Sunday, June 14, 2015

Alfred Melville Pride, Pioneer Naval aviator and Captain of USS Belleau Wood, WW-II "Devil Dog" Aircraft Carrier

Alfred Melville Pride, Captain of USS Belleau Wood,
WW-II "Devil Dog" Aircraft Carrier

Why Ewa's very popular "pride" baseball field is named for a US Navy admiral

by John Bond Ewa Historian - additional research through naval archives

Pride Field was named such when MCAS Ewa closed in 1952 and became under the Navy as Naval Air Station Barbers Point. It may have had a name when Marine aviator and baseball legend Ted Williams played there in 1945 but it is unknown.

However the naming of the baseball field after Alfred Pride is very fitting once you learn the remarkable history behind him and the USS Belleau Wood. It is also quite possible Admiral Pride attended the naming ceremony and perhaps threw out the first game pitch as he was winding up incredible Navy career in Hawaii at the time.

Admiral Pride was a very famous pioneer naval aviator, aircraft-carrier commander and Seventh Fleet Commander during the early Cold War era. NAS Barbers Point was the major supporting Pacific airbase and Pride was then Commander, Air Forces, Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.

The naming is also very likely due to LCDR Wynn Junk, who was then the Barbers Point Special Services director (now known as MWR), who during WW-II was stationed on and had flown aircraft from the USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) when Alfred Pride was the carrier commander. Belleau Wood saw major Pacific war combat and was directly involved in air support of Marine beach landings.

The USS Belleau Wood was named for a famous WW-I US Marine battlefield and Capt. Pride was highly regarded by aviators under his command during WW-II. So by the 1960's honoring Admiral Pride with a popular baseball field seemed like a perfect commemoration by everyone. The NAS Barbers Point side also had a baseball field called "Pointer Field."


Alfred Melville Pride (1897 - December 24, 1988) pioneer Naval aviator and USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) The ship's mascot was the US Marine Corp's "Devil Dog" and participated in some of the heaviest air combat of the Pacific Islands war. The USS Belleau Wood received the Presidential Unit Citation and 12 battle stars during World War II.

Pride's career was remarkable for its time, in that he achieved flag rank without having attended the United States Naval Academy or even completing college.

Admiral Pride on the cover of Time magazine as 7th Fleet commander, late 1950's.

Naval aviators of Torpedo Squadron 21 of the USS Belleau Wood

Top center, LCDR Wynn Junk who retired to become 
NAS Barbers Point Special Services officer.

Capt. Alfred Pride, Commanding Officer, USS Belleau Wood

Alfred Melville Pride (1897 - December 24, 1988) was a United States Navy admiral and pioneer Naval aviator, who distinguished himself during World War II as an aircraft-carrier commander.

He served during the late 1940s as Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics and during the Korean War as Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. Pride's career was remarkable for its time, in that he achieved flag rank without having attended the United States Naval Academy or even completing college. (He did, however, later complete advanced studies in aeronautical engineering.)

A native of Somerville, Massachusetts, he studied engineering at Tufts University in Boston for several years before dropping out to enlist in the Navy during World War I. He served first as a machinist's mate in the Naval Reserve, but was soon given the chance to receive flight training and gain a commission as an ensign. Pride was sent to France, where he served briefly during the latter part of the war.

In 1921 he transferred to the regular Navy and served on the battleship USS Arizona. In 1922 he served on the USS Langley, a converted coaling ship that became the Navy's first aircraft carrier, and in 1922 he was one of the first pilots to land an aircraft on the USS Langley. He also took part in the fitting out of the aircraft carriers USS Saratoga and USS Lexington, as a member of their original crews. While serving on the USS Langley he devised an arresting gear to prevent landing aircraft from going over the end of the deck. Impressed with his inventive genius, the US Navy sent him to study aeronautical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Pride continued his work in Naval Aviation testing for the rest of the interwar period. He went on to study aeronautical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1931, he became the first person to land a helicopter on an aircraft carrier. From 1934-1936 he headed the Flight Test Section at Naval Air Station Anacostia, Washington, D.C., at that time the Navy's center for aircraft testing.

 While there, an aircraft he was piloting crashed and he was severely injured and the doctors wanted to amputate his left leg but he refused. The injury left him with a permanent limp, but he resumed flying. After the US entry into World War II, he served at the rank of captain as the first commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Belleau Wood in the South Pacific, conducting air strikes against the Japanese in the major campaigns from Tarawa, Wake and Makin Islands to Kwajalein, Truk, Saipan and Tinian. He was then promoted to the rank of rear admiral and became Commandant, 14th Naval District, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, then transferring to Fleet jobs, including command of Carrier Division 6 and Carrier Division 4.

He returned to the Pacific in 1953, when he received promotion to Vice Admiral and command of the U.S. Seventh Fleet (December 1, 1953 - December 19, 1955). During this time, he was featured on the cover of the Time magazine (February 7, 1955 issue). Pride served as head of the Seventh Fleet until 1956, when he became Commander, Air Forces, Pacific Fleet.

