By: Samuel J. Cox RADM, USN (retired)
Director of Naval History, Curator for the Navy
Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
A note from the editor: Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Ret.), the twentieth Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), passed away on November 26, 2019, at the age of 97. Holloway served with honor and distinction for 36 years. From 1974 to 1978, he served as the senior uniformed officer in the U.S. Navy and as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under three Presidents; Nixon, Ford and Carter.
During his active duty career, he was under direct enemy fire in three major wars—World War II, Korea and Vietnam. It was said that his destroyer was shot up by the Japanese, his plane shot down by the Chinese and his flagship shot at by the North Vietnamese.
The funeral service for former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral James L. Holloway III was held at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, Annapolis, MD, on Wednesday, December 18, 2019.
The passing of the 20th Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral James Lemuel “Jim” Holloway III, on November 26, 2019 at age 97 has been extensively covered in media. I’m not going to attempt to duplicate those. Instead, I will focus only on ADM Holloway’s experience in combat and crisis operations, while noting that ADM Holloway was the first nuclear-trained officer to become CNO. Also of note, ADM Holloway was a firm believer in the value of Naval History, after retirement serving as the President of the Naval Historical Foundation (close partner of Naval History and Heritage Command) from 1980-1998 and as Chairman until 2008.
Graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1942 with the wartime-accelerated Class of 1943, he served in combat operations aboard the destroyer USS Ringgold (DD-500) and then USS Bennion (DD-662) during the Battle of Surigao Strait, where as Gunnery Officer he fired possibly the last torpedo that hit the Japanese battleship Yamashiro and finished her off, and then subsequently sank the Japanese destroyer Asagumo with gunfire. He was awarded a Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V for his time on Bennion, and a Bronze Star with Combat V for his actions during the Battle of Surigao Strait.
Transitioning to Naval Aviation in in 1946, Lieutenant Commander Holloway made two combat cruises to Korea flying F9F Panther jet fighters aboard the carriers USS Valley Forge (CVA-45) and USS Boxer (CVA-21) during which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on one of the very last combat missions of the war.
As commander of Attack Squadron 83, flying A-4 Skyhawks, embarked on USS Essex (CVA-9,) Commander Holloway made an 11-month around-the-world deployment, participating in the Lebanon Crisis and the Quemoy-Matsu Crisis near Taiwan in 1958.
As the commanding officer of USS Enterprise (CVAN-65,) Captain Holloway led his ship in the very first combat operation by a nuclear-powered warship and through two full combat deployments to Vietnam in 1965-1967, for which he was awarded a Legion of Merit (not a given at the time) and a Republic of Vietnam award personally presented by South Vietnamese President Thieu.
As Commander of Carrier Group SIX, embarked on USS Saratoga (CVA-60), Rear Admiral Holloway led the U.S. Navy response in the eastern Mediterranean to the 1970 Jordan Crisis (“Black September,”) for which he was awarded a second Distinguished Service Medal.
As Commander SEVENTH Fleet, Vice Admiral Holloway was on the bridge of the heavy cruiser USS Newport News (CA-148) when she penetrated Haiphong Harbor as part of Operation Lion’s Den (also known as the Battle of Haiphong Harbor) exchanging fire with North Vietnamese positions and torpedo boats in August 1972 as part of the SEVENTH Fleet response to the North Vietnamese “Easter Offensive” invasion of South Vietnam, which was turned back in significant part due to U.S. Navy air attacks as part of Operation Linebacker. The Navy air operations included Operation Pocket Money, the aerial mining of Haiphong Harbor and North Vietnamese coastal and inland waters.
Admiral Holloway’s achievements in shore and staff commands are truly extraordinary as well. However his performance and leadership in combat and crisis set the highest standards for Navy officers to emulate. He served our Navy and nation with extraordinary distinction, and both are far better for his service. He was both a true warfighter and a historian, and the Naval History and Heritage Command owes him a lot.
Posted below are photographs from the funeral service for former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral James L. Holloway III, held at the US Naval Academy Chapel, Annapolis, MD, on Wednesday, December 18, 2019.