Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Charles

Last Name: Griffin

Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Donald

Date of Birth: 12 January 1906

Date of Death: 26 June 1996

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1927-1968
Charles Donald Griffin

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1927

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Charles Donald Griffin

Admiral, U.S. Navy

Charles Donald Griffin was born on 12 January 1906 in Philadelphia, PA, to Joseph Richard and Maude Spicknall Griffin. He moved to Washington, DC, as a child, where he graduated from Central High School in 1923. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1927 and was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy.

After initial duty in battleships and destroyers from 1927-30, he underwent flight training and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1930. During the 1930s, he served in an air patrol squadron and as a scouting pilot aboard the heavy cruiser USS Chester, and studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan, where he received a Master's degree in 1937. From 1937-40, he was attached to Scouting Squadron Six aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise; then, from 1940-42, he was a Flight Test Officer at Naval Air Station Anacostia.

World War II

During World War II, he was Commander of Carrier Air Group 9 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex from 1942-43, participating in air raids on Marcus Island, Wake Island, the Marshall Islands, and Rabaul, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. In 1943, he became Operations Officer for Task Force 58 in the Pacific. He was detached in 1944 to plan operations in the Pacific Theater as a member of the Joint War Plans Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After the war, he was Commanding Officer of the escort carrier USS Croatan from 1945-46, making two transatlantic trips to ferry troops home from France as part of Operation Magic Carpet, then served as Operations Officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was Plans Officer for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet from 1946 to 1947.

Revolt of the Admirals

Griffin played a key role in the Revolt of the Admirals, an incident of civil-military conflict over the long-term funding priorities of the armed services.

In September 1948, as a Captain, Griffin received sudden orders to report to the Strategic Plans Division (OP-30) in the Department of the Navy as Officer-in-Charge of Special Projects. "That meant practically nothing to me when I heard this. It wasn't too long after I got back there that I got head over heels into the business of the so-called revolt of the Admirals -- the B-36 affair. I found that the special projects had to do with the preparation of statements for the Chief of Naval Operations on very critical points."

In October 1949, Griffin was directed to prepare a position paper on the controversy for Chief of Naval Operations Louis E. Denfeld to present in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. After placing the completed draft on Denfeld's desk, Griffin visited Denfeld's office every day to solicit feedback, but "it became quite apparent to me that Admiral Denfeld was not going to take any fast action on this because he, himself, was feeling his way along."

Finally, the day before Denfeld was scheduled to testify, Griffin received a call at 7 a.m. to appear at Denfeld's office at 8 a.m., where Griffin and three others were assigned to compose Denfeld's statement. Using Griffin's paper as a rough draft, the four men worked all day long, eating lunch and dinner in Denfeld's office. "The last page came out of the typewriter and was approved by Admiral Denfeld at three o'clock the following morning. He delivered the statement at ten o'clock that morning before the Armed Services Committee and Secretary of the Navy Matthews was just wild. I use that word deliberately..."

Matthews relieved Denfeld as Chief of Naval Operations after hearing Denfeld's testimony, which contradicted the official positions of the civilian Defense Department leadership. Other Navy officers who participated in the controversy also saw their careers stalled or ended, but Griffin emerged unscathed. "The other people involved in it didn't all get hurt. I didn't get hurt and it was well known, I think, that I had a lot to do with writing that statement."

Korean War

Griffin completed his tour in the Strategic Plans Division in 1950 and became a student at the National War College, from which he graduated in 1951. He served as Plans Officer for Commander Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet from 1951-53. He was Commanding Officer of the attack carrier USS Oriskany from June 1953 to July 1954, operating with the Seventh Fleet to monitor the recent Armistice in Korea.

Service as Flag Officer

Promoted to Rear Admiral, he was appointed the first Director of the Long-Range Objectives Group (OP-93) when the group was established in February 1955, then served as Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1955-56, commanded Carrier Division 4 from 1957-58, and was Director of the Strategic Plans Division from 1959-60.

Commander, Seventh Fleet

He commanded the Seventh Fleet from 7 March 1960 to 28 October 1961. With 125 warships and 500 aircraft, the Seventh Fleet constituted the world's most powerful peacetime naval force, and its role was to concentrate so much U.S. naval and air power in the Pacific as to reduce the likelihood of war. Asked whether the Seventh Fleet had enough power for this purpose, Griffin admitted, "I've never seen a military Commander say he had everything he wanted. It is just not the nature of the beast."

In 1960, after rioting in Japan forced the unexpected collapse of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's planned visit to Tokyo, the President sailed to Taiwan aboard the heavy cruiser USS St. Paul along a course that took him within 150 miles of the potentially hostile Chinese mainland, escorted by a Seventh Fleet protective force that included 100 planes, the aircraft carriers USS Yorktown and Ticonderoga and four destroyers. Griffin reassured newsmen that there was no indication of any unusual activity on the part of the Chinese Communists, but added that the motto of the Fleet was readiness and in the event of any threat the Fleet was ready to strike; in particular, should any submarine make any hostile move against the President and his escort force, he would do his best to destroy it. "The first thing I would do would be to get the St. Paul out of here as fast as possible."

