Keep Oral Histories coming through your tax-deductible donation now.

Vice Admiral John L. McCrea, USN (Ret.) (1891-1990)

Volume I

Vice Admiral John L. McCrea, USN (Ret.)Based on one interview conducted by John T. Mason Jr. in May 1981 and two interviews conducted by Paul Stillwell in October 1982, the volume contains 360 pages of interview transcript plus an index and appendices. The transcript is copyright 1990 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on its use.

Even though in his 90s when the interviews were completed, McCrea demonstrated a remarkable memory for details in talking about his naval career. He was a Naval Academy midshipman in 1914 when his ship, the USS Idaho (BB-24), was sold to Greece on the eve of World War I. After graduating in 1915 he served in the USS New York (BB-34) and was present when the German fleet surrendered following the war. In the 1920s and 1930s he matured as a naval officer, serving in a number of destroyers and taking time to get a law degree. He served a tour in Guam in the 1930s, then was executive officer of the battleship Pennsylvania (BB-38). In 1941, as an aide to CNO Harold Stark, McCrea made a trip to the Pacific to deliver revised war plans to the top commanders. At the beginning of the war he served a year as naval aide to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, then was first skipper of the battleship Iowa (BB-61). After the war he held a series of positions, including DCNO (Administration) and Deputy Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet. After duty as Commandant First Naval District, he retired in 1953 and worked for the John Hancock Insurance Company.


An index to this volume can be viewed here (.pdf).



Vice Admiral McCrea: I was in the New York for four years, a little over four years, and in that time I had five captains. Four of those five captains got to be flag officers. Two of them went to the top--Charles F. Hughes and William Veazie Pratt, both were chiefs of Naval Operations.[1] Hugh Rodman, who as a rear

USS NEW YORK (BB-34) December 27, 1918

 admiral commanded our six battleships assigned to the British Grand Fleet, was made a four-star admiral and given command of the Pacific Fleet.[2] I went with him as an aide when he went to the Pacific Fleet.


Well, service in the New York was interesting; it was just as interesting as it could be to go to this new ship and meet up with its older officers. I enjoyed it greatly.


Dr. John T. Mason, Jr.: And your tour on board ship, your assignments were different all the time. Weren’t you rotated?


Vice Admiral McCrea: Yes, and, of course, our ship the New York--Admiral Rodman, when he left us—-he was a captain. Then he went ashore to the General Board in Washington, and then he came back to us as a flag officer.[3] He was given command of what the British called the Sixth Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet. He came to the New York and he used that as his flagship. We joined the Grand Fleet in the fall of 1917, and we were there until the surrender of the German Fleet and a little afterward.

Surrender of the German High-Seas Fleet by Bernard F. Gibble, Naval History and Heritage Command


It just so happened that there were three officers that stood all the deck watches at sea in the New York when we were in the North Sea, because whenever we went to sea, we always went prepared for action. And the three of us--the three watch officers--stood watches and I was the junior one of the three. It just so happened—-I suppose the golfers would call it the rub of the green--but it just so happened that the German Fleet surrendered on my watch, and I had not only the duty but the privilege of writing the log of the surrender of the German Fleet. I think I have a copy. Would you like it?




Apendix A

Battleship Division Six
U.S. Atlantic Fleet

            November 21, 1918

Extract from Deck Log, U.S.S. New York

8:00 a.m. to meridian:

Steaming as before, following movements of the 5th B.S. Standard speed 12 kts., course 270. At 8:20 c.c. to 90. At 8:42 in obedience to signal from Commander-in-Chief Grant Fleet c.c. to 157 and proceeded to form Red Fleet as per operation order "ZZ." At 8:56 c.c. to 90. At 9:16 sighted H.M.S. Cardiff with kite balloon in tow two points on stbd., bow. At 9:18 went to battle stations. At 9:20 astern of H.M.S. Cardiff standing in a westerly direction were sighted 5 battle cruisers, 9 battleships, 7 cruisers, and 49 destroyers of the German High Seas Fleet, which surrendered for internment. At 9:43 in obedience to signal, squadron leaders turned through 180 degrees, steadied on a westerly course, and proceeded to conduct the surrendered enemy vessels to the Firth of Forth. At 11:20 c.c. to 245. Throughout the remainder of watch, speeds various keeping station astern of H.M.S. Agincourt.


J. L. McCrea

Lieutenant, U.S. Navy

[1] Admiral Hugh Rodman, USN, was Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet, 1919-1922.

[2] Rodman served on the General Board in 1916-27. The board, comprised of a number of senior flag officers, existed to set strategy and policy for the Navy. Among other things, it was concerned with establishing characteristics for new warships.

[3] Vice Admiral David Beatty, Royal Navy.


(Note: Due to edits, corrections, and/or amendments to the original transcription draft, there are some inconsistencies between the recording and the text.)



Conferences and Events

WEST 2019

Wed, 2019-02-13 - Fri, 2019-02-15

Sharpening the Competitive Edge: Are We Ready to Compete, Deter, and Win Globally? Wednesday, 13 February - Friday, 15 February...

2019 U.S. Naval Institute Member Event

View All

From the Press

23 January - Book Talk

Wed, 2019-01-23

9 February - Presentation

Sat, 2019-02-09

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 140 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership