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Lee, John W., Jr. (1924- )

Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)


Based on two interviews conducted by Paul Stillwell in November 1992. The volume contains 416 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The transcript is copyright 1994 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee has placed no restrictions on its use.


Commander Lee’s transcript is notable because he was the first black officer to be commissioned in the regular Navy. He grew up in Indianapolis and attended college before enlisting in the Naval Reserve in 1944. He was commissioned in July 1945 through the V-12 program and served briefly in the fleet before returning to civilian life. He was later recalled to active duty and awarded a regular Navy commission in March 1947. Lee served in the carrier Kearsarge (CV-33) and was later in the heavy cruiser Toledo (CA-133) during the Inchon landing in the Korean War. After recruiting duty and postgraduate education, he served in the aircraft carrier Wright (CVL-49) and destroyer Cotten (DD-669). The oral history provides a fascinating description of Lee’s duty as commanding officer of Oceanographic Detachment Two in 1960. His unit conducted ocean-bottom surveys in preparation for the first deployments by Polaris submarines. Lee later served as executive officer of the Aeolus (ARC-3) and on the NATO staff in Paris before retiring in 1966. He subsequently worked more than 20 years for the Naval Avionics Center in Indianapolis.


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