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First Name: James

Last Name: Calvert

Birthplace: Cleveland, OH, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Francis

Date of Birth: 08 September 1920

Date of Death: 03 June 2009

Rank or Rate: Vice Admiral

Years Served:
James Francis Calvert

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1942

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


James Francis Calvert
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy

James Francis Calvert was born on 8 September 1920 in Cleveland, OH, and grew up as an only child. He attended Oberlin College for two years before receiving an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated on 19 June 1942, after completing his coursework at the Academy in three years under an accelerated wartime curriculum.

Military Service

Calvert was assigned to attend the Naval Submarine School at the Naval Submarine Base New London and was given a post on the Gato-class submarine USS Jack (SS-259), where he served for three years. On the Jack, Calvert was responsible for operating the Torpedo Data Computer, an electromechanical analog computer used for torpedo fire-control, and the ships on which he served sunk 100,000 tons of enemy ships and damaged an additional 18,000 tons. He was awarded two Silver Stars and two Bronze Star Medals, along with a Letter of Commendation. He was assigned in 1945 to serve as executive officer of the USS Haddo (SS-255), on which he served one war patrol. He was on the Haddo in Tokyo Bay during ceremonies for the Japanese surrender.

After the end of World War II, Calvert spent three years at the Submarine School as an Instructor in the Torpedo Data Computer. He was assigned to serve as Executive Officer on the USS Charr (SS-328), winning a battle efficiency pennant in both of his years of service on the ship. He was assigned as Executive Officer of the Tang-class submarine USS Harder (SS-568) when it was commissioned in 1952 and later became Commanding Officer of the USS Trigger (SS-564), another Tang-class boat. After training by the Atomic Energy Commission, Calvert was assigned to the USS Skate (SSN-578), the Navy's third nuclear-powered submarine and the first to be designed for assembly line construction rather than as a one-off prototype.

The Skate went under the North Pole on 11 August 1958, and became the first to surface near there when it found a lead of open water and surfaced to report its success by radio. The ability to travel under and break through the ice was a major achievement during the Cold War as it allows the Navy's submarines to avoid detection under the ice while being able to launch their Polaris missiles from points far closer to the Soviet Union. The following year, after traveling 3,000 miles to the pole in 12 days, the Skate became the first submarine to surface through the ice when it reached the North Pole on 17 March 1959. There they released the ashes of Australian polar explorer Sir George Hubert Wilkins who died in November 1958 and who had been the first to try to reach the pole by submarine; Wilkins had flown over the pole but was never able to set foot there despite numerous attempts.

With the support of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, Calvert rose to Vice Admiral. He was named as Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968, where he introduced 20 different majors to midshipmen to replace a standardized curriculum of military courses that had previously been taken there. In 1972, he became commander of the Pacific First Fleet.

Vice Admiral Calvert retired from military service in 1973.

Medals and Awards

Silver Star Medal (2 Awards)
Bronze Star Medal (2 Awards)
Letter of Commendation

As an Author

Among the four books he wrote were Silent Running: My Years on a World War II Attack Submarine and the 1960 book Surface at the Pole: The Extraordinary Voyages of the U.S.S. Skate in which he described his experiences at the pole, reminiscing about a polar bear that went into the water, ignoring the submarine nearby.

In Retirement

Following military service he entered the private business sector as Assistant to the Chairman of Texaco and as Vice President of Operations of Combustion Engineering in Stamford, CT.


His first marriage, to Nancy Ridgeway King, ended with her death in 1965. Their daughter, Margaret, died in 1994.

Death and Burial

Vice Admiral James Francis Calvert died at age 88 on 3 June 2009, at his home in Bryn Mawr, PA, due to congestive heart failure. He is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, MD.

He was survived by his second wife, Margaretta Harrison Battle, whom he married in 1968. He was also survived by two sons from his first marriage, four stepsons and 15 grandchildren.

Honoree ID: 2306   Created by: MHOH




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