Oldendorf, Jesse Bartlett (1887-1974)

Photograph of Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf
Wikipedia Commons

"Oley" Oldendorf was born in Riverside, California, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1909. He served in cruisers and destroyers and as a flag secretary before becoming commanding officer of the destroyer Decatur in 1922. After teaching navigation at the Academy, he commanded the heavy cruiser Houston, but was assigned to the staff of the Naval War College in September 1941, thereby just avoiding being caught in the debacle in the Far East following the outbreak of war.

In January 1942 Oldendorf was promoted to rear admiral and given command of convoy escort forces in the Aruba sector of the Caribbean, one of the most important tanker lanes. He continued to command various escort forces until January 1944, when he was given command of Cruiser Division 4 in the Pacific. His division participated in amphibious landings in the Marshalls, the Marianas, and at Peleliu, and participated in the raid on Truk. He was in tactical command at the Battle of Surigao Strait during the Leyte campaign, where he fought an almost flawless set piece action in which a Japanese squadron was virtually annihilated at small cost to the Americans.

My theory was that of the old-time gambler: Never give a sucker a chance. If my opponent is foolish enough to come at me with an inferior force, I'm certainly not going to give him an even break.

It was the last battleship vs. battleship action in history.

Oldendorf became a vice admiral in December 1944 and commanded Battleship Squadron 1, consisting of all the older battleships in the Navy. He was injured at Lingayen Gulf when his barge hit a mooring buoy and did return to active duty until 1 July 1945, when he replaced Lee as senior battleship commander in the Pacific. Six weeks later Oldendorf was wounded again when Pennsylvania  was attacked at Buckner Bay, Okinawa by a single aircraft that put a torpedo into her. Pennsylvania thus became the last major ship to be damaged in action during the war. Oldendorf retired in 1949 as a full admiral.

Oldendorf was a good officer, capable of paying attention to detail without losing sight of the long term goal.

Service record


Born in Riverside, California

Graduates from Naval Academy, standing 141st in a class of 174.

Commander, Decatur

BB New York
Executive officer, BB West Virginia
Commander, CA Houston

Staff, Naval War College
Rear admiral     
Commander, Aruba-Curacao Area

Commander, Cruiser Division 4
Vice admiral     
Commander, Battleship Squadron 1

Injured in boat accident at Ulithi

Wounded in kamikaze attack

Commander, 11 Naval District

Commander, Western Sea Frontier

Dies at Portsmouth, Virginia


Boatner (1996)


Dupuy et al. (1992)
Morison (1958, 1959)
Pettibone (2006)
Tuohy (2007)

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