Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: John

Last Name: Colwell

Birthplace: Pawnee City, NE, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Barr

Date of Birth: 26 November 1909

Date of Death: 05 February 2008

Rank or Rate: Vice Admiral

Years Served:
John Barr Colwell

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1931

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


John Barr Colwell
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy

John Barr Colwell was born on 26 November 1909 in Pawnee City, NE. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1931.

After graduation he served on battleships and destroyers for five years, including duty on the battleship USS Maryland. He then was given two years training in Ordnance Engineering.

During World War II, he was a Gunnery Officer in Admiral William "Bull" Halsey's South Pacific Force. He later commanded the USS Converse, making forays towards Truk as a part of Admiral Burke's destroyer squadron known as the "Little Beavers." That squadron sank four Japanese destroyers and damaged two others without losing a single vessel. Because of this the squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Colwell was then assigned to the Naval Proving Ground at Dahlgren followed by assignment as the Executive Officer, and then Commanding Officer, of the battleship USS Missouri. Colwell was then appointed to the Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet staff, in the Bureau of Ordnance. He assisted Admiral Red Raborn during the development of the Polaris missile and was the Commanding Officer of the oiler USS Elokomin and USS Galveston, the first lightweight guided missile cruiser. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his work with the Polaris guided missile program in the 1950s.

As a Vice Admiral, he commanded the Amphibious Force of the Pacific Fleet and was Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Operations and Readiness. He retired from the Navy in 1969.

Medals and Awards

Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit (2 Awards)
Bronze Star Medal

In Retirement

Colwell served as a consultant to defense-related corporations for a few years during his retirement.

He lived in Arlington County, VA, and in Naples, FL, before moving to Takoma Park three years before his death.


Colwell married Virginia Grace Arent and they were married for 54 years; she died on 21 June 1993.

Two sons, Peter S. Colwell and John B. Colwell Jr., died in 1969 and 2001, respectively. Survivors include two children, James C. Colwell of Takoma Park and Margaret D. Hull of Wyoming, OH; a brother; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Death and Burial

Vice Admiral John Barr Colwell died on 5 February 2008, of respiratory failure, at his home in Takoma Park, MD. He and his wife, Grace, are buried together at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, MD.

Honoree ID: 2358   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image