U.S.S. Little Rock CL 92
Commanding Officer Biography

Page last updated: 15 March, 2020
 Rear Admiral William Dudley Wright Jr.

04 Jan 48 - 24 May 48

Captain William D. Wright

Captain William D. Wright USN
(See Note below)


Rear Admiral Wright, born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on October 19,1900, attended the Knoxville Public Schools, the Snyder School and Columbia Preparatory School in Washington, DC. before entering the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, from the Second District of Tennessee in July, 1918. Graduated on June 8, 1923, and commissioned Ensign to rank from June 8, 1923, he progressed in grade until his promotion to Captain on June 10, 1943. On June 1,1948 he was transferred to the Retired List of the U.S. Navy, in the rank of Rear Admiral.

After graduation from the Naval Academy in 1923, Rear Admiral Wright joined the USS S.P. LEE and was onboard when she was wrecked with six others destroyers at Honda Point, California on September 8, 1923.  Later that month he was ordered to duty in connection with fitting out the USS MEYER and onboard when commissioned on September 27, 1923. He was Engineering Officer of this destroyer when she was awarded the Navy “E” for engineering excellence, and he later received a Letter of Commendation from the Secretary of the Navy for his part in the MEYER's splendid record.

Detached from that assignment in October 1926, Rear Admiral Wright joined the Asiatic Fleet, and from December, 1926 until May 1930 he had consecutive duty in the USS RIZAL, USS ELCANO, USS LUZON, and USS TRENTON. During this period he served for a year and a half on the Yangtze Patrol.

Returning to the United States in the USS TRENTON, Rear Admiral Wright was detached from that cruiser in May 1930 and for the following two years was an instructor in the Department of Engineering and Aeronautics at the Naval Academy, Annapolis Maryland. In June 1932 he reported to the USS ZANE, and served first as engineering officer, and later as executive officer, until June 1935.

Rear Admiral Wright completed the junior course at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, in May 1936, after which he was ordered to duty at the Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  In June 1937 he reported to the USS NEW MEXICO and from May 1938 until June 1939 served as her assistant fire control. officer. After a year's duty as gunnery officer of the USS SARATOGA, Rear Admiral Wright was transferred, in August 1940 to duty as a professor of Naval Science and Tactics in connection with the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Unit at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, where he remained until January 1942, immediately after the United States declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy in December, 1941.

In February 1942 Rear Admiral Wright reported for duty in the USS WICHITA then at the New York Navy Yard for overhaul. After her postrepair trials, he sailed in the WICHITA for Scapa Flow to join other American vessels. She then became flagship of Vice Admiral (then Rear Admiral) Robert Carlisle Giffen, USN, Commander of a Task Force operating with British Naval Forces. On June 5, Admiral Harold R. Stark, USN, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, was received aboard, and two days later King George VI of England paid the cruiser an inspection visit. During the spring and early summer of 1942, the WICHITA served in the Cruiser Covering Group for Murmansk convoys, engaging German aircraft on at least two actions.

Returning to the United States in the fall of 1942, Rear Admiral Wright reported for duty with a Landing Craft Group, Amphibious Forces, Atlantic Fleet, Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia. In January 1943 he assumed command of Landing Craft Flotilla One.

For his outstanding services during the invasion of Sicily
Rear Admiral Wright was awarded the Legion of Merit. And for his action in France was awarded the Silver Star.

Rear Admiral Wright was also awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French Government for services during the D-day invasion.

Returning to the United States in the summer of 1944, Rear Admiral Wright reported to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department, Washington, D. C. and on September 4, assumed duties in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. A year later he was appointed United States Naval Attaché and Naval Attaché for Air, American Legation, Stockholm, Sweden, reporting for duty on October 31, 1945. He served in that assignment until August 1947 when he was ordered to the Third Naval District, New York, New York.  On October 28, 1947 he was ordered to assume command of the USS LITTLE ROCK and in May 1948 was ordered detached and to return to the United States for temporary duty at the Naval Base, Newport, Rhode Island. On June 1, 1948 he was transferred to the Retired List.

After a distinguished naval career, RADM Wright went on to a second career with the State Department. (See note below.)

In addition to the Silver Star Medal and the Legion of Merit, Rear Admiral Wright has the Victory Medal; the Yangtze Service Medal (USS RIZAL); the American Defense Service Medal; the European-African- Middle Eastern Area Campaign Medal; the American Area Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. He also has the Croix de Guerre of France.

He was married to Mrs. Helen Rolls Rieger of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 2, 1930. They have three children: Barbara Rieger Wright, William Polk Wright and Douglas Scott Wright. The Wrights reside in Annapolis, Maryland.

