Frederick Becton

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Frederick Becton
Birth name Frederick Julian Becton
Born (1908-05-15)May 15, 1908
Des Arc, Arkansas
Died December 24 or 25, 1995
Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
Place of Burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1931–1966
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Rear Admiral
Commands held USS Aaron Ward
USS Laffey
Battles/wars World War II
Awards

Navy Cross
Croix de Guerre with Gold Star
Silver Star (4)
Presidential Unit Citation (2)
American Campaign Medal
American Defense Service Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
China Service Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
National Defense Service Medal

World War II Victory Medal[1]

Rear Admiral Frederick Julian Becton (May 15, 1908 – December 24[2][3] or 25,[4][5][6] 1995) was a decorated United States Navy officer. He is probably best remembered for commanding the destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724) in World War II during an intense Japanese kamikaze attack.[2][4]

Early life[edit]

He was born in Des Arc, Arkansas, to John E. and Ruby Brown Becton.[1] He attended Hot Springs High School.

Naval service[edit]

Pre-war[edit]

Becton graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1931 and was commissioned an ensign on June 4 of that year,[1] he was subsequently promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) exactly three years later and to lieutenant on July 1, 1939.[1] He served on the battleships USS Texas (BB-35) and USS Arkansas (BB-33), then the destroyers USS Preston (DD-379) and USS Breckinridge (DD-148), the gunboat USS Guam (PG-43), and the destroyers USS Pope (DD-225) and USS Gleaves (DD-423).

World War II[edit]

When the United States entered World War II, Becton was the executive officer of the destroyer USS Aaron Ward (DD-483). He was promoted to lieutenant commander on June 15, 1942, on April 7, 1943, now in command of Aaron Ward, he was escorting three LCTs to Savo Island. As they approached Tulagi harbor, he was ordered to go to the aid of USS LST-449 off Togoma Point, Guadalcanal.[7] One of the passengers aboard the Landing Ship, Tank was then-Lieutenant (junior grade) John F. Kennedy, on his way to take command of Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109.[8][9] While escorting LST-449 and several other small craft to safety, Aaron Ward was attacked by three Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers, then three more bombers.[7] Aaron Ward sustained such damage that she sank that evening. The casualties were 20 men killed, 59 wounded and seven missing.

Becton was awarded the first of four Silver Stars "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Operations Officer on the Staff of Commander, Destroyer Squadron Twenty-one" in combat in night engagements in the Solomon Islands campaign in July and August 1943.[6]

Made a commander on November 1, he was the commanding officer of USS Laffey during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. The ship was struck by an 8-inch shell, which did not explode.[10] Laffey broke up an attack by German E-boats on June 12 and bombarded Cherbourg on June 25. Becton was awarded a second Silver Star for his actions in June.[6] Transferred back to the Pacific Theater, he received his third Silver Star for his handling of Laffey in support of the landing of the 77th Division at Ormoc Bay, Leyte, the Philippines, on December 7, 1944.[6][10] His fourth was for entering the "restricted waters of Lingayen Gulf during the initial bombardment and assault at Luzon" in January 1945;[6] in February, Laffey escorted aircraft carriers in airstrikes against Tokyo.[10]

On April 16, 1945, Laffey came under attack from 22[2][5] or 30[6] Japanese kamikaze and bomber aircraft while on radar picket duty off Okinawa; in a battle lasting 79 minutes, the ship was struck by five,[2] six[5] or eight[10] kamikazes and two bombs, but Becton refused to abandon his ship. For his "unremitting tenacity of purpose, courageous leadership and heroic devotion to duty under fire", he was awarded the Navy Cross,[6] the ship had to be towed to Seattle.

Among his other decorations were the Croix de Guerre[5] with Gold Star, awarded by the French government, and two Presidential Unit Citations.[1]

Post-war[edit]

On January 1, 1951, he was promoted to captain, he became a rear admiral effective December 1, 1959.[1]

He retired from the Navy in 1966 and moved with his wife Elizabeth (née Reuss) to her hometown of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, he wrote a book about Laffey entitled The Ship That Would Not Die, published by Prentice-Hall in 1980.[4]

Death[edit]

Becton died at the age of 87 at his home in Wynnewood, he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.[3] He was survived by Elizabeth, his wife of 46 years, and their two daughters.[4]

Award citations[6][edit]

Navy Cross[edit]

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander Frederick Julian Becton (NSN: 0-70065), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of this profession as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer U.S.S. LAFFEY (DD-459),[11] in action against enemy Japanese forces off Okinawa, on 16 April 1945, with his ship under savage attack by thirty hostile planes, Commander Becton skillfully countered the fanatical enemy tactics, employing every conceivable maneuver and directing all his guns in an intense and unrelenting barrage of fire to protect his ship against the terrific onslaught. Crashed by six of the overwhelming aerial force which penetrated the deadly anti-aircraft defense, the U.S.S. LAFFEY, under his valiant command fought fiercely for over two hours against the attackers, blasting eight of the enemy out of the sky, although the explosions of the suicide planes and two additional bombs caused severe structural damage, loss of armament and heavy personnel casualties, Commander Becton retained complete control of his ship, coolly directing emergency repairs in the midst of furious combat, and emerged at the close of the action with his gallant warship afloat and still an effective fighting unit. His unremitting tenacity of purpose, courageous leadership and heroic devotion to duty under fire were inspiring to those who served with him and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Silver Star[edit]

