RICHARD G. CROMMELIN, LCDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Richard Crommelin '38

Date of birth: January 8, 1917

Date of death: July 14, 1945

Age: 28

Lucky Bag

From the 1938 Lucky Bag:


Obituary

1938 Crommelin 1.jpg

From Find A Grave:

Richard "Dick" Crommelin

One of the distinguished and only group of five brothers to graduate from the U S Naval Academy, Richard Gunter "Dick" Crommelin (b. January 8, 1917) was a member of the Class of 1938. He was designated a Naval Aviator after flight training at Pensacola and had a highly decorated career in naval aviation. As a LTJG in his first squadron in the air group of USS Yorktown (CV-5) he was credited with shooting down two of six Japanese Zero fighter planes during the May 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea. He was shot down and "ditched" in the ocean. As did his oldest brother John, he fought in the Battle of Midway, defending Yorktown (CV-5) against Japanese air attack, although she was lost three days later. He was awarded the Navy Cross with gold star in lieu of a second award for extraordinary heroism in both crucial battles. Later in the war, he was promoted to LCDR and assigned to command Fighting Squadron 88 (VF-88) embarked in the second USS Yorktown (CV-10). Richard was killed in a mid-air collision with another American aircraft on July 14,1945 operating in the vicinity of the Caroline Islands. Posthumously, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of his combat record.

Four of the five Crommelins were renowned as Naval Aviators; the fifth, a surface warfare officer was the only one to attain flag rank. A Perry class guided missile frigate, USS Crommelin (FFG-37), was named in their honor.

Dick has a memory marker in Alabama. His wife was listed as next of kin.

Wartime Service

Dick is mentioned repeatedly in The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway by John B. Lundstrom.

He was piloting a captured Japanese Zero fighter at San Diego Naval Air Station in February 1945 when the pilot of a SB2C Helldiver didn't see Dick as he taxied for takeoff. The Zero was destroyed; Dick was apparently unhurt.

From naval aviation historian Richard Leonard via email on February 9, 2018:

Dick Crommelin was only assigned to VF-3 from 28 May 1942 to 18 June 1942. His nominal squadron was Yorktown’s VF-42. Sixteen pilots were transferred VO-TAD from VF-42 to VF-3 for the Midway deployment. Of no historical value whatsoever, Dick Crommelin and my father (who was also in VF-42) shared a cabin on Yorktown (CV-5) from June 1941 to the Battle of Midway.

Career

From naval aviation historian Richard Leonard via email on February 9, 2018:

  • NAS Pensacola attached for HTA flight training, 6/24/1940
  • NAS Pensacola designated NA # 6977, 12/16/1940
  • Date of rank LTJG from 1 Jul 1941 USN Register, 6/2/1941
  • VF-42 USS Yorktown (CV-5) NX, 5/7/1942
  • VF-3 USS Yorktown (CV-5) NX, 6/4/1942
  • Date of rank LT from 1 Jul 1942 USN Register, 6/15/1942
  • NAOTC NAS Jacksonville, 6/24/1943
  • VF-88 (1st CO) NAS Atlantic City, 1/1/1944
  • Date of rank LCDR from 1 Jul 1944 USN Register, 3/1/1944
  • VF-88 (1st CO) NAS Atlantic City, 3/1/1944
  • VF-88 (1st CO) NAS Hilo, 5/1/1945
  • VF-88 (1st CO) USS Yorktown (CV-10) KIFA midair off Hokkaido BNR, 7/14/1945

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant, Junior Grade Richard Gunter Crommelin (NSN: 0-81127), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron FORTY-TWO (VF-42), attached to the U.S.S. YORKTOWN (CV-5), in action against enemy Japanese forces during the Air Battle of the Coral Sea on 7 and 8 May 1942. As leader of a section of the combat air patrol on 7 May, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Crommelin conducted a determined and decisive attack against an enemy Japanese four-engine patrol plane which resulted in the destruction of that plane, thereby preventing the detection of our forces by the enemy. His aggressive spirit of fearlessness in facing great odds to make eight successive attacks against six enemy fighters attacking our surface forces and harassing our anti-Torpedo Plane patrol resulted in the destruction of two enemy fighters and severe damage to several others. His conduct in these engagements was characterized by unusual leadership, prompt and sound judgment in the accomplishment of his mission and a complete disregard for his own personal safety.

