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Unusual Canadian Infantry to US Navy Admiral Medal Group


Dave
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This is a group that followed me home from the Show of Shows this year. It belonged to a fellow who (I believe) is the only US Navy admiral to have served in combat with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WW1.


Born in England in 1899, his family moved to Canada and in 1915 (at the age of 15) he joined the Canadian Army. Shipped out in June 1916, he arrived in France and became part of the 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada), CEF. On October 19, 1916, during the Battle of the Ancre Heights (part of the Battle of the Somme) he was shot through the right arm. After spending two months in hospital, he returned to the front. Keep in mind that he was still 16 years old at the time. 


In 1917, he attended trench warfare school and later became an instructor at the school with the rank of Acting Sergeant in August 1917. Interested in flight, he gave up his rank in August 1918 and became a Pvt in the Royal Air Force, in order to enter flight training. 


Commissioned as a Pilot Officer in February 1919, he was shortly discharged, reverting to his previous infantry rank, as there was no longer a war and no need for new pilots. 


Attending university, he earned a bachelor's and master's in chemical engineering and later moved to Los Angeles to work in the petroleum industry (Los Angeles at the time was one of the major centers of the oil industry...believe it or not).


In the meantime, he earned several US patents, including the process and spray gun for what became known as electrostatic spray coating, later used in everything from the space program to farm equipment. 


In the late 1930s, he joined the US Navy Reserve as an engineering officer and by the time the war started, was a LCDR. First stationed as the Officer in Charge of the Inspection Division at the Department of Shipbuilding, he was responsible for the oversight of multiple small craft programs (landing craft, yard craft, etc.). 


Being "discovered" due to his exceptional abilities, he was brought onto the staff of Commander, Third Amphibious Force, eventually becoming the Force Beachmaster, responsible for all aspects of the landings, from working with the UDT members scouting the beaches to the physical attack landings, and all the way through to the offloading of logistic material ashore.  He was personally responsible for the landings at Peleliu, Luzon, and Lingayen - all successful and all while under heavy enemy attack. For these landings, he was awarded the Legion of Merit with "V". 


During the planned invasion of Japan, he joined MacArthur's staff and oversaw the initial planning for the amphibious assaults on multiple beaches in and around the Tokyo area. 


With the end of the war, he returned to his Reserve affiliation, and as a civilian, eventually became the vice president of one of the largest petroleum companies in the US. Of notable things, his company was one of the first to include the "rotten egg" smell in natural gas, in order to smell gas leaks and prevent the hundreds of deaths each year from natural gas asphyxiation. Similarly, they developed the use of petroleum products for things such as laundry soap, causing the end of the tallow industry. 


He continued to be extremely active in the Navy Reserves and traveled frequently to work with NATO allies for the development of standardized petroleum resources. In 1959, he retired from the reserves and due to his wartime decoration, was promoted (tombstoned) to the rank of Rear Admiral. 
He passed away in June 1976 in La Jolla, California. 


Interesting with the group were the listings both times it was in George Harris' catalog, showing it's been untouched since it was originally purchased. If anyone happens to know the date of this particular catalog, (list #28) I'd sure like to know.


I look forward to adding more research to the group and finding out more about his service during the war!

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decwriter

Very nice Dave! Looking forward to reading more about him when you’re able to research further.

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1canpara

Wow Dave! It’s amazing to see a fellow Canadian with such an incredibly interesting military career! So unique to see the British War Medal and the Victory Medal alongside all those US decorations. What a great grouping! Thanks for sharing! 

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manayunkman

What an interesting course in life and a great group of medals.

 

Do you know when the medals were first sold?

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Hermanus

A very nice group and an interesting write-up.

 

Was it normal to enter the USN reserves in your thirties? The early Navy Reserves Medal points a bit to his year of entry in the Navy reserves I think.

 

Again, a great and unusual group.

 

Regards

Herman 

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18 minutes ago, Hermanus said:

A very nice group and an interesting write-up.

 

Was it normal to enter the USN reserves in your thirties? The early Navy Reserves Medal points a bit to his year of entry in the Navy reserves I think.

 

Again, a great and unusual group.

 

Regards

Herman 

 

Herman:

At the time, I think a lot of people saw that war was inevitable. He joined the USNR in February 1939, so he was 39 years old at the time, and was automatically commissioned as a LCDR due to his engineering experience. That's a bit unusual, but I'm assuming that he was offered the commission and seeing that the war would probably happen, he decided that being an engineering duty officer in the Navy was probably the best place to use his skill set. He doesn't appear to have any maritime experience (some of the line officers who joined the USNR had experience on merchant vessels, yachts, etc.) so he must have had an exceptionally extensive engineering background to be commissioned at that high of a rank. 

 

Dave

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My copy (of a copy) of List 28 has no date, perhaps sometime in 1991 since my copy of List 27 has a hand-written "received" date of  12-13-90, if that's any help. 

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14 hours ago, 3mxd said:

My copy (of a copy) of List 28 has no date, perhaps sometime in 1991 since my copy of List 27 has a hand-written "received" date of  12-13-90, if that's any help. 

 

That definitely does help! The original FOIA request was dated June 1991, so I'm assuming that he probably made the request right after he bought it from George. 


I appreciate you checking!

Dave

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Hermanus
23 hours ago, Dave said:

 

Herman:

At the time, I think a lot of people saw that war was inevitable. He joined the USNR in February 1939, so he was 39 years old at the time, and was automatically commissioned as a LCDR due to his engineering experience. That's a bit unusual, but I'm assuming that he was offered the commission and seeing that the war would probably happen, he decided that being an engineering duty officer in the Navy was probably the best place to use his skill set. He doesn't appear to have any maritime experience (some of the line officers who joined the USNR had experience on merchant vessels, yachts, etc.) so he must have had an exceptionally extensive engineering background to be commissioned at that high of a rank. 

 

Dave

 

Thanks for the reply Dave.

 

So the Navy Reserves Medal was issued in 1949.

 

Regards

Herman 

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Brian Keith

Very interesting and uncommon set. My hat is off to that guy, he could have stayed a civilian (and earned a ton of $) during WW II, but instead, joined the navy of his adopted country to "do his part". No one would have questioned why a 40 + year old man was not in uniform. No doubt he saw horrors in the trenches of WW I,

Thanks for posting this impressive set.

BKW

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KASTAUFFER

I like the fact the LOM is definitely a USN contract medal too ( Small Suspension ring). 

 

Kurt

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Brian R
5 hours ago, Brian Keith said:

Very interesting and uncommon set. My hat is off to that guy, he could have stayed a civilian (and earned a ton of $) during WW II, but instead, joined the navy of his adopted country to "do his part". No one would have questioned why a 40 + year old man was not in uniform. No doubt he saw horrors in the trenches of WW I,

Thanks for posting this impressive set.

BKW

 Great point, indeed. And, to think of the horror he saw at the Ancre Heights at just 16 years old is just beyond my comprehension. These were tough people from a very tough time in history. 

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Kurt Barickman

Yes, really interesting group Dave. I had a large group I bought from the grandson of a Canadian Bicycle Corps vet who fought at Ypres. After WWI emigrated to MN and joined the Mn National Guard and spent years with the 34th and when WWII broke out somehow got a commission and became a colonel in the AAC and was deployed to North Africa once Operation Torch was successful. Large group included British medals and Canadian insignia and medals and insignia with his other service as well. It’s out there somewhere in the collecting community. Interesting it was from the same family as the Clow Paramarine thread I recently posted. Good to catch up with you at the SOS and looking forward to your next book whenever you can finish it.

 

 

Kurt

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