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Vice Admiral William Paden Mack (1915-2003)

Volume I

Based on six interviews conducted by Dr. John T. Mason Jr. from February through March 1979, the volume contains 413 pages of interview transcript plus an index and appendices. The transcript is copyright 1980 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on its use.

Admiral Mack was gunnery officer in the USS John D. Ford (DD-228) on the Asiatic Station when World War II began. He was involved in the early battles of Makassar Strait, Badoeng Strait, the Java Sea, and the Coral Sea. He tells of pioneering responsibilities in amphibious warfare in the Aleutians; of his duty as XO of the USS Preston (DD-795) during strikes on Japan, the Philippines, and Formosa; his duty as aide to Secretaries of the Navy Gates, Franke, and Connally; his planning of the naval review for President John F. Kennedy in 1962; his tour with General Victor H. Krulak, USMC, in counterinsurgency during Cuban Missile Crisis and the early days of involvement in Vietnam. In 1963 Mack served as Chief of Information for the Secretary of the Navy. He relates experiences when the F-111 was in the news and when the Tonkin Gulf was an issue.

The index to Volume I can be viewed here (.pdf).

Volume II

Based on six interviews conducted by Dr. John T. Mason Jr. from March through May 1979, the volume contains 435 pages of interview transcript plus an index and appendices. The transcript is copyright 1980 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed restrictions on a few pages that were not to be released until after his death.

Admiral Mack continues his discussion of duties as Chief of Information and his dealings with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Highlights in this volume include: Commander Amphibious Group Two; conducting training with Marine Corps; serving as recovery commander for various space-recovery shots; Deputy Assistant SecDef (Manpower & Reserve Affairs); working with Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird; in 1971, under CNO Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Commander Seventh Fleet (the first post-World War II non-aviator in that job); conducting mining of Haiphong Harbor and operations against the North Vietnamese; and in 1972, Superintendent of the Naval Academy until his retirement in 1975.

The index to Volume II can be viewed here (.pdf).

In this clip, from his second interview at his residence in Annapolis, MD in February 1979, Vice Admiral Mack relays part of his experiences on board the John D. Ford during the Battle of the Java Sea.

Admiral Mack: So we went on up the channel to the Strait and along about midnight, we sighted our first Japanese ships and started in amongst them and fired all of our twelve torpedoes during the process.

Doctor Mason:  That's what you'd been told to do?

Admiral Mack: We fired at direct fire — in other words, the range was 200 yards, just barely enough to arm these things; we'd see a ship come by on the starboard side and swing a tube out and fire and that would be it. As soon as we got our torpedoes fired, we'd go back and forth in this large area (there must have been 125 ships in this amphibious area) and we had a column.

On the first pass through, we lost our last ship — it didn't get sunk but it got disoriented and left the formation and went off by itself and then about the third pass, there was only the John D. Ford because the other ships had gone — they'd fired all their torpedoes and left. So we began firing our four-inch guns and hit and sunk four ships. We were also so close that we threw hand grenades over as we passed.

We were undamaged. All four ships were undamaged but we were in the middle of all these ships and they couldn't shoot us without shooting each other and so we thought we'd done pretty well. There were pretty heavy explosions on all sides, some as close as 200 yards. One ammunition ship went up and it wasn't until after the war that we actually found out that we'd claimed, I think, two ships but the war assessment system gave us four and a half. That's the only time, that I know of, during the whole World War II period that claims didn't exceed fact.

Doctor Mason: It wasn't an exaggeration?

Admiral Mack: No, it was the other way around. So we got credit for four ships and then we turned around and headed south as fast as we could go and we finally got out of the Straits at dawn and got back to Java.

Doctor Mason: What ships did the Japanese have?

Admiral Mack: Destroyers, mine sweeps (I think there were some cruisers further up north, but we never got to them).

But we got back to Surabaya. We'd expended all our torpedoes and a goodly number of four-inch rounds and a number of hand grenades. That was the first time anybody had ever used hand grenades against another ship.


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