Rear Admiral Wright is a member of the Mayflower Association and the Sons of Colonial Wars.

- - - - - - - - - -

RADM Wright died 17 September 1970. He is buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery, Annapolis, MD.
(This note was received along with the above photo from Douglas S. Wright, Captain, USN (Ret).

"Attached is the only picture I have of my father as a Captain. This picture was taken in Stockholm, where he was the Naval Attaché.

Of note, he enjoyed the diplomatic service so much that he applied for a transfer to the State Department. His transfer was approved shortly after taking command of Little Rock, thus his tour was cut shot."

Additional Information
Wright USNA   

From U.S. Naval Academy
1923 Yearbook

Class of 1923

"Will D" "Ruby" "D"
Knoxville, Tennessee

AFFECTEDLY quiet and unresponsive around the women, he once dropped his guard in public and with the added stimulus of several "swifties" was seen to hold a matron's palm quite effusively in the presence of several stripes. He has an implicit trust in human nature and has been the ripe one on several occasions. To wit, the clear, sparkling essence of scuttle butt, bearing the overseas label. His walk is the carefully cultivated imitation of a tired bartender at the close of an August pay day, and he wears that pained expression of the little girl who dropped her violets.

He has never found it necessary to drag, his savoir faire and nonchalant persiflage hold the susceptible. The following little tragedy rarely fails to occur whenever Will attends a hop:
The unsuspecting: "Want a dance Will?" "Mebbe."
"Miss Currier, Midshipman Wright."
"Oh I've been told so many pleasant things about you Mr. Wright."
"Indeed! I hope they are half as nice as the remarks I've heard of you, Miss Currier."
Several weeks later: same girl to her drag —
"Why haven't I a dance with that nice Mr. Wright."

Legion of Merit Medal

Legion of Merit

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Legion of Merit to Commander William Dudley Wright, Jr. (NSN: 0-58295), United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Commander of a Landing Craft Flotilla during the amphibious invasion of the Island of Sicily in July 1943. Commander Wright by complete, thorough, and effective indoctrination developed an inexperienced group of officers and men into a well-trained fighting force. By his professional skill and able leadership under fire from 10 to 12 July 1943, the attack group under his command landed the embarked assaulting forces efficiently and expeditiously thereby greatly contributing to the success of the invasion. The extraordinary ability, and the outstanding devotion to duty, reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander Naval Forces North West African Waters: Serial 2414 (October 16, 1943)
Action Date: July 10 - 12, 1943
Service: Navy
Rank: Commander

Silver Star Medal

Silver Star

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Captain William Dudley Wright, Jr. (NSN: 0-58295), United States Navy, for conspicuous bravery, extraordinary ability and constant devotion to duty in the performance of outstanding services as Deputy Commander of an Assault Group in the attack on the coast of France, 6 June 1944. Captain Wright took station close to the beach under heavy enemy fire at an early hour of the day of the assault. He remained under fire during the most bitter period of the fighting, when with great coolness he made decisions on the spot, reorganized, grouped and dispatched craft to the beach, and made the weight of his judgment felt in a manner which contributed materially to the success of the attack. Captain Wright relieved the Task Group Commander according to plan when the latter withdrew the Transports from the assault area. Immediately afterward he was placed in general charge afloat of Navy responsibilities for unloading, and directly supervised Ferry Craft. The rapid clearing of the backlog of ships was due in large measure to the organizational ability, experience and tireless effort which he brought to this task. During the exceptional storm of 19 to 23 June 1944, Captain Wright was often called on to deal with a host of problems and difficulties requiring sound judgment and constant attention lest the military and naval situation be impaired. The courage under fire, initiative, skill, judgment and untiring efforts of Captain Wright contributed in an outstanding manner to the success of the operation and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander Naval Forces Europe: Serial 8223 (September 18, 1944)
Action Date: June 6, 1944
Service: Navy
Rank: Captain

Croix de Guerre

Croix de Guerre

The Croix de Guerre (" Cross of War") is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts. The Croix de guerre was also commonly bestowed on foreign military forces allied to France.

The Croix de Guerre may either be awarded as an individual or unit award to those soldiers who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with the enemy. The medal is awarded to those who have been "mentioned in despatches", meaning a heroic deed or deeds were performed meriting a citation from an individual's headquarters unit.

OCT 19 1900 - SEPT 17 1970

USNA Cemetery Documentation Project
Name: Wright, William D
Section/ Lot Number:
02- 0262 A
Category: USN/ Rear Admiral

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