WWII Combat

The Doolittle Raid – Key U.S. Navy Participants

(1894 - 1964) Vice Admiral

RAID CONTRIBUTION: Initial Concept of Launching Army Bombers from an Aircraft Carrier

From December 1940 to August 1942, Low was the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer on the staff of CNO Admiral Ernest King. In this capacity, he flew to Norfolk, VA on January 10, 1942 to review the status of the Navy’s newest carrier, USS Hornet CV-8.

The Navy airfield at Norfolk had the outline of an aircraft carrier painted on it to help naval aviators remain proficient in their launch techniques. During this trip, he observed some B-25s making passes at that outline in a mock attack and realized that twin-engine aircraft would fit on the deck of a carrier. He wondered if the B-25s would be able to take off of a carrier. Upon his return to Washington, he went aboard Admiral King’s headquarters, the USS Dauntless, and mentioned his idea to the Admiral who thought it had merit. King asked Low to bring it to the attention of his Air Operations Officer, Captain Donald Duncan to review.

Early Life and Career

Francis Low was born in 1894 in Albany, NY. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1915. During WWI he served on submarines, later he worked doing research on submarines and torpedoes. In 1923, Low served on the staff of RADM M. M. Murray, Commander of Submarine Division THIRTEEN. Low attended the Naval War College in 1926. Later, from 1932 to 1935, he served on the staff of Submarine Squadron FIVE and afterward assumed command of the USS Paul Jones (DD-230). His responsibilities grew he became the Commander of Submarine Division THIRTEEN in 1937.

Subsequent Career and Experiences

In September of 1942, he assumed command of the heavy cruiser USS Wichita (CA-45) and participated in Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa. After transiting to the Pacific Ocean in early 1943, Wichita was involved in the battle of Rennell Island in the Solomon Islands.

In March 1943, he was recalled to Admiral King’s staff and became the key architect and organizer of the new TENTH Fleet. While Admiral King was the nominal commander of this fleet, Rear Admiral Low ran the daily anti-submarine operations during the ongoing struggle battle with German U-boats.

A gifted leader, he coordinated the multi-service activities in this massive effort to defeat the U-boat fleet during WWII. He encouraged extensive research and development cooperation within both the military and scientific communities. With the enemy submarine threat in the Atlantic having been eliminated by 1945, Low returned to the Pacific theater, commanding Cruiser Division 16 during the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Later that year, he became Commander of Destroyers for the Pacific Fleet.

In 1947, he was Commander of Services for the Pacific and became the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Logistics in 1950. Later, he was designated the Commander of the Western Sea frontier in 1953.

As Rear Admiral, he was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for managing the aggressive campaign against enemy submarines in the Atlantic Ocean during the period of March 1943 thru January 1945.

As Vice Admiral, he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” for Commanding the Cruiser Support Unit operating with a fast carrier task force during the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa from March thru June of 1945.

Copyright ©1999-2008 USS Hornet Museum - The Aircraft Carrier Hornet Foundation is a 501c3 Non-Profit Corporation - Contributions are tax-deductible.