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First Name: James

Last Name: Richardson

Birthplace: Paris, TX, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Otto

Date of Birth: 18 September 1878

Date of Death: 02 May 1974

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1902-1947
James Otto Richardson

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1902

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


James Otto Richardson

Admiral, U.S. Navy

James Otto Richardson was born on 18 September 1878 in Paris, TX. He entered the Naval Academy in 1898 and graduated fifth in a class of eighty-five with the Class of 1902. His first duty assignments were in the Asiatic Squadron, where he took part in the Philippine Campaign, and, after 1905, in the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1907-09, Lieutenant Richardson commanded the torpedo boats USS Tingey and USS Stockton, and the Third Division, Atlantic Torpedo Flotilla. He was a member of the first class of the Navy's Post Graduate Engineering School in 1909-11, and then served as an Engineer in the battleship USS Delaware and on the staff of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. In 1914, Richardson was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was attached to the Department of the Navy's Bureau of Steam Engineering, where he worked to assure the Navy's fuel supply.

World War I and Inter-War Years

During 1917-19, Commander Richardson was Navigator and Executive Officer of the battleship USS Nevada. Following a tour at the Naval Academy, he was given command of the gunboat USS Asheville in 1922 and took her out to Asiatic waters, where he also had command of the South China Patrol. Captain Richardson was Assistant to the Chief, Bureau of Ordnance, in 1924-27. In the late 1920s, he commanded a destroyer division, and then returned to the U.S. for service with the Bureau of Navigation.

In January 1931, Captain Richardson placed the new heavy cruiser USS Augusta in commission and commanded her for more than two years. After a tour as a Naval War College student in 1933-34, he was Budget Officer at the Navy Department, receiving promotion to Rear Admiral while in that position in December 1934. His early duties as a Flag Officer included command of a Scouting Force cruiser division, service as Chief of Staff and Aide to the U.S. Fleet's Commander, and a tour as Commander Destroyers, Scouting Force. He became Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations in June 1937 and a year later became Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. In June 1939, Richardson went back to sea as Commander, Battle Force, U.S. Fleet, with the temporary rank of Admiral.

Pearl Harbor and Aftermath

Beginning in January 1940, he was Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. At the time of his appointment, Richardson "was one of the Navy's foremost figures. Since his earliest days, after leaving Annapolis, he had made the study of Japanese warfare his life work. He was beyond question the Navy's outstanding authority upon Pacific naval warfare and Japanese strategy." He held this position during a stressful period marked by the fleet's forward deployment to Pearl Harbor from its traditional base in San Diego, CA.

Richardson protested this redeployment to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and to other politicians in Washington. He argued that such a forward defense was not practical or useful, despite Japan's attack on China and whatever promises had been made to Britain to come to their aid if attacked. According to journalist John T. Flynn:

It was Richardson's belief - and indeed generally supported by the Navy - that the Fleet should never be berthed inside Pearl Harbor where it would be a mark for attack. This was particularly true in such troubled times when the airways of the East were hot with rumors of approaching conflict. What is more, Richardson held the belief that Pearl Harbor was the logical first point of attack for the Japanese High Command, wedded as it was to the theory of undeclared and surprise warfare.

On 26 October 1940, a White House leak to the Washington-based Kiplinger Newsletter predicted that Richardson would be removed as Commander-in-Chief. He was replaced by Admiral Husband E. Kimmel in February 1941.

Richardson is consequently a main focus of historical fact seekers, who claim pre-war intelligence that heavily suggested Pearl Harbor was going to be attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy in early December was deliberately withheld from the military commanders at Pearl Harbor by the Roosevelt Administration. As of 2010, the CIA has not released many of the JN-25 messages deciphered before 7 December 1941. None of those messages released as of 2010 substantiate the claim.

Upon his relief by President Roosevelt, "Richardson reverted to his permanent rank of Rear Admiral and served as a member of the Navy General Board, and in the office of the Secretary of the Navy until to his retirement on 1 October 1942."

Transferred to the Retired List with the four-star rank of Admiral in October 1942, he remained on active service with the Navy Relief Society, as Senior Member of a "Special Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee" on the reorganization of the national defense, and as a witness before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Released from active duty in January 1947, he thereafter resided in Washington, DC.

Death and Burial

Admiral James Otto Richardson died on 2 May 1974. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 630   Created by: MHOH




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