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Jesse B. Oldendorf Memoirs, 1944-1945: Finding Aid

Published in September 2018

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 469
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Jesse B. Oldendorf Memoirs
  • Dates: 1944-1945
  • Size: 0.21 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 half-manuscript box, 1 oversize folder
  • Creator: Oldendorf, Jesse B. (Jesse Barrett), 1887-1974
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Jesse B. Oldendorf was an Admiral in the United States Navy and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1909. The Jesse B. Oldendorf Memoirs were recorded and transcribed by Hawthorne Daniel in 1945 and span the World War II career of Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf, from just before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 until Oldendorf's injury in a motor launch accident in March 1945. The memoirs focus on Oldendorf's service in the Caribbean and in the Pacific during the Marshall Islands Campaign, the Marianas and Palau Islands Campaign, and the Philippines Campaign.

Chronology of Jesse Barrett Oldendorf

  • Born in Riverside, California on February 16.
  • Appointed to the United States Naval Academy from the Eighth District of California.
  • In June, graduates from the United States Naval Academy, followed by service aboard U.S.S. California (Armored cruiser: ACR-6), U.S.S. Preble (Destroyer: DD-12), U.S.S. Denver (Protected cruiser: CL-16), U.S.S. Whipple (Destroyer: DD-15), U.S.S. San Diego (Heavy cruise: CA-6), and U.S.S. Hannibal (Survey ship: AG-1).
  • On October 10, is detached from duty aboard U.S.S. Hannibal and ordered to duty in charge of Navy Recruiting Office, Pittsburgh.
  • Following outbreak of World War I, receives command of Armed Guard Unit aboard U.S. Army transport Saratoga.
  • On August 6, reports as Gunnery Officers aboard U.S.S. President Lincoln of the Cruiser and Transport Force.
  • On May 31, U.S.S. President Lincoln is sunk by a German U-boat.
  • In August, is assigned to U.S.S. Seattle (Armored cruiser: ACR-11) as Engineering Officer.
  • In March, reports to Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters for duty as Executive Officer U.S.S. Patricia (Troop transport).
  • In July, assigned to Pittsburgh Naval Recruiting Station as Officer in Charge.
  • In October, transfers to Baltimore for duty as Naval Inspector of Machinery at Baltimore Shipbuilding and Drydock and Bethlehem Steel, with additional duty as Inspector of Engineering Material.
  • In June, is designated as Officer in Charge of the Branch Hydrographic Office in Baltimore.
  • In October, is attached to U.S.S. Dolphin (Gunboat: PG-24) as Aide and Flag Secretary to the Commander, Special Service Squadron.
  • In July, reports as Aide to the Commandant of the Mare Island Navy Yard.
  • Assumes command of U.S.S. Decatur (Destroyer: DD-341).
  • On May 30, is ordered to report as Aide to the Commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
  • In June, is assigned to the Naval War College, followed by the Army War College for instruction.
  • In July, is attached to U.S.S. New York (Battleship: BB-34) as navigator.
  • In June, is detached from U.S.S. New York for duty as an instructor in the Department of Seamanship and Navigation at the Naval Academy
  • In June, reports aboard U.S.S. West Virginia (Battleship: BB-48) as Executive Officer.
  • Is ordered to the Bureau of Navigation as Officer in Charge of the Naval Recruiting Section.
  • In October, assumes command of U.S.S. Houston (Heavy cruise: CA-30).
  • On August 30, is detached from U.S.S. Houston and assigned to the Staff of the Naval War College.
  • In February, is named Commander, All Forces, Aruba-Curacao (CAFAC).
  • In July, transfers to Trinidad as Commander, Naval Operating Base and the Trinidad Sector of the Caribbean Sea Frontier.
  • In April, is detached from Trinidad for duty in Newfoundland.
  • In November, is detailed for amphibious training at Norfolk.
  • In January, transfers to the Pacific to assume command of Cruiser Division 4 aboard U.S.S. Louisville (Heavy cruiser: CA-28), Flagship.
  • Participates in the Allied invasion of the Marshall Islands, including the assaults on Wotje Atoll, Kwajalein Atoll, and Eniwetok Atoll.
  • In May, receives command of the Fire Support Groups for the capture of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian.
  • In September, commands the Fire Support Group in the bombardment of Peleliu.
  • In October, commands the Fire Support Group in the bombardment of Leyte Gulf.
  • On October 25, defeats the Japanese at the Battle of Surigao Strait.
  • In December, is designated as Commander, Battleship Squadron 1 with additional duty as Commander, Battleship Division 2, flagship U.S.S. California (Battleship: BB-44).
  • In January, heads the Fire Support Group in the bombardment of Lingayen Gulf.
  • In March, is attached to U.S.S. Tennessee (Battleship: BB-43) as flagship for fire support for the invasion of Okinawa.
  • In March, is injured when the motorboat he is aboard strikes a buoy.
  • In November, is ordered to duty as Commandant, Eleventh Naval District at San Diego.
  • On January 14, is assigned to additional duty at Commander, Naval Operating Base, San Diego.
  • In February, appointed Commander, Western Sea Frontier with additional duty as Commander, Pacific Reserve Fleet at San Francisco.
  • On June 25, is relieved of duty pending retirement.
  • On September 1, retires from the U.S. Navy.
  • Moves to Palm Beach, Florida after having resided in Torremolinos, Spain.
  • On April 27, dies at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia.
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Description of Contents

