U.S.S. Little Rock
Commanding Officer Biography

Frederic A. Chenault
25 Jan 61 - 07 Feb 62

Page last updated: 15 March, 2020

Chenault Photo


October 14, 1914 - August 30, 1996

Frederic Archibald Chenault was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 14, 1914, son of Archibald C. and Winnie Roach Chenault. He attended public schools in Jacksonville, and Marion Institute, Marion Alabama prior to his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, in 1932. Graduated and commissioned Ensign on June 4, 1936, he was subsequently promoted, attaining rank of Captain to date from August 1, 1954.

Upon graduation from the Naval Academy in June 1936, he was assigned to the USS CALIFORNIA, and had three years’ duty as a junior officer in the gunnery department of that battleship. He joined the USS LUZON on Asiatic Station in September 1939 for gunnery duties, and also served as Aide and Flag Lieutenant on the Staff of Commander, Yangtze Patrol.  From May 1941 until March 1942 after the United States entered World War II, he served on the Staff of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Southwest Pacific.

He is entitled to the Ribbon for, and a facsimile of, the Presidential Unit Citation awarded the USS HOUSTON, flagship of Admiral William A. Glassford, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Southwest Pacific, as follows:  “For outstanding performance against enemy Japanese forces in the Southwest Pacific, from December 7, 1941 to February 28, 1942.  At sea almost constantly, often damaged, but self-maintaining, the HOUSTON kept the sea. She maneuvered superbly and with deadly anti-aircraft fire repulsed the nine-plane Japanese bombing squadrons attacking the troop convoy under her escort. Later in the company of other Allied ships, she engaged a powerful enemy force, carried the brunt of the action with her two remaining turrets and aided in damaging and routing two enemy heavy cruisers from the line of battle. On February 28, the HOUSTON went down, gallantly fighting to the last against overwhelming odds. She leaves behind her an inspiring record of valiant and distinguished service.”

He returned to the United States for instruction during the period May until July 1942, as Submarine Chaser Training Center, Miami, Florida, after which he was a student at the Naval Postgraduate School, Annapolis, Maryland, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he received a degree of Master of Science in 1944.

In October 1944 he joined the USS GUAM, light cruiser, and served first as Assistant Gunnery Officer, later as Gunnery Officer, and from January to April 1946 as Executive Officer. In the GUAM he participated in the FIFTH and THIRD Fleet raids in support of the Okinawa Gunto operation, and the THIRD Fleet operations against Japan.

After his detachment from the USS GUAM in April 1946, he reported to Commander Task Force SIXTY EIGHT, Atlantic Fleet, to serve for six months in Operations on the Staff.  In November 1946 he assumed command of the USS WILLIAM R. RUSH (DD-714), remaining in the command of that destroyer until October 1948. He was next ordered to the Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department, Washington, D.C. where he served until May 1951 as Deputy Chief of the Guided Missiles Branch, Research Division.  From July 1951 until June 1953 he was Assistant Fleet Readiness Officer on the Staff of Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

In August 1953 he joined the USS NEW JERSEY (BB-62) as Executive Officer, remaining in that assignment, after the NEW JERSEY’S participation in operations in the Korean Theater, until September 1954.  Upon his return to the United States, he reported to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Washington, D.C., graduating from there in June 1955. He next served as Executive Officer of the Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake, California, and in March 1958 was ordered detached for duty as the Commanding Officer of the USS MATHEWS (AKA-96).

In August 1959 he was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department, where he served for five months as Assistant Director of the Special Projects Office. Effective January 1, 1960, the Bureau of Ordnance and the Bureau of Aeronautics were consolidated.  In the new Bureau of Naval Weapons he had duty as Deputy Director of the Special Projects Office. “For meritorious service from August 13, 1959 to July 20, 1960 as Deputy Director of the Special Projects Program....”  he was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal. The citation continues in part:

“As principal advisor to the Director on all policy, program, and administrative matters within the Special Projects Office, Captain Chenault carried out his responsibilities with excellent leadership and judgment. By giving guidance and direction to the program in consonance with the established policy, he made a major contribution toward the attainment of an operational Fleet Ballistic Missile System.”

In January 1961 he assumed command of the USS Little Rock CLG 4 and in February 1962 was detached to serve as Chief of Staff and Aide to Commander SIXTH Fleet.  In October 1963 he assumed command of the Naval Ordnance Test Facility, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico and in July 1964 was ordered to duty in the Office of the Chief on Naval Operations, Navy Department.

In addition to the Navy Commendation Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, Captain Chenault has the Army Distinguished Unit Emblem; the China Service Medal with star; American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three stars; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Europe and Asia Clasps; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Service Medal; United Nation Service Medal; Philippine Defense Ribbon; Philippine Liberation Ribbon and the Philippine Independence Ribbon.

Married to the former Miss Catherine Fyfe of Seneca Falls, New York, Captain Chenault has two sons, David Waller Chenault, II and John Fyfe Chenault.

Captain Chenault died August 30, 1996. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego County, California


Catherine "Katie" Chenault passed away on Wednesday, October 9, 2013. She was a resident of Woodinville, WA.

Association member Jerry Dupuis (LT 1961-1963) recounts the following about Captain Chenault and Katie: "Capt. Chenault took command of LITTLE ROCK in February '61, and we left for the Med. shortly thereafter.  He was a spectacular commanding officer, and the crew loved him, and Katie.  Katie was aboard often in all of the ports we visited.  Katie was a "pistol".  Interestingly, Katie was introduced to Capt. Chenault by Capt. Phillips, Little Rock's first Commanding Officer.  They were classmates at the Naval Academy.

(Ed note: Captain Phillips and Captain Chenault graduated together from the U.S. Naval Academy on
June 4, 1936.)

Jerry recounts further: "Katie herself told me that Capt. Phillips introduced Capt. Chenault to her (blind date) when they were both Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. I think they were in the same class...."

Capt's. Chenault & Payne

Captains Chenault and Payne

Photo from collection of Capt. Chenault
undated, but probably 07 Feb 62

Crew Remembrances & Anecdotes

From: Frank Berglas
YN3 1960 - 1961
Received: 17 Apr 07

“My GQ station was as phone talker for Captain Chenault.  That job offered many memorable moments.  I always was impressed by the Skipper's ability, tolerance and aplomb in any situation.  And his general good humor.

One specific incident I recall now is during an emergency steering drill.  It was a very warm day - probably somewhere in the Eastern Med - and the guys in the after steering room were on the line with me as the Captain (or the OOD) gave course changes during the "loss of steering power."  Remember that this meant the rudder had to be turned manually.

As I relayed the course changes (rudder corrections) down to the after steering position, I'd get all sorts of curses, invective, etc., coming back on the line.  "It's *&*@*ing HOT down here!"  "Hey, tell the old man to give us a break!"  "Why so many &%$%*ing turns!" - and so on.

I knew Captain Chenault could hear this stuff blasting out of my earphones, even though I tried to keep them tight to my head.  He sort of gave me a little half-smile, turned away to gaze out one of the bridge portholes, and, in a couple of minutes, called off the drill.”

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From: Larry Wallace
SKSN 1959-1962
Received: 17 Apr 07

“My memories of Captain Chenault, would be of him in the Officers’ barber shop getting a flat top hair cut. He would always talk about fishing, and his family. His Mother lived in Jacksonville Florida. Some may not know that he had a son in the Navy at that time also. Later to retire as a Captain.”

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