Captain Archibald H. Douglas, USN

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Archibald Archibald on USS Buffalo Archibald Archibald      

 


Archibald Hugh Douglas (8 Feb 1885, Bennettsville, Marlboro County, South Carolina, USA - 12 Dec 1972) was the son of Archibald Jennings Douglas (16 May 1858 - 31 Jan 1930) and Nannie Harlan Douglas (25 Dec 1859 - 9 Jun 1912)

Born in South Carolina, Archibald Hugh Douglas graduated from the Naval Academy in 1908. He was designated Naval Aviator #753 in June of 1918, launching an aviation career which included actions in two World Wars and command of three different aircraft carriers. He first came to Rhode Island in 1929 as a student at the Naval War College, and over the next 17 years served four more tours in Newport, retiring to Rhode Island in 1946.

A native of South Carolina, Douglas entered the University of Tennessee at the age of 16. In two years he earned national football honors and an appearance in a Ripley’s “Believe it or not” cartoon for a record kick that went 110 yards, 80 in the air. He was also a good enough baseball pitcher that Washington and Philadelphia recruited him to play professionally.

He even served as assistant football coach at Tennessee before entering Annapolis, where he was president of his class, captain of the football team and a versatile athlete. In strength tests he set all-time records at Annapolis. He was a pitcher on the baseball team and halfback on the football team, and never lost to Army in either sport. He scored all but one of the touchdowns made by Navy against Army during his career, and was burned in effigy by the Corps of Cadets the year he graduated. His football exploits earned him All-American honors in 1906 and 1907 - the very first Navy football player to be so recognized.

His athletic interests and prowess followed him through life. He was much in demand on fleet baseball and football teams, and even in 1945 he was described as follows: “Physically he is a striking figure, standing well over six feet, with broad shoulders and a slenderish athletic build. His jaw sets square, and he gives the impression that, in spite of greying hair, he could take his old place in the Navy backfield and show the Army something anyday.”

After graduation he was assigned to the newly commissioned USS New Hampshire, and spent almost four years aboard, including temporary duty for one season as football coach of the Naval Academy.

He then served aboard the presidential yacht Mayflower in 1912 and 1913, under two presidents (Taft and Wilson). Douglas then went to the Pacific Fleet as Chief Engineer aboard the cruiser USS Buffalo.

He participated in expeditions to Alaska to establish permanent radio relay stations at Unalga, St. George, Kodiak, and Cordova, and to refit the stations at St. Paul and Dutch Harbor.

He also served aboard USS Cleveland from 1914 to 1916, when he was assigned as aide to the Commandant of the Navy Yard, New Orleans As the United States entered World War I, Douglas joined Naval Aviation and took flight training at Hampton Roads. After earning his wings in June 1918 (Naval Aviator #753) he went to France where he saw combat duty as part of the Northern Bombing Group. After the Armistice, Douglas was charged with the responsibility of demobilizing the Naval Aviation Unit in which he had served. This assignment completed, he went to advance flight training at Pensacola, then became Aviation Aide to the Commandant of 3rd Naval District (New York). In November 1919 LCDR Douglas took command of the Rockaway Naval Air Station. In 1920 he reported aboard the seaplane tender USS Aroostook as Executive Officer, and became CO in 1922. From this ship he supervised the flight of 18 Navy planes from San Diego to Panama and back--the longest overseas flight ever made up to that point (1921).

He also served as XO of Naval Air Station Pensacola from 1923-26, and then joined the staff of the Atlantic Fleet Scouting Force aboard USS Wright.

Douglas first spent extended time in Rhode Island when he attended the senior course at Naval War College in 1929. This was followed by two years as CO of Naval Air Station Anacostia, prior to his return to sea as Executive Officer of USS Saratoga in 1931-32.

After a short stint as an aircraft inspector at the Douglas plant in Santa Monica, he returned to Rhode Island from 1933 to 1936 as an instructor at the War College.

In 1936 he took command of USS Langley, the Navy’s first aircraft carrier, for two years.

In 1938 Captain Douglas returned to Rhode Island for a third time, this time to attend the advanced course at the War College. After graduation he stayed in Rhode Island as an instructor until ordered to take command of the USS Enterprise in May of 1940. He commanded that ship for a grand total of four hours; Captain Robert Molten, then CO of USS Saratoga, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 53, and Douglas received orders to replace him.

Captain Douglas commanded the carrier through Pearl Harbor, the aborted relief of Midway, and Sara's first torpedoing by a Japanese submarine on January 11, 1942. He brought the ship safely back to Bremerton, Washington for repairs, and on April 12, 1942 received his orders back to the Naval War College yet again, this time serving as advisor for air operations, head of the Department of Intelligence and Acting Chief of Staff. By 1945 it was said that he had a longer connection with the War College than any other serving naval officer.

In April 1945 he took over as CO of the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Norman, OK, from which he retired in March of 1946. He returned to Rhode Island and lived the rest of his life in Newport.

He died on 12th December 1972 and is buried in Saint Marys Episcopal Churchyard, Portsmouth, Newport County, Rhode Island, USA.

 

Sources


Sources for this article include:
•  Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame
•  Find a Grave

Family details would be welcomed; Any contributions will be gratefully accepted






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Last modified: Wednesday, 18 July 2018