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Oldendorf file photo [908]

Jesse Oldendorf

Given NameJesse
Born16 Feb 1887
Died27 Apr 1974
CountryUnited States


ww2dbaseJesse Bartlett Oldendorf graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1909 and then went on to serve on cruisers and destroyers. His first command was the destroyer Decatur between 1922 and 1927, then he was given the cruiser Houston. During the interwar years he also spent time at the Naval War College teaching navigation.

ww2dbaseDuring WW2, Oldendorf was promoted to the war time rank of rear admiral to lead forces in the Caribbeans against potential German U-boat raids. In 1943 he also spent time in the Atlantic guarding transports. In Jan 1944, he was transferred to command Cruiser Division 4 in the Pacific aboard the flagship Louisville. In this role he participated in the campaigns to gain footholds at the Marshalls, Palaus, Marianas, and Leyte. At Leyte on 24 Oct 1944 he made fame at the Battle of Surigao Strait by "crossing the T" of the oncoming Japanese surface fleet. In this very last surface engagement in WW2, his battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo boats of the Seventh Fleet Bombardment and Fire Support Group devastated the Japanese Southern Force. At the conclusion of the battle, battleships Fuso and Yamashiro were sunk and Admiral Shoji Nishimura was killed. In Dec 1944 he was promoted to the rank of vice admiral, in which position he led Battleship Squadron One to support the landings at Lingayen, Philippines and at Okinawa.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, Oldendorf commanded the 11th Naval District and the Western Sea Frontier, retiring in Sep 1948 at the rank of admiral.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Jan 2006

Jesse Oldendorf Timeline

16 Feb 1887 Jesse Oldendorf was born.
27 Apr 1974 Jesse Oldendorf passed away.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Tom Black says:
7 Jun 2006 04:32:24 AM

Oldendorfs fame rests on the destruction of the Japanese Southern Force in the Surigao Strait during the battle of Leyte Gulf, where he crossed the T of the Japanese. This positional advantage greatly magnified the pre-existing superiority he enjoyed in numbers and quality of ships, leading to the almost complete annihilation of the enemy fleet.

He is reported to have commented to the effect, If the enemy insists on putting his head into a trap, why should I give him an even break?

Of course, Oldendorf was under the command of Kinkaid, who directed him to stop the Japanese attack, so Oldendorf did not have the option to go elsewhere, unlike Halsey, who abandoned a very similar position at the San Bernardino Strait, saying he considered it childish to occupy a static defensive position at the mouth of the strait.

It is arguable that if he had adopted Oldendorfs attitude, Halsey with the cream of the US battleships could have achieved against Kurita, with the main Japanese battle fleet, a victory of similar proportions to Oldendorfs: but on a distinctly greater scale.

Another interesting comment is that of Spruance at the Marianas, when he said, If we are doing something so important that we are attracting the enemy to us, then we can afford to let him come and take care of him when he arrives.

Here Spruance, like Oldendorf, was putting protection of the landing forces as priority number one, and exploiting the fundamental truth that this strategic offensive was forcing the numerically inferior Japanese fleet to come to battle. This gave Spruances airmen the advantage of close-range fighting against Japanese planes at the limit of their range (like the RAF against the Germans in the Battle of Britain), as well as enabling him to use the full AA firepower of the assembled Fifth Fleet. These factors, added to the individual superiority of the US planes and pilots, led to the huge scale of the air victory he achieved.

In both actions, the calm, ruthless exploitation of positional advantage greatly multiplied the effects of numerical and individual superiority.

My question: if Spruance gained the greatest naval air victory in history with his first action at the Marianas, is it true to say that Oldendorf at the Surigao Strait gained the most decisive victory ever of battle line against battle line in the proportion of losses inflicted?
2. Richard Jones says:
7 Dec 2007 11:15:37 PM

I am told through family stories that I am somewhat related to Admiral Oldendorf through the Gage family. If anyone has a
connection I would be greatly happy to hear from you, Thanks RCJ

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More on Jesse Oldendorf
Event(s) Participated:
» Mariana Islands Campaign and the Great Turkey Shoot
» Philippines Campaign, Phase 1, the Leyte Campaign
» Okinawa Campaign

Ship(s) Served:
» Louisville

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Winston Churchill, on the RAF

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