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First Name: Aubrey

Last Name: Fitch

Birthplace: Saint Ignace, MI, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Wray

Date of Birth: 11 June 1883

Date of Death: 22 May 1978

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1906-1947
Aubrey Wray Fitch

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1906

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Aubrey Wray Fitch

Admiral, U.S. Navy

Aubrey Wray Fitch was born in Saint Ignace, MI, on 11 June 1883. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in the summer of 1902 and graduated on 12 February 1906. After serving the two years of sea duty then required by law before commissioning in the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania and the torpedo boat USS Chauncey Fitch became as Ensign on 13 February 1908 and served in USS Rainbow and USS Concord before receiving instruction in torpedoes at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, RI, in the school conducted on board the old cruiser USS Montgomery.

Upon completion of the torpedo course, Fitch helped to fit out the battleship USS Delaware, which commissioned on 4 April 1910 before returning to Annapolis for consecutive tours of duty at the Naval Academy, first as Assistant Discipline Officer between 1911-12 and later as an Instructor of Physical Training from 1912-13. Service in the destroyers USS Balch and Duncan followed before he received his first sea command, the destroyer USS Terry, with the 2nd Division, Reserve Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet.

After serving on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, Fitch assumed command of the yacht USS Yankton in January 1915, with additional duty as Aide to the Commander-in-Chief.

Relieved of command of Yankton shortly after the U.S. entered World War I in the spring of 1917, Fitch continued his staff duties for another five months before joining USS Wyoming to serve as her Gunnery Officer for the remainder of hostilities, as that dreadnought operated with the 6th Battle Squadron, Grand Fleet.

The Inter-War Years

After the armistice, Fitch again served at the Naval Academy before becoming, concurrently, Inspector of Ordnance in Charge of the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot in Hingham, MA, and Naval Inspector of Ordnance in Charge at the Naval Coaling Station, Frenchman's Bay, ME. From August 1920, Fitch commanded a division of fast minelayers, while also commanding in turn USS Luce and Mahan.

Detached from Mahan in December 1922, Fitch served at Rio de Janeiro until March 1927 as a member of the U.S. mission to Brazil before reporting back to the Navy Department for a brief tour of duty in Washington, DC. Going to sea as Executive Officer of USS Nevada in May 1927, Fitch assumed command of Arctic (a type of ship sometimes known uncomplimentarily as a "beef boat") in November of that year.


Fitch reported for aviation instruction at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL, in June 1929 and there won his wings as a Naval Aviator on 4 February 1930. Following brief duty at NAS San Diego, CA, Fitch assumed command of USS Wright in the spring of 1930. Relieved in that billet a in July 1931, he began a year as Commanding Officer of the Navy's first aircraft carrier, USS Langley.

After commanding NAS Hampton Roads, VA until June 1935, Fitch reported as Chief of Staff to Commander, Aircraft, Battle Force, and remained in that billet until assuming command of USS Lexington (CV-2) in April 1936. He attended the Naval War College in Newport, RI, from June 1937 to May 1938, Fitch completed the Senior Course there before assuming command of NAS Pensacola, in June 1938. In the spring of 1940, he took over the reins of Patrol Wing 2, based at Pearl Harbor, and seven months later, broke his flag in USS Saratoga as Commander, Carrier Division 1. At the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific in December 1941, Fitch was one of the Navy's most experienced carrier commanders.

World War II

Fitch's flagship, Saratoga, figured prominently in the abortive attempt to reinforce Wake Island in December 1941 and was later torpedoed off Oahu in late January 1942, seriously cutting American carrier strength in the Pacific at a critical period.

Rear Admiral Fitch relieved Vice Admiral Wilson Brown on 3 April 1942, breaking his flag in Lexington, his former command. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, Fitch served as Commander Task Group 17.5, consisting of "Lady Lex" and USS Yorktown (CV-5), and was named Officer in Tactical Command (O.T.C.) by Task Force Commander Admiral Frank J. Fletcher. That engagement, the first in history where neither side came within surface gun range of the other, effectively stopped the Japanese thrust at strategic Port Moresby, but resulted in the first loss of an American aircraft carrier in the war-Lexington, sunk on 8 May 1942.

The Admiral then shifted his flag to USS Minneapolis, which was also flagship of Task Force 17 (TF 17). Fitch together with Captain Sherman and Lexington's Executive Officer Commander Morton T. Seligman, visited "Lady Lex's" wounded in Minneapolis' sickbay-an action that "contributed in no small measure to the patients' well-being." For the leadership he exhibited during the Battle of the Coral Sea, Fitch was awarded his first Distinguished Service Medal.

He again broke his flag in his former flagship, Saratoga, but the task group formed around that ship arrived too late to take part in the pivotal Battle of Midway.

On 20 September 1942, six weeks after the first American amphibious operation of the war got underway at Guadalcanal, Fitch assumed command of Aircraft, South Pacific Force. Not a desk-bound Admiral, he carried out numerous, hazardous flights into the combat zones, inspecting air activities incident to the selection of bases for projected operations. For these, he received a Distinguished Flying Cross.

Under Fitch's command, AirSoPac-ultimately encompassing not only Navy but Army, Marine Corps, and Royal New Zealand air units-achieved great success in aiding the Allied campaign in the South Pacific. Fitch's planes protected Allied shipping, providing vital air cover that strongly assisted the Allies in challenging, and ultimately defeating, the Japanese in the Solomons. In addition, his aircraft performed essential reconnaissance missions, spotting enemy warships prior to the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942 and during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942.

Later, Fitch oversaw the early experiments in conducting night bombing utilizing radar (a concept which paid great dividends in interdicting Japanese shipping) and encouraged the use of specially modified aircraft to obtain photographic intelligence. In addition, for his skillful coordination of the Allied air effort in that area of the world Fitch received a gold star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal.

Fitch returned to Washington in the summer of 1944 and became Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air). He skillfully and efficiently directed the aeronautical organization of the Navy, oversaw efforts to assure the readiness and deployment of air units, and planned all of the related logistics measures. For these efforts, he received a Legion of Merit.

Post-War Service

After V-J Day, Vice Admiral Fitch assumed duty as the Superintendent of the Naval Academy on 16 August 1945 and held that post until 15 January 1947, with collateral duty as Commandant, Severn River Command. The first airman to head the Naval Academy, Fitch was instrumental in establishing the Department of Aeronautics, authorized by the Navy on 28 November 1945.

Subsequent to heading the Academy, Fitch served briefly in the Office of the Undersecretary of the Navy before becoming the senior member of the Naval Clemency and Prison Inspection Board in March 1947. He was so serving when he was relieved of all active duty on 1 July 1947.

Upon retirement, he was advanced in rank to four-star Admiral. *

* The Act of Congress of 4 March 1925, allowed Navy officers to be promoted one grade upon retirement if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat. These promotions were colloquially known as "tombstone promotions" because they conferred the prestige of the higher rank but not the additional retirement pay, so their only practical benefit was to allow recipients to engrave a loftier title on their business cards and tombstones. An Act of Congress on 23 February 1942, enabled tombstone promotions to three- and four-star grades.

Medals and Awards

Navy Distinguished Service Medal (2 Awards)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Legion of Merit


In 1981, USS Aubrey Fitch (FFG-34) was named in Admiral Fitch's honor.

Death and Burial

Admiral Aubrey Wray Fitch died in his adopted state of Maine, on 22 May 1978, shortly before his 95th birthday. He is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, MD.

Honoree ID: 515   Created by: MHOH




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