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Commander [then Lieutenant Commander] Frederick Julian Becton (NSN: 0-70065), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Operations Officer on the Staff of Commander, Destroyer Squadron TWENTY-ONE (DesRon 21), on the Flagship U.S.S. NICHOLAS (DD-449), in night engagements with enemy surface forces in the Solomon Islands Area, from 5 to 13 July and on 17–18 August 1943, with complete understanding of objectives and tactics, Commander Becton expertly assisted and advised his Squadron Commander in controlling and coordinating the attacks of the vanguard destroyers of a cruiser-destroyer force in which several enemy ships were sunk and many damaged. In a subsequent skillfully planned assault, his Flagship led a destroyer division against an attacking force and by combined gun and torpedo fire, caused the destruction of two destroyers, severe damage to a third and the annihilation of a number of landing barges. Commander Becton's outstanding skill and courageous devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Silver Star[edit]

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star to Commander Frederick Julian Becton (NSN: 0-70065), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer U.S.S. LAFFEY (DD-459), attached to Destroyer Squadron SIXTY (DesRon 60), in action against enemy forces during the amphibious assault on Normandy France, June 1944, and during the bombardment of enemy defenses at Cherbourg, France, on 25 June 1944. Maneuvering his ship through heavily mined waters and under heavy and accurate gunfire from enemy shore batteries, Commander Becton protected vessels in the Western Task Force Area from enemy surface forces and submarines and, although the LAFFEY suffered light damage from enemy gunfire, interposed himself between shore batteries and other units of one bombardment group to divert the fire and, maintaining continuous fire on the enemy batteries, covered the retirement of the minesweepers and battleships. Subjected to heavy enemy fire in later actions, he skillfully maneuvered his ship to make possible the retirement of battleships out of range of the enemy batteries, his courage and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Silver Star[edit]

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Second Gold Star in lieu of a Third Award of the Silver Star to Commander Frederick Julian Becton (NSN: 0-70065), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer U.S.S. LAFFEY (DD-459), during action against enemy Japanese forces at Ormoc Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands, on 7 December 1944. Fighting hostile shore batteries and constant attack by enemy aircraft, Commander Becton boldly directed the LAFFEY's accurate, determined gunfire against the heavily fortified hostile shores to neutralize Japanese defenses and pave the way for our assaulting troops, with a strong force of enemy aircraft attempting to bomb and crash our ships during retirement, he brought his powerful anti-aircraft guns to bear with deadly accuracy, thereby providing an effective screen for the convoy and insuring a safe withdrawal. By his superb ship-handling, inspiring leadership and cool courage maintained in the face of tremendous odds, Commander Becton contributed materially to the infliction of extensive and costly damage on the enemy and to the success of our forces in recapturing this vital hostile stronghold, his zealous devotion to the completion of a decisive engagement reflects the highest credit upon himself, his intrepid command and the United States Naval Service.

Silver Star[edit]

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Third Gold Star in lieu of a Fourth Award of the Silver Star to Commander Frederick Julian Becton (NSN: 0-70065), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer U.S.S. LAFFEY (DD-459), during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Philippine Islands Area in January 1945. Boldly penetrating dangerous restricted waters of Lingayen Gulf during the initial bombardment and assault at Luzon, Commander Becton fought his ship gallantly despite persistent attacks by hostile aircraft and devastating fire directed from Japanese shore batteries, successfully carrying out extensive anti-aircraft screening missions, and bombardment of heavily fortified positions on the beach and providing effective fire support for underwater demolition units. By his expert ship-handling, brilliant leadership and zealous devotion to duty in the face of grave peril, Commander Becton contributed materially to the success of our forces in recapturing the Philippines and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Rear Admiral Frederick J. Becton / United States Navy". laffey.org. Retrieved November 3, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Curt Weldon (February 1, 1996). "Tribute to Rear Admiral Frederick Julian Becton / Hon. Curt Weldon of pennsylvania in the house of representatives [sic]". Government Printing Office. Retrieved November 3, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Frederick Julian Becton". arlingtoncemetery.net. Retrieved November 3, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d Wolfgang Saxon (December 30, 1995). "F. Julian Becton, 87, Admiral Whose Ship Repelled Kamikazes". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Frederick Julian Becton, 87, decorated rear admiral". Baltimore Sun. December 31, 1995. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Frederick Julian Becton". militarytimes.com. Archived from the original on November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 3, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Roscoe, Theodore (January 1, 1953). United States Destroyer Operations in World War II. Naval Institute Press. p. 219. ISBN 9780870217265. Retrieved November 6, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Recollections of Captain Junius T. Jarman, USC&GS of the Wartime Experiences of the U.S.S. Pathfinder". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved November 4, 2014. On April 7, 1943, then Lt. (j.g.) Kennedy was a passenger on LST 449 on the last leg of a trip that was destined to end with his taking command of a PT boat at Guadalcanal. 
  9. ^ James L. Mooney, ed. (June 1, 1976). Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. 6. Government Printing Office. p. 136. ISBN 9780160020308. ... she [USS Rochambeau (AP-63)] limited her next run, 9 to 27 April, to New Caledonia and the New Hebrides. On that trip she carried Lt. (j.g.) John F. Kennedy to Espitu Santo where he was transferred to LST-449 and taken to the Solomons. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Oral History-Battle for Okinawa, 24 March -30 June 1945". Department of the Navy - Naval Historical Center. Retrieved November 3, 2014. [permanent dead link]
  11. ^ The designation DD-459, here and in several following citations, is incorrect. USS Laffey (DD-459) was sunk in 1942. The correct designation is DD-724.