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J. ARNOLD, S. SINTON, illustrated by DARKO PAVLOVIC
US COMMANDERS OF WORLD WAR II. NAVY AND USMC

General Lemuel Shepherd studies a map on Okinawa. The captured capital of Naha is in the background. Throughout the Okinawa campaign, Shepherd led from the front. Each day he determined where the hardest fighting was taking place and then spent as much time there as possible. His conduct prompted an admiring marine officer to claim, with only slight hyperbole, that Shepherd was in the front lines as much as any private. (National Archives)

Shepherd exemplified the Marine Corps at its best. His leadership style inspired men and won battles. He died in 1990.

THE PLATES

A: THE FLEET ADMIRALS

A1: Admiral William Leahy

Admiral Leahy was an officer of considerable naval experience prior to World War Two and a personal friend of President Franklin Roosevelt. In this capacity, he was recalled from retirement to serve as special naval advisor to the president. His uniform consists of the dark blue double-breasted service dress jacket and trousers, with white cap cover and shirt. His position as advisor to the president is denoted by the addition of a heavy gold bullion aiguillette worn on the right side of his service dress jacket, unlike other aides, who wore their aiguillettes on the left side of their coats.

A2: Admiral Nimitz

Admiral Nimitz was originally from the submarine branch of the US Navy. He is pictured here in the working dress of that service, namely cotton khaki long-sleeve shirt and trousers, with black tie. This style of uniform came about in the US Navy because service aboard a submarine often made the wearing of service dress uniforms impractical, due to the "roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty" nature of the early submarines.

Submarine service officers needed a style of dress that gave them the ability to take off their coats and still be recognized as officers, hence, the introduction of rank insignia on the collar and the removable metal submarine qualification dolphin insignia for the breast. Of some note is the introduction of the non-regulation five-star tie keeper on Admiral Nimitz's uniform. US admirals, like their counterparts in the army, were given considerable leeway in their choice of uniform.

A3: Admiral Ernest King

Before World War Two, the US Navy had adopted khaki as a working dress uniform for warm climates and summer service dress. While this shade was practical for shore service, some senior officers thought it unsuitable for service aboard ships, due to its highly visible light coloration. Perhaps the best explanation lies in the fact that many of these officers, being "Old Navy." disliked khaki because it was not considered a "traditional" navy color. Admiral King was instrumental in the adoption of a new working dress uniform for the navy. When on a trip to England, he had a private tailor make up a new service dress uniform from a gray cotton twill material and he submitted it to the navy for adoption. Eventually, by 1942, the new gray uniform was selected to replace the khaki service dress.

All rank insignia, cap devices, and buttons on the uniform were in a subdued black finish to keep to the low visibility criteria of the new uniform. This uniform was very unpopular with most officers, many of them complaining that the gray color made them look like postal service employees or, as one officer quipped, "We look like Confederate sailors." By 1943, admirals at least, began to wear the gray service dress, with bright gold cap devices and shoulder boards to show rank insignia.

Lieutenant-Commander John D. Bulkeley's PT boat carried General MacArthur from Corregidor to safety. At this time, the US desperately needed heroes, so President Roosevelt awarded Bulkeley the Congressional Medal of Honor for this exploit. The US Navy named a new warship for Bulkeley in 2001. (US Naval Historical Center)


When a Japanese destroyer sliced through Lieutenant John F. Kennedy's PT-109 in August 1943, Kennedy thought, "This is what it feels like to be killed." Instead, Kennedy, the future 35th president of the United States, managed a four-hour swim to land while towing a crewman. (US Naval Historical Center)

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