Action Date: May 7 & 8, 1942
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Junior Grade
Company: Fighting Squadron 42 (VF-42)
Division: U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5)

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Richard Gunter Crommelin (NSN: 0-81127), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron THREE (VF-3), attached to the U.S.S. YORKTOWN (CV-5), during the "Air Battle of Midway," against enemy Japanese forces on 4 June 1942. Through his courage, skill and perseverance Lieutenant Crommelin played an important part in the disruption of a bombing attack directed against the U.S.S. YORKTOWN by a formation of eighteen Japanese dive bombers with fighter escort. Intercepting and vigorously attacking the fighters, he personally shot one down in flames and damaged another, thus helping prevent further damage to the other friendly craft engaged in breaking up the dive-bombing attack. The outstanding courage and determined skill displayed by Lieutenant Crommelin were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: 4-Jun-42
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant
Company: Fighting Squadron 3 (VF-3)
Division: U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5)

Legion of Merit

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Legion of Merit to Lieutenant Commander Richard Gunter Crommelin (NSN: 0-81127), United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Commanding Officer of Fighting Squadron EIGHTY-EIGHT (VF-88) during the period from 15 August 1944, the date of its commissioning, until 14 July 1945. Throughout the period of organization and training of his squadron he pressed forward its preparation for combat duty with unflagging zeal and unerring foresight. His inspiring leadership consistently maintained the training and combat efficiency of his squadron at a high level, and as the senior squadron commander, his outstanding professional skill, initiative and judgment enabled him to render invaluable service to the Group as a whole. His performance of duty and outstanding service were at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: August 15, 1944 - July 14, 1945
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Company: Fighting Squadron 88 (VF-88)

Distinguished Flying Cross

From Hall of Valor:

SYNOPSIS: Lieutenant Richard Gunter Crommelin (NSN: 0-81127), United States Navy, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight during World War II.

Action Date: World War II
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant
Company: Fighting Squadron 3 (VF-3)
Division: U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5)

Namesake

USS Crommelin (FFG 37) was named for Richard and his brothers.

Related Articles

Charles Crommelin '31 was his brother.

Donald Lovelace '28, Edward O'Hare '37, and Howard Clark '38 were also present with Fighting Squadron (VF) 3 during the time he was TAD to the squadron.

Memorial Hall Error?

Richard is not listed on the killed in action panel in the front of Memorial Hall. While not an obvious error, inclusion on the panel for crashes like this (incidental to combat flights) has been inconsistent across WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

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.

October 1939

Ensign, USS Pennsylvania

Others at this command: LCDR Elmer Kiehl '20, LCDR Robert Smith '20, LTjg George Lambert '35, and ENS James Andrea '37.

November 1940

Ensign, under instruction, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida

Others at this command: LCDR George Grove '15, CDR William Sample '19, LT Finley Hall '29, LT John Yoho '29, LT William Pennewill '29, LT Lance Massey '30, LT Albert Major, Jr. '32, LT Daniel Gothie '32, LT Dewitt Shumway '32, LT George Bellinger '32, LT John Spiers '32, LT Martin Koivisto '32, ENS Frank Peterson '33, LTjg John Phillips, Jr. '33, LTjg Charles Ware '34, LTjg Charles Brewer '34, CAPT Floyd Parks '34, LTjg Frank Whitaker '34, LTjg George Nicol '34, LTjg Philip Torrey, Jr. '34, LTjg Walker Ethridge '34, LTjg Allan Edmands '35, LTjg John Powers '35, LTjg Richard Stephenson '35, LTjg Victor Gadrow '35, LTjg Porter Maxwell '36, LTjg Roy Krogh '36, LTjg Frank Henderson, Jr. '37, LTjg John Thomas '37, LTjg John Boal '37, LTjg Richard Hughes '37, ENS Alphonse Minvielle '38, ENS Carl Holmstrom '38, ENS Charles Anderson '38, ENS Charles King '38, ENS Charles Reimann '38, ENS Curtis Howard '38, ENS Donald Smith '38, 2LT Douglas Keeler '38, ENS Edmundo Gandia '38, ENS Eric Allen, Jr. '38, ENS Frank Quady '38, ENS Frank Case, Jr. '38, ENS Harry Bass '38, ENS Harry Howell '38, ENS Howard Clark '38, ENS Howard Fischer '38, ENS James Ginn '38, 2LT James Owens '38, ENS Jep Jonson '38, ENS John Kelley '38, ENS John Erickson '38, 2LT John Maclaughlin, Jr. '38, ENS John Eversole '38, ENS Leonard Thornhill '38, ENS Marion Dufilho '38, ENS Osborne Wiseman '38, ENS Oswald Zink '38, ENS Robert Seibels, Jr. '38, ENS Roy Green, Jr. '38, ENS Roy Hale, Jr. '38, ENS William Brady '38, ENS William Tate, Jr. '38, and ENS William Lamberson '38.

April 1941

Ensign, Scouting Squadron (VS) 41, USS Ranger

Others at this command: LTjg Ralph Embree '36 and LTjg Richard Bull, Jr. '36.

Others at or embarked at USS Ranger: LT George Ottinger '32 (USS Ranger), LT William Widhelm '32 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 4), LTjg Walter Bayless '36 (USS Ranger), ENS John Erickson '38 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 42), ENS Walter Sharer '38 (USS Ranger), ENS Lemuel Cooke '39 (USS Ranger), and ENS William Beck, Jr. '40 (USS Ranger).


Class of 1938

Richard is one of 71 members of the Class of 1938 on Virtual Memorial Hall.