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Backus, Paul H. (1917-1984)

Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Based on three interviews conducted by Paul Stillwell from October 1981 through April 1982. The volume contains 509 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The transcript is copyright 1995 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee has placed no restrictions on its use.

During and after his years at the Naval Academy, Backus served as president of the class of 1941. Upon graduation, he served briefly in the destroyer Jarvis (DD-393). He was in the crew of the battleship Oklahoma (BB-37) when she capsized during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He subsequently spent much of World War II in the battleship South Dakota (BB-57). Following postgraduate education in ordnance, he served in the USS Mississippi (BB-41) during her conversion to a test ship. Then he was gunnery officer in the light cruiser Huntington (CL-107) under Captain Arleigh Burke. After duty in the research division of the Bureau of Ordance, he commanded the destroyer Isherwood (DD-520) during two deployments to the Mediterranean. Next he was an assistant naval attaché in London, interacting with the Royal Navy and doing clandestine intelligence collection against the Soviets. Commander Backus wound up his career with a long tour of duty on the staff of Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke. He had an instrumental role in the OpNav aspects of developing the Polaris ballistic missile system, including such aspects as operating schedules, communications, and submerged navigation.


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