Valor Friday

| July 19, 2019

uss hawkbill
USS Hawkbill

Here’s Mason once again, providing us with his expertly researched essays about American valor. Todays VF post is a two-fer, as he details the careers of a father and son pair, who were each awarded the Navy Cross for their actions during WWII. Here’s Mason:

Mason

One thing that frequently appears while researching military bravery is that it often is a trait that runs in families. It is not uncommon to see that sons and fathers or brothers have acquitted themselves on the field of battle with such heroics that they have received similar valor awards as their family. Whether this is due to a familial bond over selfless service or if it’s a genetic trait and is literally in their blood is a debate for another writer. I merely report on these incredible stories.

One such father-son pair of heroes is Francis Scanland Sr and Francis Scanland Jr. Both men served in the US Navy and they both received the Navy Cross, the US’s second highest award for combat valor, during the Second World War. They are perhaps the only father-son pair to receive the Navy Cross in WWII.

For brevity and clarity’s sake, I’ll refer to them as Senior and Junior herein.

Senior was a graduate of the US Naval Academy in 1909. During WWI, he was a part of the Navy’s fledgling submarine service. He was in command of USS F-3 from 1915 to 1917 and the freshly commissioned USS O-11 from August, 1918. Neither ship saw combat during the war.

Senior rose the ranks and continued his service and was promoted to Captain in 1937. He was skipper of USS Nevada on the fateful morning of 7 Dec, 1941. During the battle Nevada was the only US ship to get underway during the surprise attack, though the Captain was not aboard. As the only moving ship, it became the prime target of Japanese planes in the second wave.

After being hit repeatedly, Nevada was ran aground outside the main lane through the harbor. This ensured that it didn’t block the only entry and exit to the port. It also was beached in shallow water, preventing a full scuttling of the ship. Before running aground, Nevada did succeed in taking down several enemy aircraft, including one that had dropped a bomb on her.

Senior was quickly moved to command USS Astoria (CA-34), a heavy cruiser in the Pacific Fleet. It was with Astoria that Senior participated in the decisive early major battles of the Pacific.

At the Battle of the Coral Sea from 4 May through 8 May, 1942 and the Battle of Midway 3 Jun to 6 Jun, 1942, Senior was in command of the ship when they served as part of the screening force for the aircraft carriers of the Pacific Fleet as they took the fight to the Japanese. He received the Navy Cross for exemplary leadership and bravery in combat for:

“The inestimable value of close screening to afford protection to carriers against hostile torpedo planes and dive-bombers was demonstrated by the fact that only a minimum of planes got through to launch torpedoes against the carrier. Through the maintenance of excellent fire discipline many of the attacking planes were shot down. By his extraordinary heroism under continuous heavy fire, he inspired his crew to perform their tasks to the utmost capacity and by his example, superb spirit was evidenced throughout his entire crew. His demonstrated outstanding leadership and his cool direction of his ship under conditions of great stress aided greatly in the dual victories of the Coral Sea and Midway. His determination and heroic conduct were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

The battles he and Astoria fought in here were the first decisive sea battles of the Pacific War. The role his cruiser served, that of screener and protector to the carriers, ensured that the lightly armed and armored carriers (now the only remaining capital ships in the Pacific Fleet) were able to let loose their waves of bombers and fighters.

Astoria was sunk at the Battle of Savo Island in the Solomons on 9 August.
Senior was later promoted to Commodore (one-star rank). He continued to serve through the Second World War, but died at age 57 in 1946 while in charge of the Naval Training and Distribution Center at Camp Elliott in San Diego County (site of the current MCAS Miramar for those familiar with the area).

Junior meanwhile had followed in his father’s path and also attended Annapolis (graduating class of 1930) and after service aboard some surface fleet ships, he too joined the submarine service.

Before WWII he served aboard USS S-39 and USS Seadragon. During the war he was aboard USS Swordfish, USS Tuna, and USS Peto, before commanding USS Hawkbill at its commissioning in 1944. Interestingly, his mother, as a commodore’s wife, sponsored the ship. Don’t know how many times a mom sponsors her son’s ship, but that’s got to be somewhat unique.

Setting off for their first war patrol on 23 Aug, 1944, they patrolled the Philippines, then the South China Sea. On 7 Oct they attempted to attack two enemy carriers but were driven down by depth charges. Two days later she attacked a convoy of 12 enemy ships, damaging several, and ended their patrol a few days after that.