The Jesse B. Oldendorf Memoirs, comprising 0.21 linear feet of documentation, were recorded and transcribed by Hawthorne Daniel in 1945 and span the World War II career of Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf, from just before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 until Oldendorf's injury in a motor launch accident in March 1945. The memoirs focus on Oldendorf's service in the Caribbean and in the Pacific during the Marshall Islands Campaign, the Marianas and Palau Islands Campaign, and the Philippines Campaign.

The Oldendorf Memoirs, alternately titled "As Seen from the Bridge: Glimpses Along the Sea Road to Tokyo, As Seen by an Admiral Enroute" and "Big-Gun Fleet," consist of the World War II reminiscences of Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf and his various commands. In order, the memoirs discuss the challenges of Oldendorf's first flag assignment to the Caribbean Sea Frontier as Commander, All Forces, Aruba-Curacao (CAFAC) and later as Commander, Naval Operating Base, Trinidad; his brief assignment to Argentia, Newfoundland; the bombardment and amphibious invasions of Wotje, Roi, Namur, and Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands; the bombardment of Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas; the bombardment and amphibious assault on Leyte; the Battle of Surigao Strait and the Battle off Samar; and the bombardment and amphibious assault on Lingayen Gulf. Discussion of each command and campaign is often accompanied by a description of the geographic nature and, to a lesser extent, political climate of the region involved.

Throughout the memoirs, Oldendorf offers his thoughts on various American military commanders, notably Admirals William F. Halsey, John H. Hoover, Thomas Kinkaid, Chester W. Nimitz, and Raymond A. Spruance, as well as General Douglas MacArthur.

Included with the memoirs is a 1959 cover letter from Hawthorne Daniel describing the memoirs explaining the circumstances by which Admiral Oldendorf came to dictate them, as well as a map of the Battle of Surigao Strait and a photograph of Oldendorf and Daniel.

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The contents of the Jesse B. Oldendorf Memoirs are arranged chronologically by chapter. Enclosures arranged alphabetically by document type thereafter, with the original typescript filed at the end.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Jesse B. Oldendorf Memoirs are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Hawthorne Daniel in February 1959.


Microfilm copy discarded in favor of print copy in September 2018.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to both Oldendorf and Hawthorn is available in the Papers of Hawthorne Daniel at the University of Virginia.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

Publications Citing These Papers

Published as "Big-Gun Fleet" in The Blue Book Magazine 88, no. 3-6 (Jan-Apr 1949).

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Processing and Other Information

Until November 2018, the original typescript was processed as part of the Personal Papers section of the Naval Academy Archives. A copy of the memoirs was foldered at the chapter level during processing.

Preferred Citation

Jesse B. Oldendorf Memoirs, MS 469

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

Oldendorf, Jesse Barrett, Alumni Jackets, Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in September 2018, with additional processing in November 2018. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in September 2018.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Leyte Gulf, Battle of, Philippines, 1944
  • Louisville (Heavy cruiser : CA-28)
  • Oldendorf, Jesse B. (Jesse Barrett), 1887-1974
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Philippines
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Caribbean Area
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Mariana Islands
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Marshall Islands
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations, American
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American

Genre Terms

  • Manuscripts
  • Memoirs
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Contents List

Box  1 Folder  1

Title Page and Foreword, 1945

Includes Oldendorf's thoughts on Admirals Raymond A. Spruance and Chester W. Nimitz.

Box  1 Folder  2

Chapter One, 1945

Assignment to Naval War College as head of the Department of Intelligence (September 1941); the attack on Pearl Harbor; selection for Rear Admiral and assignment to take charge of U.S. Forces around Aruba and Curacao in the Caribbean; thoughts on Admiral J. H. Hoover; description of Willemstad, Curacao; and meeting with Captain Baron van Asbeck.

Box  1 Folder  3

Chapter Two, 1945

Description of the Willemstad government complex and Oldendorf's headquarters therein; elements of Oldendorf's forces at Aruba and Curacao; the local Dutch government's surprise at Oldendorf's arrival and mission; confusion over Oldendorf's lack of a code call; official appointment as Commander, All Forces, Aruba-Curacao (CAFAC); establishment of anti-submarine strategy to protect tankers; creation of early convoys; and orders to Trinidad as Commander of the Trinidad Sector of the Caribbean Sea Frontier.

Box  1 Folder  4

Chapter Three, 1945

Description of Margarita Island; assumption of command at and military construction in Trinidad; improvements to cargo ship turn-around time; hosting President Roosevelt on his way to the Casablanca Conference; orders to report to Admiral Royal Ingersoll (April 1943).

