Rear Admiral Frank A. Dingfelder
Class of 1920
During World War II, Frank Dingfelder (son of Will Dingfelder of Corry, Pa.) served on the staff of Admiral Marc â€œPeteâ€ Mitsher who commanded Fast Carrier Task Force 58 comprised of more than a hundred ships carrying a hundred thousand men. As commander of the information center, Frank participated in all Fast Carrier Task Force Operations from 1943 through 1945, including raids in the Gilberts, Marshalls, Western New Guinea, First and Second Phillipines Sea battles, Marianas, Western Carolines, Leyte, Luzon, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The heart of Admiral Mitscherâ€™s command was a compact room in the flagshipâ€™s island called Flag Plot. "Packed with a staggering amount of tracking and communications equipment that hummed incesssantly. . .â€ (Theodore Taylor, The Magnificent Mitscher. 1991. p. 172). Information about attacks, whereabouts of friendly planes, and disposition of all the ships was frenetically updated in the Combat Information Center. As CO (commanding officer) of the Combat Information Center on the Yorktown, Lexington, Bunker Hill, and Enterprise aircraft carriers, Frank Dingfelder played a central role in the Pacific theater of WW II. Mitscher himself seldom interfered with his task-group commanders . . .â€I tell them what I want done. Not how!â€ (Taylor, p. 171) Among those on his staff:
"There was Lieutenant Commander F.A. Dingfelder, who was, in (Commodore) Burkeâ€™s opinion, 'one of the best communications officers in the business.' Dingfelder was not a graduate of the Academy. He had enlisted in the Navy in World War I and had applied for the Academy, but a CPO had sat on his papers until Dingfelder was over the age limit for entry, Dingfelder took it in his stride, and Burke respected him for it." Ken Jones & Hubert Kelley, Admiral (31-knot) Burke: The Story of a Fighting Sailor. 1962. p. 122) [Actually, Frank, born in 1903, enlisted in the Navy in 1920, just out of Corry High School at the age of 17, shortly after WW I ].
Toward the end of the war, the Japanese were short of equipment and experienced pilots. In desperation, they instituted the deadly practice of committing an honorable death through suicidal bombings of American ships by very young and inexperienced pilots. The ultimate outcome was futile but the devastation was horrific. Twenty-six American ships were sunk and 160 damaged. During the months of April and May 1944, about 3.500 Navy men lost their lives to 1,465 kamikazi attacks off Okinawa.
Within the short span of 5 days in 1944, Frank Dingfelder and other staff officers of the flag plot had been on three ships; the first two were struck by kamikazi pilots. On May 11, two kamikazes blasted into the Flag Plot of the USS Bunker Hill. Frank Dingfelder saved about 11 of his radiomen who were trapped below deck on the U.S.S. Bunker Hill. He had lowered himself down on a rope to gain access to the escape hatch that let them out. Three days later on May 14, he was wounded by shrapnel as the USS Enterprise was hit, and the staff moved to the USS Randolph. Commodore Burke later wrote in a letter home:
â€œWe were in Bunker Hill when she was hit. A good many of our staff were killed. . . There were some fine stories of bravery came out of that burning, exploding mess with gasoline fires all over the decks. . . and tremendous explosions caused by our own bombs and ammunition exploding. . . The story of . . . Of Frank Dingfelder who went down after his radiomen and brought them out--and nearly didnâ€™t get out himself. There are many such stories. These men are wonderful. We finally transferred to Enterprise. . . stayed there two days, and one bright morning off Japan we were attacked by many Jap planes. One got through and hit Enterprise. The same story again, only because we didnâ€™t have so many men, we didnâ€™t lose so many. . . Frank was wounded but not seriously. We--he and I--were standing on the lookout platform when it came in. Of course, we hit the deck, and I think the piece of metal that hit Frank was one that passed over me. We had more wounded and quite a few more in shock--and then we transferred again to another flagship and are now in Randolph.â€ (Jones & Kelley, p. 144)
After returning to Hawaii after a holiday leave in late 1944, Burke, Flatley, Gus Read, Dingfelder, Bob North, and others on the staff immediately were plunged into their most involved operational planning assignment to date. These were the plans for striking the Japanese mainland, and the staff took only one break--to welcome 1945. Soon after New Yearâ€™s Day, Admiral Mitscher arrived, and a weary Burke and staff presented him with a superb set of plans. The Carrier Task Force was ready to go back to work. The plans for conquering the mainland were working effectively but were cut short by the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasake in August 1945.
. From January until March 1946, Frank served on the Joint Army-Navy Review Board in Washington, D.C., then received the call to join the staff of the Commander of the Eighth Fleet, being formed for Mediterranean duty. Frank and Arleigh Burke returned to sea with Vice Admiral Mitscher. In midsummer, plans for deployment of the fleet were placed on hold and Admiral Mitscher was ordered to serve as CINCLANTFLT (Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet). The Cold War was on. From August 1946 until July 1947, Frank served on the staff of CINCLANTFLT in the Assistant War Plans Office. It was no coincidence that from September 1950 to June 1951, Frank served on the staff of COMNAVFE (Commander, Naval Forces, Far East); Rear Admiral Burke had been appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to COMNAVFE in August 1950. It was the third month of the Korean War; there was an urgent need for experienced officers to conduct operations during the troop landings and drive to the north in Korea.
Early in 1955, Frank was appointed the Commanding Officer of the Naval Communications Station at Pearl Harbor, where he remained until 16 April 1957. At this time Frank was called to duty by the Commander, Naval Forces, Japan as his Assistant Chief of Communications (N5 on Admiral Withingtonâ€™s staff). While serving in this capacity, he was suddenly ordered to assume the additional duties of Commanding Officer, USN Communications Facility at Kami Seya. Frank was obviously very busy holding two positions jointly until his retirement from the US Navy on 1 August 1959. Upon his retirement, he was advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral.
Besides campaign ribbons for China, Korea, and United Nations, Asiatic-Pacific (14 stars), and Japanese occupation service, Frank also earned a Commendation Ribbon, as well as the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Gold Star, and Legion of Merit medals.
From 1959 until a second retirement in 1970, Frank was a chief executive with the Financial Savings and Loan Company of Chico, California. He was an active participant in the post-war economic development of Chico. He died of leukemia in 1989.
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