By: Samuel J. Cox Rear Adm., USN (retired) Director of Naval History, Curator for the Navy Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Bruno Alfred Pomponio, Supply Corps, U.S. Navy on September 10, 2020 at age 90. Bruno enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1952 and served as a Supply Corps Officer until his retirement in 1985 as the Deputy Director, Defense Logistics Agency. He was the Executive Officer of Naval Supply Depot, Subic Bay, Philippines, during the Easter Offensive/Operation Linebacker/Lion’s Den phase of the Vietnam War and his senior Navy position was Director, Material Division in the Office of the CNO (1980-1984).
Bruno Pomponio was born in Mussolini’s Italy in 1930 and his family had the good sense to get out and move to New York in 1935. Bruno graduated from Pace College, New York in 1952 with a Bachelor of Business Administration (Accounting). He then entered the U.S. Naval Reserve during the Korean War and graduated from Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I. He was commissioned an ensign on October 23, 1952.
Ensign Pomponio then reported for instruction at the Navy Supply Corps School, Bayonne N.J. and at the Navy Resale Systems Services Office, Brooklyn, N.Y.. In June 1953, Ensign Pomponio reported to the U.S. Naval Barracks, Naval Base Bremerton as the Navy Exchange Officer. On September 16, 1955, Lieutenant (junior grade) Pomponio was honorably released from active duty. He then reported for active duty on May 21, 1956 as Supply Officer on the icebreaker Edisto (AGB 2) out of Boston for operations around Newfoundland and Greenland between Edisto’s Operation Deep Freeze Antarctic operations. In July 1956, Lt. j.g. Pomponio augmented into the U.S. Navy and was promoted to lieutenant in September 1956.
In March 1958, Lt. Pomponio assumed duty as Supply Officer for Air Transport Squadron TWO TWO (VR-22) the “Anytime-Anywhere” Squadron operating globally out of Norfolk, Va., flying the new C-118 Liftmaster. In January 1961, Lt. Pomponio reported to Midway Island as Supply Officer for Airborne Early Warning Squadron Pacific Barrier Detachment, which kept five WV-2/EC-121K Warning Star aircraft continuously on patrol between Midway and Adak, Alaska providing early warning in the event of a Soviet attack. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in July 1962.
In September 1962, Lt. Cmdr. Pomponio reported to the Aviation Supply Office, Philadelphia, Pa. as Head of Stock Control for the Electronics and Guided Missile Branch. He then attended Armed Forces Staff College in July 1965, graduating in January 1966. He then reported to the fleet ballistic missile submarine tender Proteus (AS 19) based at Guam, as Supply Officer, where he was promoted to commander in December 1966. In May 1968, Cmdr. Pomponio reported to the Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, where he earned a Master of Science degree in Management. In January 1969, he assumed duty as Weapons System Support Officer on the staff of Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk.
In July 1972, Cmdr. Pomponio assumed duty as Planning Officer and then Executive Officer for Naval Supply Depot, Subic Bay, Philippines during which the command was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation and Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. He was promoted to captain in July 1973. Capt. Pomponio then reported to Naval Supply Systems Headquarters, Washington, D.C. in July 1974 as Director, Fleet Support Division. In July 1975, he reported to Naval Air Systems Command as Director, Supply Policy and Management Division. In April 1977, he assumed duty as Executive Officer for Aviation Supply Office, Philadelphia, Pa. In June 1979, he returned to Washington, D.C. as Assistant for Aviation Supply Support in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO).
On May 1, 1980 Capt. Pomponio was designated a rear admiral for duty in a billet commensurate with the grade, and in July 1980 became Director, Material Division in the Office of the CNO and was promoted to rear admiral on October 1, 1980. In April 1984, Rear Adm. Pomponio assumed duty as Deputy Director, Defense Logistics Agency. Rear Adm. Pomponio retired on July 1, 1985.
Rear Admiral Pomponio’s awards include the Legion of Merit (at least one), Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (2), Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal (2), and Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.
Rear Adm. Pomponio’s family left Fascist Italy before it was too late and found a home and freedom in the United States. Bruno chose to give back to his new country by joining the U.S. Navy at a time when the Korean War was becoming increasingly unpopular with the American public. By luck of the draw, instead of going to Korea, he was sent to Bayonne and Bremerton. He was released from active duty during the post-Korean War drawdown, but found a way back in even if it meant taking an icebreaker to Greenland. He must have been a detailer’s dream, willing to take any job anywhere — Midway, Guam, Subic Bay. He had very varied assignments, providing superb Supply support to surface, submarine and aviation units, with a special emphasis on weapons systems. He served at the Supply Depot at Subic Bay during a particularly intense period of the Vietnam War supporting a major and rapid increase in U.S. Navy forces that played a critical part in beating back a massive North Vietnamese conventional attack into South Vietnam in 1972. He served with distinction in key leadership positions during the austere budgets of the post-Vietnam draw-down, when everything was in short supply, which no doubt made those tough jobs even more demanding. But, he was a leader in bringing the Supply Corps and the Navy out of those challenging days and into the President Reagan-era build-up, which was a significant factor in bringing about the end of the Cold War. Bruno exemplified the dedication, service and sacrifice that makes the U.S. Navy Supply Corps the best in the world at what it does. The Navy and the nation are certainly better off because his family brought him here, and because he chose to serve.
(Although I keep these passing notes limited to a flag officer’s professional record and avoid intruding on families for information, Rear Adm. Pomponio’s daughter Joanne kindly provided the following paragraph).
“Rear Admiral Pomponio retired July 1, 1985 and worked briefly in private industry. Over the next few years, he and his wife Eleanor traveled including numerous trips to Italy to visit family, a trip to Ireland for Eleanor’s family and trips within the United States to visit family and the close friends gathered throughout his Naval career. And always, food was an important part of those travels. Following the birth of his grandson and second granddaughter in the 1990s, Rear Adm. Pomponio and Eleanor lovingly became their daily caregivers – a gift to their grandchildren and always a gift to them. Three years ago, Rear Adm. Pomponio traveled to New York to receive, on behalf of his family including his brother Dino, the induction of his brother, Private Mario Pomponio, into the Fairport High School Hall of Fame 72 years after Mario’s death in World War II. Mario was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart posthumously. The trip was also an opportunity to return to, for what turned out to be the final time, his family’s second U.S. home and the memories and family so important to him. Rear Adm. Pomponio passed away peacefully at home in Virginia following a brief illness. For his family and for what they imagine was the experience of many who worked for him, his gentle, selfless, humble nature and his great sense of humor will be long remembered and forever missed.”
Rest in Peace Admiral Pomponio.