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Corwin Guy Mendenhall, Jr.
Rear Admiral, United States Navy
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14 July 2006:
 

CG Mendenhall Jr. PHOTO
 U.S. Navy photo

During his Navy career of 20 years, Corwin Guy Mendenhall Jr. earned three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, a Navy Commendation and 13 battle stars.

Retired Rear Admiral Corwin Guy Mendenhall Jr., a decorated Navy veteran and author of two World War II submarine history books, died last Friday. He was 89.

"You hate to see a great man go," said Zeb Alford, 81, who knew Mendenhall and was captain of two nuclear submarines himself in the 1960s. "He was one of the greatest captains in World War II."

The father of three children spent quite a bit of his kids' growing-up years protecting the country in ocean waters.

"In my formative years, he was always gone on a ship or overseas pretty much and then I went off to school," said Mendenhall's son, Rick Mendenhall. "I felt like I grew up with Ward Cleaver - Pop was busy doing the nation's business."

And those who knew Mendenhall agreed - he did the nation's business well.

During his 20 years of service, he rose from the rank of gunnery officer to commander of the destroyer Warrington. He later was assigned to manage a $50 million nuclear weapons testing project at Eniwetok Atoll in the western Pacific during the Cold War.

"His reputation was a top-notch submariner," Alford said. "I knew some of the people who sailed with him, but I never heard a bad word about the admiral. That's why I think a lot of us will miss him."

The Beaumont-born admiral, who was awarded three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, a Navy Commendation and 13 battle stars, did not limit his knowledge to the seas - education also was high on his list of achievements. The 1932 South Park High School graduate went to what was then Lamar Junior College one year before winning an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where he was valedictorian of his graduating class, family members said.

After serving in the war, Mendenhall earned a master's degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University in Indiana and after retirement, received a doctoral degree in economics, Rick Mendenhall said.

But it was his experience in the Navy that earned him enduring respect and admiration.

"He was a very aggressive captain and he had a great war record," Alford said. "He's a great man and I just wished I was a little older and served with him on some of the subs that he was on. He was out there fighting and we were the ones out there following his footsteps."

After serving on the battleship Mississippi for a year and a half, the Navy asked for submarine volunteers and he was eager to apply. After training, he was assigned as a gunnery and torpedo officer on the Sculpin, which went on to sink 54,000 tons of Japanese shipping in seven patrols, according to The Enterprise archives.

He then was transferred to the Pintado, where he served as executive officer and navigator. It sank 11,549 tons of Japanese shipping.

"If it hadn't been for their four-year period that they sacrificed everything for this country, we wouldn't have a country," Rick Mendenhall said.

Once the war was over, he was assigned as commander of the Catfish and then transferred to the staff of Commander Submarines, Pacific Fleet where he was head of the Commanding Officers' Schools.

He topped his naval career off by taking command of the Warrington, which cruised the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. He also managed nuclear testing in New Mexico and Nevada.

Mendenhall retired from the Navy in 1959, but his leadership throughout his career continued to be an inspiration to many who served under him.

"The admiral was the one that gave us the leadership role that we all had to come up with and all had to do, but they (the submarine commanders) were the ones who set the standards in the sub force," Alford said.

With that much experience, he had a lot of stories to tell - including a few near-misses, with details to intrigue even the most experienced veterans.

"He was a great storyteller," Alford said. "He could describe what was going on and you would be hanging on to the edge of your seat, listening to some of his exploits."

Mendenhall took those storytelling skills and turned them into two books, "Submarine Diary: The Silent Stalking of Japan" and "Sea Stories."

He began the books after his wife found a box of about 100 old letters he had written to her during his time in the service. He took those, augmented them with declassified war information from the Navy Historical Museum and put together a submarine history book, according to The Enterprise archives.

While Mendenhall exposed his professional life in the literature, he generally was a private person.

"He didn't share his innermost thoughts with folks," said Rick, who is 58. "After the war, a lot of those World War II veterans, they were so happy that they survived that mess that anything more that they lived was a bonus."

Post-military, Mendenhall served in management positions at Texas Instruments, the Chambers County Telephone Co., Industrial Nucleonics and Mechanical Products.

He also was active in local and national submarine veterans' organizations and was honored at a Veterans Day ceremony in Beaumont in 2003.

Mendenhall is survived by his second wife, Ruth Land Mendenhall; one other son, Corwin Guy Mendenhall III; and daughter Suzanne Fahring of Anahuac, in addition to numerous grandchildren.

He will be buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, but the date has not been set.


 History Journal
Our submariner, Rear Admiral Corwin Mendenhall
BY KENT CONWELL SPECIAL TO THE BEAUMONT (TEXAS) JOURNAL
Thanks to Mr. Conwell For His Permission To Reproduce His Fine Article Here
January 2008

Though not well known, Corwin Guy Mendenhall Jr. is one of Southeast Texas' heroes.

He was born to Guy Mendenhall and Eula Gripon Mendenhall in Winnie on December 23, 1916. His father was a well-known banker, insurance, and utility businessman in Winnie and Anahuac.

Mendenhall attended Winnie, Hampshire, and Anahuac schools before moving to Beaumont in 1931 where graduated from South Park High School in 1932. Ninety-one-year old Denver Knowles, for 60 years prominent in civic and political affairs in Nederland, attended South Park with Mendenhall and remarked that "even then Corwin was a straight shooter on whom you could depend regardless of the situation."

While a sophomore at Lamar in 1934, Mendenhall won appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, which he entered on June 13, 1935 and was graduated in June of 1939 where he was valedictorian of his graduating class.

While at the academy, he made a number of training cruises, served as regimental commander, and won several other commendations and awards. Following graduation, he reported to the battleship USS Mississippi where he served his first year and half of sea duty.

When the Navy asked for submarine volunteers, Mendenhall applied and was assigned to submarine school at New London, Connecticut. He reported aboard the submarine USS Sculpin where he was assigned as gunnery and torpedo officer. Sculpin was moored in Manila Bay, Philippines, and the submarine commenced its first patrol on December 7, 1941.

The warship made seven patrols, sinking 54,000 tons of Japanese shipping in sea-lanes off China, Japan, and Indonesia. After his seventh patrol, Mendenhall was transferred from the Sculpin. On it's next patrol, the submarine was lost.

In 1943, he met Ann Weedin of California, and they were married April 7, 1943. As a 'Navy widow', she endured the loneliness during her husband's long cruises.

That same year, Mendenhall was sent to Portsmouth, New Hempshire, where the new submarine USS Pintado was under construction and would soon be commissioned. He was assigned as executive officer and navigator, and while the vessel patrolled the same waters of the Asian coast as the Sculpin, the Pintado sank 111,549 tons of Japanese shipping.

At the end of World War II, Mendenhall was assigned to graduate school at Annapolis, and later to Purdue University for his master's degree in Industrial Management. He was then assigned as commander of the submarine USS Catfish, which patrolled in Japanese and Philippine waters. He was then transferred to the staff of Commander Submarines, Pacific Fleet, where he had charge of Commanding Officers' School.

Afterward, Mendenhall took command of the destroyer USS Warrington in the Atlantic Fleet, where he served on several cruises in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Caribbean waters. He was later assigned to manage the Navy's nuclear tests, spending two years in Albuquerque, N.M., Nevada, and at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific, which was a $50,000,00 assignment.

"His reputation was a top-notch submariner," said Zeb Alford, 81, who knew Mendenhall and was captain of two nuclear submarines himself in the 1960s. "I knew some of the people who sailed with him, but I never heard a bad word about the admiral. That's why I think a lot of us will miss him."

Alford added."He was a very aggressive captain and he had a great war record. He's a great man and I just wished I was a little older and served with him on some of the subs that he was on. He was out there fighting and we were the ones out there following his footsteps."

During his Navy career of 20 years, Corwin Guy Mendenhall Jr. earned three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, a Navy Commendation and 13 battle stars.

After retirement in October of 1959, he earned a doctoral degree in Economics, Mendenhall's son, Rick, said.

But it was his experience in the Navy that earned him enduring respect and admiration.

Mendenhall and his first wife, Ann, who died in 1967, had three children and four grandchildren. In 1977, he married Ruth Land of Beaumont, and they resided in Benbrook.

He wrote a book,"Submarine Diary: the Silent Stalking of Japan", which was published in 1991.

He died in July 2006 at the age of 89 and was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. He was survived by his wife, Ruth, one other son, Corwin Guy Mendenhall III; his daughter, Suzanne Fahring of Anahuac, and numerous grandchildren.

"You hate to see a great man go," said Alford. "He was one of the greatest captains in World War II."

The father of three children spent quite a bit of his kids' growing-up years protecting the country in ocean waters. "In my formative years, he was always gone on a ship or overseas pretty much and then I went off to school," said Rick Mendenhall. "I felt like I grew up with Ward Cleaver - Pop was busy doing the nation's business."

And those who knew Mendenhall agreed - he did the nation's business well.

- Kent Conwell is a retired Port Neches teacher and author. His e-mail address is: rconwell@gt.rr.com

Webmaster: Michael Robert Patterson


Posted: 14 July 2006 Updated: 30 January 2008
US Naval Academy SEAL
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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