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy moved the carriers of Griffin's Task Force 77 into the South China Sea, where Griffin conducted naval exercises in response to the escalating crisis in Laos.

Deputy Chief of Naval Operations

Griffin was a leading candidate to succeed Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh A. Burke in 1961. Burke ranked Griffin high on a list of forty Admirals that Burke submitted to Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally, Jr. as eligible successors, and Newsweek rated Griffin's odds of succeeding Burke at 4 to 1. Burke was succeeded by Admiral George W. Anderson, Jr. and Griffin became Anderson's Deputy for Fleet Operations and Readiness. In that position, from 1962 to 1963 Griffin supervised an influential Navy study that reversed the Navy's previous stance on its nuclear propulsion program by accepting the view of Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and the Atomic Energy Commission that nuclear power was not prohibitively expensive, and calling for the use of nuclear propulsion in all major surface ships, not just in submarines.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Griffin was one of three senior officers assigned by Anderson to monitor the Navy's involvement in the crisis around the clock, and to act in Anderson's absence: "first, to make sure that the President and the Secretary of Defense were informed...and secondly, to prevent any civilian encroachments on military operations."

In 1963, Griffin was a candidate to succeed Admiral Robert L. Dennison as the four-star Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, under a proposal that would split that command from the unified Atlantic Command, which would go to Admiral Harold Page Smith. Although the Atlantic Fleet and Atlantic Command ultimately remained dual-hatted under Smith, Griffin gained his fourth star anyway when he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Naval Forces Europe later that year.

Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe

On 26 June 1963, he was advanced to the four-star rank of Admiral and succeeded Admiral David L. McDonald as the triple-hatted Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR), Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (CINCNELM), and U.S. Commander Eastern Atlantic (USCOMEASTLANT). He relinquished one of these hats when CINCNELM was disestablished on 1 December 1963. He was relieved by Admiral John S. Thach in March 1965.

Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe

He was Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH) from 31 March 1965 to 31 January 1968, succeeding Admiral James S. Russell. As Commander of all NATO forces in Southern Europe, Griffin directed the land, sea and air forces deployed in the Mediterranean area by five nations: Italy, Greece, Turkey, Britain, and the U.S.

While CINCSOUTH, Griffin frequently warned that Soviet efforts to undermine the Western position in the Middle East had "all the earmarks of a concerted effort to alter the strategic balance" as part of a broader campaign with the ultimate target of Europe. "While the Arab world is a rich prize in itself, Europe has been and remains the primary objective. A strong Soviet power position in the Mediterranean, supported by a string of client states along its southern shore, would give the Russians not only control of key resources essential to the European economy, but positions from which to menace the flow of shipping on which that economy's survival depends." However, Griffin's superiors in Washington remained convinced that the Soviet Union was not interested in a direct confrontation with American power.

Upon reaching the statutory retirement age, he was relieved as CINCSOUTH by Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr. and retired from the Navy effective 1 February 1968. At his retirement ceremony at his headquarters in Naples, Italy on 31 January 1968, Griffin asserted that the relatively peaceful Soviet posture in central Europe was a tactical move to cover a thrust of naval forces into the Mediterranean, and complained that France's recent withdrawal from NATO was tantamount to freeriding off the contributions of allies who met their treaty obligations. "NATO's great shield of collective security has become so broad that it even covers those who say they no longer choose to contribute to its support, giving them freedom to pursue their policy of withdrawal, secure in the knowledge that, in a showdown, they would still share the benefits of its great protection. This is obviously a game which only a few can play, for if all of us were to be so foolhardy, the alliance, as an effective institution, would cease to exist. Fortunately, this fallacy has found no imitators. And we may hope that it will be short-lived."

Medals and Awards

His decorations include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal with Gold Star; the Bronze Star; and the Presidential Unit Citation with two Gold Stars. Foreign awards include the Order of George I with rank of Supreme Commander (Greece); the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic with rank of Knight Grand Cross; the Philippine Legion of Honor with rank of Commander; the Order of Military Merit with Silver Star (South Korea); the Order of the Rising Sun with Double Rays (Japan); and the Medal of Pao-ting (Republic of China).

He held the Gray Eagle Award as the senior active-duty aviator in the Navy from 31 July 1967 until his retirement on 1 February 1968.

In Retirement

After retiring from the Navy, he resided in Washington, DC, where he was a vestryman at St. Alban's Episcopal Church and a member of the Army and Navy Club and the Chevy Chase Club.


He married Camilla Yvonne Ganteaume on 14 September 1935; she died at the age of 49 on 10 August 1963. He and Camilla had two children: Linda Louise Griffin, and Navy officer Charles Donald Griffin, Jr. He married Marion Hopkins Schaefer on 21 November 1964.

He is great-grandfather to Elizabeth Garner LeStage, Charles Richard Griffin LeStage, Cora Abigail Griffin, and Xyacery Bryant.

Death and Burial

Admiral Charles Donald Griffin died of a heart attack on 26 June 1996, at the age of 90, while playing golf at his summer residence, Bald Peak Colony Club, in Melvin Village, NH. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 531   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image