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First Name: Frank

Last Name: Kelso II

Birthplace: Fayetteville, TN, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: Sewanee, TN
Middle Name: Benton

Date of Birth: 11 July 1933

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1956-1994
Frank Benton Kelso II

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1956


Frank Benton Kelso II

Admiral, U.S. Navy

Frank Benton Kelso II was born on 11 July 1933 in Fayetteville, TN. He attended public school and the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, prior to entering the U.S. Naval Academy.

Following graduation from the in Academy in 1956, Kelso served on the cargo ship USS Oglethorpe (AKA-100) before attending Submarine School in 1958.

On completion of training, he was assigned to the submarine USS Sabalo (SS-302) before returning to Submarine School for nuclear power training in January 1960. He then served one year in the Nuclear Power Department at the school. Subsequent tours included the pre-commissioning crew of USS Pollack (SSN-603), Engineering Officer aboard USS Daniel Webster (SSBN-626) and Executive Officer of USS Sculpin (SSN-590).

From January 1969 to August 1971, he served as Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School in U.S. Naval Training Center Bainbridge, Port Deposit, MD. Following tours included Commanding Officer, USS Finback (SSN-670); Staff of Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; and Commanding Officer, USS Bluefish (SSN-675). Kelso was then assigned as Executive Assistant to the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command and U.S. Atlantic Fleet and Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic from September 1975 to July 1977.

He served as Commander, Submarine Squadron 7 until reporting as Division Director, Submarine Distribution Division in the Naval Military Personnel Command, and Section Head of the Submarine Programs Section in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Manpower, Personnel and Training) in September 1978. He was selected for promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral in February 1980.

Upon selection for flag rank, Kelso served as Director, Strategic Submarine Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and then was assigned as Director, Office of Program Appraisal, Office of the Secretary of the Navy. On 8 February 1985, Kelso became Commander Sixth Fleet and NATO Commander Naval Striking Force and Support Forces Southern Europe. During this tour, forces under his command launched raids on Libya in defiance of Colonel/President Muammar Gaddafi's claim that Libya's territorial waters extended 200 miles into the Gulf of Sidra.

On 30 June 1986, Kelso was promoted to the four-star rank of Admiral and assumed the duties of Commander-in- Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Kelso became Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic and Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command on 22 November 1988. In that capacity his forces were involved in the second Gulf of Sidra incident (1989). He succeeded Admiral Carlisle A.H. Trost to become the Navy's 24th Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) on 29 June 1990.

Tailhook Controversy

Kelso attended the 1991 Tailhook Association meeting in Las Vegas (his second time) at the urging of his senior aviation advisors to gain first-hand information from aviators who were part of Operation Desert Storm following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. In the months following this meeting, allegations of sexual harassment of hotel guests and other sexual misconduct on the part of naval aviators surfaced. Following several lengthy investigations, more than 100 aviators were implicated in overt acts of sexual misconduct. None were court-martialed, though over half of those implicated were informally disciplined and the careers of several senior officers were essentially ended.

Secretary of the Navy Lawrence Garrett ultimately resigned and Kelso was forced to retire two months early amid the scandal and aviator complaints that he had failed to ensure due process for accused personnel. Nonetheless, the Navy and its leadership were roundly criticized for minor punishments handed out to a few officers. Kelso offered his resignation to President Clinton during this time, but President Clinton rejected this offer. Kelso was succeeded as CNO by Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda on 23 April 1994.

Interference by Senator Barbara Boxer

Shortly before his retirement, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) attempted to punish Admiral Kelso by recommending a reduction in rank from four-star Admiral to two-star Rear Admiral (Upper Half). Under Congressional law, all military promotions for flag officers to have three or four stars are at the behest of the Senate, and said promotions can be revoked, as was the case of Pacific Fleet Commander Husband Kimmel following the Pearl Harbor attack, who was demoted from 4-star to 2-star rank; and Richard Dunleavy, Kelso's Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare, who was demoted from 3-star to 2-star rank as a result of Tailhook. Boxer claimed Kelso was deserving of punishment on the grounds that as the Navy's top officer, he bore ultimate responsibility for what happened at Tailhook.

Boxer's attempt at punishment failed when a majority of Senators agreed that Kelso had taken the correct and proper actions in handling the affair. Accordingly, he was allowed to retire at his full four-star rank. Kelso's supporters praised his overhaul of officer training that eliminated the separate Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) at NAS Pensacola, FL, for non-USNA and non-NROTC college graduates that had traditionally set many naval aviators and naval flight officers apart from their other officer peers, and for tough new policies on sexual harassment. Had Kelso been demoted, it would have been a significant loss in his military pension.

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (3 Awards)
Legion of Merit (4 Awards)
Meritorious Service Medal
Navy Commendation Medal

In Retirement

Admiral Kelso currently resides in his place of birth in Fayetteville, TN.

Honoree ID: 576   Created by: MHOH




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