In 1961 he was retroactively designated the ninth recipient of the Gray Eagle Award, as the most senior active naval aviator from July 1959 until his retirement later that year. His other honors include being a Companion of the Naval Order of the US and a member of the National Museum of Naval Aviation's Hall of Honor.

USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24)

Belleau Wood received the Presidential Unit Citation and 12 battle stars 
during World War II.

The ship was named in memory of the World War I Battle of Belleau Wood, in which Marines of the American Expeditionary Forces, defeated the German troops after nearly four weeks of intense fighting. According to United States Marine Corps lore, the German defenders referred to them as Teufelshunde (literally, "Devil Dog") and it was this moniker that became the ship's mascot, and one of the nicknames for US Marines (Devil Dog).

Originally laid down as the Cleveland-class light cruiser New Haven (CL-76), she was finished as an aircraft carrier. Reclassified CV-24 on 16 February 1942 and renamed Belleau Wood on 31 March 1942 in honor of the Battle of Belleau Wood in World War I, she was launched on 6 December 1942 by New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey; sponsored by Mrs. Thomas Holcomb, wife of the Commandant of the Marine Corps; and commissioned on 31 March 1943, Captain A. M. Pride in command. During the war, she was reclassified CVL-24 on 15 July 1943.

After a brief shakedown cruise, Belleau Wood reported to the Pacific Fleet, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 26 July 1943. After supporting the occupation of Baker Island (1 September) and taking part in the Tarawa (18 September) and Wake Island (5–6 October) raids, she joined TF 50 for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands (19 November–4 December 1943).

Belleau Wood operated with TF 58 during the seizure of Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls, Marshall Islands (29 January–3 February 1944), Truk raid (16–17 February); Saipan-Tinian-Rota-Guam raids (21–22 February); Palau-Yap-Ulithi-Woleai raid (30 March–1 April); Sawar and Wakde Island raids in support of the landings at Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura), New Guinea (22–24 April); Truk-Satawan-Ponape raid (29 April–1 May); occupation of Saipan (11–24 June), 1st Bonins raid (15–16 June), Battle of the Philippine Sea (19–20 June); and 2nd Bonins raid (24 June). During the Battle Of the Philippine Sea, Belleau Wood‍ '​s planes sank the Japanese carrier Hiyō.

After an overhaul at Pearl Harbor (29 June–31 July 1944), Belleau Wood rejoined TF 58 for the last stages of the occupation of Guam (2–10 August). She joined TF 38 and took part in the strikes in support of the occupation of the southern Palaus (6 September–14 October); Philippine Islands raids (9–24 September); Morotai landings (15 September); Okinawa raid (10 October); northern Luzon and Formosa raids (11–14 October); Luzon strikes (15 and 17 October–19 October), and the Battle of Cape Engaño (24–26 October). On 30 October, while Belleau Wood was patrolling with her task group east of Leyte, she shot down a Japanese kamikaze plane which fell on her flight deck aft, causing fires which set off ammunition. Before the fire could be brought under control, 92 men had either died or gone missing.

After temporary repairs at Ulithi (2–11 November), Belleau Wood steamed to Hunters Point, California, for permanent repairs and an overhaul, arriving on 29 November. She departed San Francisco Bay on 20 January 1945 and joined TF 58 at Ulithi on 7 February. From 15 February–4 March, she took part in the raids on Honshū Island, Japan, and the Nansei Shoto, as well as supporting the landings on Iwo Jima. She also took part in the 5th Fleet strikes against Japan (17 March–26 May) and the 3rd Fleet strikes (27 May–11 June). After embarking Air Group 31 at Leyte (13 June–1 July), she rejoined the 3rd Fleet for the final strikes against the Japanese home islands (10 July–15 August). The last Japanese aircraft shot down in the war was a Yokosuka D4Y3 "Judy" dive bomber which was shot down by Clarence "Bill" A. Moore, an F6F pilot of "The Flying Meat-Axe" VF-31 from Belleau Wood.[1]

Belleau Wood launched her planes on 2 September for the mass flight over Tokyo, Japan, during the surrender ceremonies. She remained in Japanese waters until 13 October. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on 28 October, she departed three days later with 1,248 servicemen for San Diego. She remained on "Magic Carpet" duty, returning servicemen from Guam and Saipan to San Diego, until 31 January 1946. During the next year, Belleau Wood was moored at various docks in the San Francisco area, undergoing inactivation. She was placed out of commission in reserve at Alameda Naval Air Station on 13 January 1947.

David Junk, son of Wynn Junk, and his wife Myrna discuss the history of how the NAS Barbers Point golf course, stables and baseball field came about in the 1960's 
with Ewa historian John Bond.

Navy Barbers Point Golf Course Intended As Commemoration Of MCAS Ewa Field History

Ewa’s Pride Field – Historic Open Recreational Space and Baseball Field