Admiral Jackson D. Arnold
US Navy (Retired)
3 November 1912 – 8 December 2007
Admiral Arnold was born 3 November 1912 in Gainesville, Florida, the first of five children, to US Army Major AC and Irene Arnold. A far ranging adventurer, AC Arnold had fought in the Boar War on the side of the Boars, joined the Seventh Cavalry as a trooper, been a river boat gambler, fought with Pershing on the Mexico Punitive Expedition, been awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for actions with the 1/326 Infantry at Chateau Thierry during World War I, gone to law school, been assigned to several positions in the peacetime Army before rejoining the Seventh at Fort Lewis, where he passed away in 1932.
Jack grew up in Army posts around the United States, he was proud of “taking the chicken” from Douglas McArthur in Washington, DC. As the second Arnold to take McArthur’s chicken; AC had taken an entire chicken dinner from McArthur’s bunker during World War I, a foreshadowing of the Dugout Doug moniker.
Jack joined the Navy via the Naval Academy from Fort Lewis Washington, where his father was the Seventh Cavalry Judge Advocate General, responsible for federal law west of the Mississippi.
At 21, he graduated from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland with the Class of 1934.
As with all Naval Academy graduates of the time, he served in what is now the Surface Warfare Community for his first tour. After two years aboard USS ARIZONA as her Number 4 Turret Officer, he was selected for training as a US Naval Aviator, graduating from Pensacola in 1937 and being designated Naval Aviator 5551; his orders were signed by Captain William H. Halsey.
His first assignment was with Torpedo SIX aboard USS ENTERPRISE on her maiden voyage flying TBD Devastators on a goodwill tour of South America. During a port call in Buenos Aires, LTjg Arnold won a Argentine medal for saving the life of the President during an assassination attempt. He attended the state dinner that night in his dress whites, complete with blood spatters at the President’s request.
Subsequently he was assigned as the Senior Aviator for Cruiser Scouting Squadron EIGHT aboard USS SAVANNAH flying SOC-1 Floatplanes. His most memorable aviation experience came here when he performed night test flights to see if a floatplane could be operated in blackout conditions at sea. They found it could, but probably not with the same pilot for more than one flight.
His next assignment was to Ford Island, Pearl Harbor as the Engineering Test Pilot, where he met his wife to be Muriel McChesney.
On 7 December 1941, when the Japanese struck, then LT Arnold made his way to Pearl Harbor under fire. After quite a bit of trouble convincing the crew of a whaleboat to take him to Ford Island, his normal duty station, he finally got to the island. There, during the middle of the first wave’s attack, he fired up a Wildcat, the only flyable one on the island. A ground crew member crawled up on the wing telling him, “You can’t take this airplane!” “The heck I can’t, get off my wing!” he replied. “But, it doesn’t have any ammunition!” came the response. He jumped out near the base of the tower and picked up a BAR from a Marine who did not need it anymore. A long time shooter, pistol and bird, a member of the All Navy Pistol Team, he was a very good shot. Anyway, he shot down a torpedo plane coming in to strafe the new control tower that he was standing at the base of. The plane crashed on the field. Between the two waves, Jack and a couple of sailors went over to look at the wreckage. They found it was the first wave’s Torpedo Squadron Commander, they drank his sake and got on with the war.
That kill from the ground was later to make Jack the only known pilot who shot down five aircraft (one with a BAR, two with an Avenger, two with a Hellcat) who is not Ace!
During the lull between attacks he commandeered a motor whaleboat and began picking up survivors from his first ship, USS ARIZONA and others in the harbor. The first person his boat pulled from the water was the Petty Officer in Charge of the Number Four turret on ARIZONA. Jack did not recognize him as he looked like a seal, black with oil head to toe.
After 66 years ARIZONA still leaks bunker oil into the harbor, a few drops at a time. ARIZONA and UTAH were the only two ships not raised after the attack.
Before leaving Pearl Harbor, he married Muriel McChesney on 16 January 1942.
Then LCDR Arnold was assigned as Commander Torpedo TWO, whose patch he designed, flying the new TBF Avenger, with the newly forming Carrier Air Group TWO. The Group was assigned to new USS HORNET for her first war cruise. After a short time, then CDR Arnold was designated Commander Air Group TWO flying the F6-F Hellcat.
