Frank Jack Fletcher was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, on 29 April 1885. Appointed to the U. S. Naval Academy from his native state in 1902, he graduated from Annapolis on 12 February 1906 and was commissioned an Ensign on 13 February 1908 following two years at sea.
The early years of his career included service on the battleships RHODE ISLAND, OHIO, and MAINE. He served on USS EAGLE and USS FRANKLIN. In November 1909 he was assigned to USS CHAUNCEY, a unit in the Asiatic Torpedo Flotilla. He assumed command of USS DALE in April 1910 and in March 1912 returned to CHAUNCEY as Commanding Officer. Transferred to USS FLORIDA in December 1912, he was aboard that battleship during the occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico, in April 1914. For distinguished conduct in battle engagements in Vera Cruz, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
He became Aide and Flag Lieutenant on the staff of the Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet in July 1914. After a year at this post, he returned to the Naval Academy for duty in the Executive Department.
Upon the outbreak of World War I, he served as Gunnery Officer of USS KEARSARGE until September 1917, when he assumed command of USS MARGARET. He was assigned to USS ALLEN in February 1918 before taking command of USS BENHAM in May of 1918. For distinguished service as Commanding Officer USS BENHAM, engaged in the important, exacting, and hazardous duty of patrolling European waters and protecting vitally important convoys, he was awarded the Navy Cross.
From October 1918 to February 1919, he assisted in fitting out USS CRANE at San Francisco. He then became Commanding Officer of USS GRIDLEY upon her commissioning. Returning to Washington, he was head of the Detail Section, Enlisted Personnel Division in the Bureau of Navigation from April 1919 until September 1922.
He returned to Asiatic Station, having consecutive command of the USS WHIPPLE, USS SACRAMENTO, USS RAINBOW, and Submarine Base, Cavite. He served at the Washington Navy Yard from March 1925 to August 1927; became Executive Officer of USS COLORADO; and completed the Senior Course at the Naval War College, Newport in June 1930.
He became Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet in August 1931. In the summer of 1933, he was transferred to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Following this assignment he had duty from November 1933 to May 1936 as Aide to the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Claude A. Swanson.
He assumed command of USS NEW MEXICO, flagship of Battleship Division THREE in June 1936. In December 1937, he became a member of the Naval Examining Board, and became Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Navigation in June 1938. Returning to the Pacific between September 1939 and December 1941, he became Commander Cruiser Division THREE; Commander Cruiser Division SIX; Commander Cruisers' Scouting Force; and Commander Cruiser Division FOUR. He was in command of one of the two Task Forces participating in operations in the Marshall-Gilbert Islands in February 1942 and was second in command during the Salamaua-Lae operations.
On 19 April 1942, he was designated Commander Cruisers, Pacific Fleet. He was in this command in May 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea. In June during the Battle of Midway, he was Senior Task Force Commander, his flag flying in USS YORKTOWN. It was in this battle that the Japanese suffered the first decisive defeat in three hundred and fifty years, restoring the balance of naval power in the Pacific. During the Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings on 7-8 August 1942, he commanded two of the three Task Forces engaged as well as the American Task Forces in the ensuing battle of the Eastern Solomons. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal "for exceptionally meritorious service as Task Force Commander, United States Pacific Fleet . . ." during the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway.
In November 1924, he became Commandant, Thirteenth Naval District, Seattle, Washington, and Commander Northwestern Sea Frontier. He was relieved as Commandant in October 1943, and later became Commander, Alaskan Sea Frontier, with additional duty as Commander North Pacific Force and North Pacific Ocean Area. A task force under his overall command on 4 February 1944 made the first sea bombardment of the Kurile Islands. The same task force made the first penetration through the Kurile Islands into the Sea of Okhtosk on 3-4 March 1945. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the War Department for ". . . his professional ability and able leadership in the vast wartime expansion and organization of naval installations in the North Pacific Area . . . between October 1943 and August 1945."
In September 1945, following the cessation of hostilities in the Far East, he proceeded to Ominto, Japan, with the North Pacific Force for the emergency naval occupation of Northern Japan. He remained there until ordered to return to the United States, and on 17 December 1945, reported for duty as a member of the General Board, Navy Department. On 1 May 1946, as senior of the Board, he became Chairman, and continued to serve in that capacity until retirement in 1947.
Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher died 25 April 1973.
Ships named after Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher: