Irwin Chase, Jr. – Rear Admiral, United States Navy

From a contemporary press report:

Rear Admiral Irwin Chase, Jr., US Navy, Retired., a decorated veteran of World War II, died on Sunday, (June 3, 2001) at his home in Deep River. Known as “Mike” to his family and friends, he lived in Deep River for more than 40 years after his career as a naval officer and aviator.

He was 89 years old. Admiral Chase was born in Bayonne, New Jersey on 1 December, 1911, to Irwin and Theresa Specht Chase. He graduated from the Pingree School in 1928 and received his commission as a naval officer after graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1932.

Following tours of duty on the battleship Oklahoma and the cruiser Minneapolis, Chase earned his wings as a naval aviator at Naval Air Station Pensacola in 1937. He was assigned to Norfolk, Virginia for patrol wing and squadron duty until 1939. He returned to the Naval Academy briefly as a navigation and seamanship instructor before resuming naval aviation duty in Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone. At the beginning of World War II, Chase was assigned as advance base commander to build, operate and command the Navy's Galapagos Islands seaplane base, after which he headed the Air Division of the U.S. Naval Hydrographic Office in Washington, D.C. In 1944, he joined the fast aircraft carrier Ticonderoga as navigator, and saw action in the Western Pacific and China Sea with the Third Fleet, Admiral Halsey commanding, and Task Force 38, under Vice Admiral McCain.

Having endured a typhoon in December, 1944, Ticonderoga was attacked and damaged by Japanese kamikaze planes near Formosa on 21 January, 1945. With both her captain and executive officer wounded, and heavy casualties to her crew, then Commander Chase lead successful fire fighting and damage control efforts and brought the carrier back to her base at Ulithi. Chase was awarded the Silver Star for this action.

Returning to the Pacific Theatre in June, 1945, after repair and refitting in Bremerton, Washington, Chase and Ticonderoga sailed through another typhoon with Task Force 38 and participated in operation “Magic Carpet” attacks on the Japanese Home Islands. He was present aboard the carrier in Tokyo Bay at the Japanese surrender to General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz on the Missouri on 2 September, 1945.

Following the war, Chase served three years in London as air operations officer for CINCNELM with responsibility for flights in Europe, North Africa and the mid-East. After a brief tour as executive officer at NAS Atlantic City in 1950 and promotion to Captain that year, he served in Washington, D.C. in the Office of Naval Intelligence and then in Norfolk, Virginia, as Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, for CINCLANT. In 1954, he was Commanding Officer of the Pine Island, which operated seaplanes in Formosan and Okinawan waters. During 1955-56, Chase attended the Naval War College, followed by service in Colorado Springs, Colorado as Chief of Staff to Commander Naval Forces, Continental Air Defense Command. He then returned to theTiconderoga, as Commanding Officer, on her 1957-8 Far Eastern cruise to the Philippines, Hong Kong and Okinawa.

Chase retired from the Navy with the rank of Rear Admiral in 1959.

Admiral Chase spent his retirement years living near his parents in Deep River. He was an avid sailor, fisherman, farmer, beekeeper, Christmas tree grower, and repairer of cars and machines. He served for many years with local civic groups, giving his time and talents to numerous organizations including the Deep River Volunteer Fire Department, the Deep River Volunteer Ambulance Association, the Deep River Historical Society, the River Road Association, and the Connecticut River Museum. He was a member of the Essex Yacht Club and the Hartford Golf Club.

Admiral Chase cared deeply for the Connecticut River and for 23 years served as a member of the Connecticut River Gateway Commission. He was a longtime member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Essex. Admiral Chase is survived by his beloved wife, Winifred Reynolds Chase of Deep River; by two nieces, Teresa Cunningham Beem of Evanston, IL, and Christina Cunningham Postema of Ann Arbor, MI; by two nephews, Peter Chase Cunningham of Tallahassee, FL, and John Andrew Cunningham of New Haven; and by ten great nephews and great nieces. He was preceded in death by his parents; his first wife, Ruth Simpson Chase; and his sister, Elizabeth Chase Cunningham.

Cremation and a private family service have taken place, with a service to follow at Arlington National Cemetery. The family suggests that memorial donations may be sent to the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, for open space preservation, P.O. Box 778, Old Saybrook, CT 06475, or the Ticonderoga Veterans Association, for the Museum Room aboard Hornet, c/o John Williams, Treasurer, 519 Van Kirk Street, Philadelphia, PA 19120.


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