Junior and Hawkbill commenced their second war patrol on 15 Nov, 1944 from Australia to north of the Malay Barrier (the imaginary line running down the Malay peninsula).

On 15 Dec, 1944 Hawkbill took on two enemy ships in a daring surface attack during the night. Junior took on two Japanese destroyers. Firing six torpedos, Junior was successful in sinking one destroyer. The second was severely damaged. He made three more attempts to take down the stricken ship, to “polish off” the ship as his award citation reads.

For his grit and determination in taking on not one but two considerably well armed enemy vessels he was awarded the Navy Cross.

He commanded Hawkbill through their third, fourth and fifth war patrols before war’s end. The ship received six battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for their 1st, 3rd, and 4th patrols. Hawkbill was decommissioned in 1946. She was later brought out of storage, upfitted, and lent to the Royal Netherlands Navy, where she served until 1970.

Junior continued to serve after the war. He was part of missile testing during the latter half of the 40’s, then held positions in these simple, easy to understand Navy organizations; COMSUBPAC/COMSUBRON7, COMSUBPAC/COMSUBRON5, COMNAVSUBFOR/COMSUBFLOT-1, and COMSUBPAC/COMSUB.

Promoted to captain in 1953, Junior continued to serve until 1964 when he retired. His awards and decorations include three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, a Legion of Merit with “V”, and the aforementioned Navy Cross.

The date of award for Junior’s Navy Cross is 19 Aug, 1946. Senior passed away 17 Oct, 1946, so I’d like to think he got to see his son’s bravery honored.

navy cross

Navy Cross
AWARDED FOR ACTIONS
DURING World War II
Service: Navy
Division: U.S.S. Astoria (CA-34)
GENERAL ORDERS:
Board Serial 4898 (September 5, 1945)

CITATION:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander Francis Worth Scanland, Sr. (NSN: 0-7016), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Heavy Cruiser U.S.S. ASTORIA (CA-34), in action against the enemy from 10 December 1941 to about 10 June 1942, in the Pacific War Area. During the surface engagements of the Coral Sea from 4 to 8 May 1942, and the Battle of Midway from 3 to 6 June 1942, the Cruiser under his direction inflicted extensive damage to the enemy, and rendered vital protection to the carrier to which it was assigned for screening protection. The inestimable value of close screening to afford protection to carriers against hostile torpedo planes and dive-bombers was demonstrated by the fact that only a minimum of planes got through to launch torpedoes against the carrier. Through the maintenance of excellent fire discipline many of the attacking planes were shot down. By his extraordinary heroism under continuous heavy fire, he inspired his crew to perform their tasks to the utmost capacity and by his example, superb spirit was evidenced throughout his entire crew. His demonstrated outstanding leadership and his cool direction of his ship under conditions of great stress aided greatly in the dual victories of the Coral Sea and Midway. His determination and heroic conduct were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Navy Cross
AWARDED FOR ACTIONS
DURING World War II
Service: Navy
Division: U.S.S. Hawkbill (SS-366)
GENERAL ORDERS:
Commander in Chief Pacific: Serial 315 (August 19, 1946)

CITATION:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander Francis Worth Scanland, Jr. (NSN: 0-73528), United States Navy, for heroic and meritorious conduct in action against the enemy while serving as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. HAWKBILL (SS-366), during the SECOND War Patrol of that Submarine in the South China Sea from 15 November 1944 to 5 January 1945. Displaying great courage and a fine aggressive spirit, Commander Scanland, on 15 December 1944, skillfully led his vessel in a surface attack against two enemy destroyer type vessels. Six torpedoes fired resulted in the sinking of the first and the severe damaging of the second. With determination, the Commanding Officer made three more attempts to polish off the cripple. In this important damage to the enemy he showed a fine fighting spirit. His conduct throughout distinguished him among those performing duties of the same character, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Hand salute. Ready, Two!
Thanks again, Mason. Great stories.

Category: Guest Post, Navy, Valor, War Stories, We Remember

Comments (3)

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  1. Ex-PH2 says:

    Nicely done!

  2. 5th/77th FA says:

    Well that nut didn’t fall very far from the tree. Gives a whole new meaning to the term…”Like Father, Like Son!”

    BZ to the Scanland Clan for the depth of their heroic gene pool. Makes one wonder how far back it goes.

    Excellent work Mason, we Thank You for bringing these Heros to our attention.

  3. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    24K Weapons Grade BADASS!!