19 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 3B), ENS Douglas Fox '26 (USS New York), LTjg Robert Hollenbeck '26 (USS New York), ENS James Willis '27 (USS New York), and ENS Howard Garner '29 (USS New York).

October 1929

Lieutenant Commander, flag secretary, Battleship Division 3, USS New York

Others at or embarked at USS New York: LT William Sample '19 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 3B), LTjg Douglas Fox '26 (USS New York), ENS Hugh Black '26 (USS New York), LTjg Robert Hollenbeck '26 (USS New York), ENS James Willis '27 (USS New York), and ENS Howard Garner '29 (USS New York).

January 1930

Lieutenant Commander, flag secretary, Battleship Division 3, USS New York

Others at or embarked at USS New York: LT William Sample '19 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 3B), LTjg Douglas Fox '26 (USS New York), LTjg Hugh Black '26 (USS New York), ENS James Willis '27 (USS New York), ENS Leonard Southerland '27 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 3B), and ENS Howard Garner '29 (USS New York).

April 1930

Lieutenant Commander, flag secretary, Battleship Division 3

October 1930

Lieutenant Commander, flag aide and secretary, Battleship Division 4, USS New Mexico

Others at or embarked at USS New Mexico: LTjg Willford Hyman '24 (USS New Mexico), LTjg Gerald Dyson '27 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B), ENS John Burke '28 (USS New Mexico), ENS Byron Newell '30 (USS New Mexico), and ENS Charles Ostrom '30 (USS New Mexico).

January 1931

Lieutenant Commander, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Mack Vorhees '30.

Others at or embarked at this command: LCDR Daniel Callaghan '11 (Battleship Division 5), LTjg Ted Marshall '24 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 5B), and ENS Francis Jordan '29 (Battleship Division 5).

April 1931

Lieutenant Commander, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Francis Jordan '29 and ENS Mack Vorhees '30.

Others at or embarked at this command: LCDR Daniel Callaghan '11 (Battleship Division 5) and LTjg Ted Marshall '24 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B).

July 1931

Lieutenant Commander, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Francis Jordan '29, ENS Mack Vorhees '30, and ENS Philip Ashworth '31.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg Ted Marshall '24 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B) and ENS Robert Germany, Jr. '30 (Battleship Division 4).

October 1931

Lieutenant Commander, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Francis Jordan '29, ENS Mack Vorhees '30, and ENS Philip Ashworth '31.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg Ted Marshall '24 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B) and ENS Robert Germany, Jr. '30 (Battleship Division 4).

January 1932

Lieutenant Commander, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Francis Jordan '29 and ENS Philip Ashworth '31.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg Ted Marshall '24 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B), ENS John Shaffer, III '30 (Battleship Division 4), and ENS Robert Germany, Jr. '30 (Battleship Division 4).

April 1932

Lieutenant Commander, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Francis Jordan '29 and ENS Philip Ashworth '31.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg Ted Marshall '24 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B), ENS John Shaffer, III '30 (Battleship Division 4), and ENS Robert Germany, Jr. '30 (Battleship Division 4).

October 1935

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Greer

January 1936

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Greer

April 1936

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Cummings

July 1936

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Cummings

January 1937

Commander, commanding officer, USS Cummings

April 1937

Commander, commanding officer, USS Cummings

September 1937

Commander, commanding officer, USS Cummings

January 1938

Commander, commanding officer, USS Cummings

July 1938

Commander, executive officer, Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois

January 1939

Commander, executive officer, Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois

October 1939

Commander, executive officer, Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois

Others at or embarked at this command: 2LT James Owens '38 (Marine Barracks, Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois).

June 1940

Commander, executive officer, Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois

Others at or embarked at this command: 2LT James Owens '38 (Marine Barracks, Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois).

November 1940

Commander, executive officer, Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois

April 1941

Commander, executive officer, Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois


Class of 1916

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