Box  1 Folder  5

Chapter Four, 1945

Arrival in and description of Argentia, Newfoundland; clearing muskeg for base construction; nullification of the German U-boat threat; orders to proceed to Norfolk for amphibious training and then to report to CINCPAC (November 1943); amphibious training at Camp Bradford; aircraft carrier training under Admiral Bellinger; and assignment as a cruiser division commander aboard U.S.S. Louisville (Heavy cruiser: CA-28).

Box  1 Folder  6

Chapter Five, 1945

Assumption of command of the cruiser division (January 4, 1944); fleet assembly at Lahaina Roads in preparation for amphibious assault on the Marshall Islands; bombardment of Wotje Atoll; damage sustained by U.S.S. Anderson (Destroyer: DD-411); bombardment of the islands of Roi and Namur in the Kwajalein Atoll; and the assault on Eniwetok and Parry Islands (February 1944).

Box  1 Folder  7

Chapter Six, 1945

Allied advances throughout March 1944; preparations for and raid on Palau with Admiral Spruance's 5th Fleet; assignment of the fleet to New Guinea under Admiral Mitscher in support of General MacArthur's operations; and bombardment of Truk and Satawan.

Box  1 Folder  8

Chapter Seven, 1945

Receiving command of the Fire Support Ships for the capture of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian (May 1944); training for the invasion of the Marianas at Hawaii; description of and bombardment of Saipan; the batteries at Marpi Point and Maniagassa Island; Marine Corps landings on Saipan; description of and bombardment of Tinian; and amphibious landings and bull-dozing on the beaches of Tinian.

Box  1 Folder  9

Chapter Eight, 1945

Arrival of Oldendorf's task group at Espiritu Santo; orders and preparations for attack on Palau (Peleliu), Yap and Ulithi as part of Admiral Halsey's 3rd Fleet (September 1944); description of the Palau group; bombardment of Peleliu and Angaur; amphibious landings at Peleliu; and acceleration of plans for invasion of the Philippines.

Box  1 Folder  10

Chapter Nine, 1945

Preparations at Hollandia for assault on Leyte in the Philippines; comparisons to earlier assaults; minesweeping operations inside Leyte Gulf; commencement of bombardment at Leyte; damage to U.S.S. Ross (Destroyer: DD-563); description of and bombardment at Dulag and Tacloban (October 19, 1944); and amphibious landings at Leyte (October 20, 1944).

Box  1 Folder  11

Chapter Ten, 1945

Description of the geography of Leyte Gulf; preparations for a potential attack on Leyte Gulf by the Japanese Navy; reports of three (North, Central, and South) Japanese task forces approaching Leyte on October 24, 1944; lack of adequate armor piercing shells; hypotheses on the Japanese plan of attack for Surigao Strait; description of Oldendorf's and the Japanese battle lines; description of an activity on the bridge of U.S.S. Louisville (Heavy cruiser: CA-28); commencement of the battle with attacks by Oldendorf's destroyer squadrons during the 0200 and 0300 hours on October 25, followed by his cruisers and battleships; difficulty in determining friend from foe in the dark of night; orders to reinforce the escort carriers at the Battle off Samar; and thoughts on the Japanese withdrawal.

Box  1 Folder  12

Chapter Eleven, 1945

Assignment of Oldendorf and his cruiser division to Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet at Ulithi; description of Admiral William Halsey; reassignment to Admiral Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet at Hollandia (November 17, 1944); description of Admiral Thomas Kinkaid; transfer to command of a battleship squadron and division in preparation for the amphibious assault on Lingayen Gulf, Luzon; description of Lingayen Gulf comparisons to the operations at Leyte Gulf; harassment from Japanese forces while steaming to Luzon (January 3-5, 1945); Japanese resistance, including kamikaze attacks, during bombardment of the Lingayen Gulf area (January 6, 1945); kamikaze attack on Oldendorf's flagship, U.S.S. California (Battleship: BB-44); continued bombardment on January 7-9; and the unopposed landing of American forces at Lingayen Gulf (January 9, 1945).

Box  1 Folder  13

Chapter Twelve, 1945

Calling upon and description of General Douglas MacArthur; attachment to U.S.S. Tennessee (Battleship: BB-43) as flagship for support of invasion of Okinawa; and injury in a motorboat crash, preventing Oldendorf from participating in the Battle of Okinawa.

Box  1 Folder  14

Cover Letter, 1959

From Hawthorne Daniel, explaining how he came to record Admiral Oldendorf's memoirs and brief overview of Admiral Oldendorf's role at the Battle of Surigao Strait.

Drawer MSOS Folder  1

Map - Battle of Surigao Strait, 1944

Diagram of ships in accordance with the battle plan and their location at the time of the order to commence firing.

Box  1 Folder  15

Photograph, 1945 June 30

Photograph of Admiral Oldendorf and Hawthorne Daniel on the bridge of Admiral Oldendorf's flagship, U.S.S. Tennessee.

Box  1 Folder  16

Typescript - Jesse B. Oldendorf Memoirs, 1945

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