The Air Group Commander’s job brought a new challenge. The job was offered at 2200, the night before the invastion of Iwo Jima, where HORNET was to play a pivotal role in close air support. The first takeoff was at 0430, to allow the aircraft to be over the beach 30 minutes prior to sunrise. Although an experienced pilot, with flight time in an extremely wide variety of aircraft, CDR Arnold had never flown a Hellcat. After planning the attack, he went down to the flight deck, boarded the CAG aircraft with its 99 on the nose. With a flashlight under a blanket, he familiarized himself with the aircraft, then he went to his room for a brief rest. The self checkout must have worked. He made his first Hellcat takeoff at night, into combat. On that very first flight he got the only two kills he was to get in the Hellcat.
HORNET and her Air Group supported operations in Palau, Guam, Iwo Jima, Saipan and Tinian and the First Battle of the Philippine Sea. During the cruise, he flew 165 combat hours, made 4 Japanese aircraft kills, and was awarded two Navy Crosses, a Silver Star, Distinguished Service Medal, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and seven Air Medals. Air Group Two finished the war after two cruises as the Pacific’s highest scoring Air Group in terms of tonnage sunk and the second in terms of Air to Air kills.
After his tour as CAG, he was assigned to Washington, DC for staff tours, returning to sea as Air Officer aboard USS BOXER. He was in the first group to check out in the McDonnell Phantom (later the Phantom I), the first carrier borne jet fighter.
After that tour, he was offered command of BOXER. With the absolute independence he was known for, he said, “No thank you. I have been at sea since 1934, I’d like a stateside tour, then I’ll be happy to take her to sea.” Turning down a command is never good, turning down command of a carrier, particularly BOXER, the newest of the best is the end of a career.
Never mind, on to a new career.
Jack was designated an Aeronautical Engineering Duty Officer and assigned to NAS North Island as the Overhaul and Repair Officer. There he met the man who was to be his best friend and neighbor, Johnny Olson. CDR Olson had joined the Navy as a Ship’s Carpenter in 1903 and was now the Commander of the Aircraft Repair and Overhaul Unit. After another staff tour, he attended Harvard University, where he got his Masters in Business Administration.
Subsequent assignments in the various Bureaus, Aeronautical, Weapons and Materiel, culminating in an assignment as the Force Fleet Materiels Officer, gave VADM Arnold a well-rounded background which made him the logical choice to be the final Chief of the Bureau of Naval Materiel and the first Commander of the newly formed Naval Material Command. The fact that he kept current as a Naval Aviator made him a standout choice for promotion. With the new assignment came the promotion to full admiral, the first Aeronautical Engineering Duty Officer to achieve the four stars of a full admiral.
Replaced at the Naval Materiel Command by long time friend, shipmate and son of ARIZONA’s final Flag Officer, Isaac Kidd, Jr, ADM Arnold retired in 1971.
Admiral Arnold stayed active in aviation, joining the Cubic Corporation Board of Directors, the Golden Eagles, the San Diego Aerospace Museum and various other naval aviation oriented groups.
After moving around the country and being at sea for years, Admiral Arnold retired to Rancho Santa Fe, California, where he built a home of his own design for himself and his wife Muriel. They were both active in the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club and other activities in the community.
Ever the artist, he continued drawing and working in his garden. Occasionally, he would put an entry into the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club show, most always gaining a ribbon or two.
Towards the end of his life, Jack spent most of his time in his living room watching television. Perhaps due to his past life, he loved to watch cavalry, westerns and action movies. Chuck Norris will be pleased to know Walker Texas Ranger was at the top of the old warrior’s list.
Although the Arnolds had no children of their own, they were very close to their families, the McChesneys and the Arnolds. They spent a lot of time with their nieces and nephews over the years. Somehow the assignments always kept them near their family and they got an opportunity to be with them. Leading by example, he passed on his values, God, Honor, Country, politeness, preparing for all of life throughout the family.
Through the years, he has been a shining example of how one ought to treat others. Most people who did not know him react in amazement to find out he was a decorated combat leader and an Admiral. He exuded niceness, yet if pressed on a subject he felt strongly about, would react with the fire expected of the CAG. A true leader, he lead from the front of the group and people wanted to follow him. This was true in the Navy and true in retirement.
Preceded by his wife Muriel, his brothers Patrick, Charles and sister Mary, he is survived by sister Dorothy and twenty-seven nieces and nephews, the Admiral will be missed by his family and those shipmates who remain behind.