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First Name: Frederick

Last Name: Moosbrugger

Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Date of Birth: 09 October 1900

Date of Death: 01 October 1974

Rank or Rate: Vice Admiral

Years Served:
Frederick Moosbrugger

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1923

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Frederick "Moose" Moosbrugger
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy

Frederick Moosbrugger was born on 9 October 1900 in Philadelphia, PA, the son of Jacob and Rosina Maier Ritzer Moosbrugger. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy on 25 June 1919. He graduated and was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy on 8 June 1923.

Moosbrugger's first duty assignments were at sea. He first served on the battleship USS Nevada (BB-36) then, in 1926-27, on the destroyer USS Truxtun (DD-229) operating in the valley of the Yangtze River, China. In May 1927, he returned to the U.S. to serve briefly at Headquarters, 13th Naval District.

From August 1927 to June 1929, Moosbrugger served aboard the fleet oiler USS Brazos (AO-4), which was then cruising with the fleet in Hawaii, Samoa, and Australia. In June, he reported for submarine training and after completing the course in December of '29, he joined Submarine Division 12 for duty. He served on the submarine USS S-6 (SS-111) when she was conducting winter maneuvers in the Panama Canal area in 1929-30; she then primarily operated out of New London, CT, until decommissioned on 10 April 1931. He then returned to the Naval Academy and served as an instructor for three years.

Moosbrugger reported for duty aboard the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) on 1 June 1934. During this period, the Houston made several special cruises. President Franklin D. Roosevelt came onboard on 1 July 1934, at Annapolis, MD, for a cruise of almost 12,000 nautical miles through the Caribbean and to Portland, OR, by way of Hawaii. The Houston also carried Assistant Secretary of the Navy Henry L. Roosevelt on a tour of the Hawaiian Islands, returning to San Diego, CA, on 15 May 1935.

After a short cruise in Alaskan waters, the Houston returned to Seattle and embarked the President again on 3 October for a vacation cruise to the Cerros Islands, Magdalena Bay, Cocos Islands, and Charleston, SC. The Houston also celebrated the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco on 28 May 1937, which was Moosbrugger's final day aboard the cruiser. He then reported for his second tour of duty at the Naval Academy, where he was an Instructor in the Department of Ordnance and Gunnery. Returning to sea duty in June 1939, he joined the battleship USS Tennessee (BB-43) as Gunnery Officer.

On 28 April 1941, Moosbrugger assumed command of the destroyer USS McCall (DD-400) and was in command at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December, although she was not in port. At the time McCall received word of the attack, she was steaming with the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) enroute to Pearl from Wake Island. McCall's task force (TF 8) immediately commenced a search for the Japanese Fleet. By the time the task force returned to Pearl Harbor, only one Japanese vessel had been sighted, the submarine Japanese submarine I-70 which was sunk by the task force's aircraft on the 10th. For the remainder of 1941, McCall, in the screen of Enterprise, stayed in the Hawaiian Islands area to guard against follow-up attack.

As the Japanese advanced south and east through the islands of the southwest Pacific, McCall headed in that direction with Enterprise and Yorktown for raids on Japanese installations in the southern Marshall Islands and northern Gilbert Islands. Making the strikes on 1 February 1942, the carrier forces and bombardment groups completed their missions in spite of heavy aerial resistance and were back at Oahu on 5 February. On the 15th, the force (now designated Task Force 16) got underway for Wake and Marcus Islands against which they launched surprise attacks on 24 February and 4 March, respectively, and then returned to Pearl on 10 March.

From May 1942 until September 1943, Moosbrugger had successive command of Destroyer Divisions 11 and 12, carrying out patrol and escort missions to Guadalcanal and the Russell Islands, supporting operations at New Georgia, Rendova, and Vangunu, and patrolling the Solomon Islands.

The Battle of Vella Gulf took place on the night of 6-7 August 1943. On the night of 6 August, the Imperial Japanese Navy sent a force of four destroyers under Captain Kaju Sugiura - the Hagikaze, Arashi, Shugure, and Kawakaze - carrying about 950 soldiers and their supplies. The Japanese airfield at Munda on New Georgia, which the force at Vila was assigned to reinforce, was on the verge of being captured - it actually fell later that day. The Japanese commanders expected that Vila would become the center of their next line of defense.

The U.S. Navy Task Group 31.2 of six destroyers - the USS Dunlap (DD-384), USS Craven (DD-382), USS Maury (DD-401), USS Lang (DD-399), USS Sterett (DD-407), and USS Stack (DD-406) - commanded by Commander Frederick Moosbrugger was lying in wait, and it made radar contact with the Japanese force at 2333 hours. Having learned the harsh lessons of naval combat at night after the Battle of Tassafaronga, the Battle of Kula Gulf, and the previous PT boat debacle, the American destroyers did not give away their position with gunfire, but rather, they waited until they had all their torpedoes in the water. The U.S. Navy destroyers fired a total of 36 torpedoes in the space of 63 seconds. Four American ships, including the USS Craven, used the mountains of the main island to their east to help camouflage their position. Japanese radar was not as advanced as American radar, and could not differentiate between the surface ships and the island. All four Japanese destroyers were hit by American torpedoes. Hagikaze, Arashi, and Kawakaze burst into flames and were quickly sunk by naval gunfire. The torpedo that hit Shigure was a dud that did not explode, damaging her rudder only, and she escaped into the darkness.

Many of the Japanese soldiers and sailors in the water after their ships sank refused rescue by American ships. Over 1,000 of them were lost, mostly by drowning. Three hundred reached Vella Lavella and were later transferred to Kolombangara Island.

During this entire battle, not one U.S. ship was struck by a bullet or shell. Moosbrugger's wise usage of radar resulted in the battle being nearly a 'clean sweep' of Vella Gulf by the U.S. Navy. The battle, coming less than one month after the night action at the Battle of Kolombangara, was the first U.S. Navy victory in World War II in a torpedo duel. The six destroyers had achieved what a squadron of 15 American PT boats was unable to do shortly before: Sink the Tokyo Express with torpedoes and with no American or friendly navy losses. The Japanese could no longer supply their garrison on Kolombangara Island, and the Allies bypassed it, landing instead on Vella Lavella to the west. The Japanese Army soon abandoned Kolombangara.

Upon his return to the U.S. and now a Captain, he assumed command of the U.S. Naval School, General Line, Naval Base, Newport, RI, on 5 April 1946. From June 1949 to January 1950, he commanded the light cruiser USS Springfield (CL-66), after which he served as Commander Destroyer Flotilla One. On 1 June 1951, Moosbrugger was promoted to Rear Admiral, having temporarily served as a Commodore from 6 April 1945 to 5 April 1946. In 1952, he became Commander Military Sea Transportation Service, Pacific Area, with headquarters in San Francisco, CA.

In December 1952, he became Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, and, in December 1955, reported as Commander Training Command, U.S. Pacific Fleet. He was transferred to the Retired List of the U.S. Navy on 1 October 1956. An Act of Congress on 4 March 1925, allowed officers in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard to be promoted one grade upon retirement if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat.

Having met this requirement, Moosbrugger was advanced to the rank of Vice Admiral.

Medals and Awards

Navy Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit with Combat "Valor" Device
Navy Commendation Medal
Yangtze Service Medal
American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 1 Silver Star
World War II Victory Medal
Philippine Liberation Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal


Surface Warfare Badge


The U.S. Navy named the Spruance-class destroyer USS Moosbrugger (DD-980) in his honor. Catherine E. Moosbrugger, the first granddaughter of Vice Admiral Moosbrugger, participated in the ship's final voyage on 8-11 December 2000, and was honored by being permanently named in the USS Moosbrugger (DD-980) Crew List.

Comments about the Battle of Vella Gulf

• Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz called it "A little classic of naval warfare."

• Admiral Arleigh Albert Burke, Chief of Naval Operations during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, was also Moosbrugger's classmate at the Naval Academy. If Commander Moosbrugger had not relieved Commander Burke as commander of Task Group 31.2 in the Solomon Islands, Burke would have been in command at the Battle of Vella Gulf. Burke wrote this to Moosbrugger: "Dear Moose, Your battle the other night will go down in history as one of the most successful actions ever fought. It was splendidly conceived and marvelously executed."

• Captain Tameichi Hara, commander of the destroyer Shigure, the sole surviving Japanese ship in the Battle of Vella Gulf wrote this in 2007: "A perfect American victory."

Death and Burial

Vice Admiral Frederick Moosbrugger died on 1 October 1974 in San Diego Naval Hospital. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Dorothy E. Britt Moosbrugger, in 1966. Frederick and Dorothy are buried together at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, CA.

Frederick and Dorothy had three sons: Frederick Britt Moosbrugger, Edward Arthur Moosbrugger, and David B. Moosbrugger.

Honoree ID: 3293   Created by: MHOH




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