U.S.S. Little Rock
Commanding Officer Biography

Captain John J. Mitchell

11 Apr 67
 - 24 Apr 68

Page last updated: 29 January, 2021

Mitchell Photo


John Jenks Mitchell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 22, 1920, son of Robert A. and Marion (Jenks) Mitchell. He attended Linden School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Florida Military Academy at St. Petersburg prior to entering the U. S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on appointment from the State of Florida in 1938. Graduated with the Class of 1942 on December 19, 1941 {accelerated course due to the National Emergency), he was commissioned Ensign and subsequently advanced in rank to that of Captain, to date from January 1,1962.

Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1941 he reported on board the USS WASP (CV-7) . While attached to that aircraft carrier, he participated in the defense of Malta; operations in the Mediterranean, and in the attack and support of Guadalcanal. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received at the time the WASP was severely damaged by an enemy submarine torpedo near Espiritu Santo on September 15, 1942. Burning heavily with a twenty degree list, the WASP was sunk by United States forces. He was hospitalized for a year following the sinking of the WASP.

Completing instruction in advanced fire control, he was assigned in December 1943 to the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia where he had duty in connection with the commissioning of USS MOALE (DD-693). Following the commissioning of the MOALE, on February 28, 1944 he served as Assistant Gunnery Officer and later Gunnery Officer. That destroyer participated in the :Battle for Leyte, the Mindoro and Lingayen landings, and the Battle for Iwo Jima. During the Leyte operation, the MOALE, with two other destroyers, attacked a Superior Japanese force engaged in a night time landing of troop reinforcements at Ormoc Bay. A Japanese transport and destroyer were sunk and hundreds of troops were killed during the action.

Detached from the MOALE in April 1945 he was attached to the Pacific Fleet Schools, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, as Gunnery Instructor. In February 1946 he reported for fitting out duty in the USS VALLEY FORGE (CV-45), building at the Naval Shipyard Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He joined that aircraft carrier upon her commissioning, November 3,.1946,.and subsequently made a twenty month round-the-world cruise. From November 1948 to June 1950 he was Assistant Public Information Officer in the Sixth Naval District Headquarters, Charleston, South Carolina, after which he attended the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. Completing the Command and Staff Course in June 1951, he was ordered to Japan where he served as Surface and Undersea Warfare Plans Officer on the Staff of Commander Naval Forces, Far East. In that capacity, he participated in much of the Naval planning for the Korean conflict. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement in the Western Pacific-Far Eastern Area during the period July 15, 1951 to January 5, 1954.

He was transferred to the Temporary Disability Retired List on February 1, 1954. Found physically fit to return to active naval service, he reported in February 1955 as Operations Officer of the USS SALEM (CA-139) . The SALEM was flagship of Commander SIXTH Fleet in the Mediterranean during a large part of his two and one half year tour on board. Detached from the SALEM in June 1951 he next had duty with the Advanced Study Group in the Office of the Joint Chief's of Staff, Washington, DC. In July 1959 he assumed command of the USS MILLER (DD-535) and in February 1961 was assigned to the Fleet Operations Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department. In September of the same year he transferred to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington, DC. In July 1962 he returned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, where he headed the Continental United States and Canadian Defense plans Section of the strategic Plans Division ( OP-6O).

He became Commander Destroyer Division THREE HUNDRED SIXTY TWO in November 1964, and in August 1965 reported as Chief of Staff and Aide to Commander Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla TEN, which operated in the Atlantic and Mediterranean areas. On April 11, 1967 he assumed command of the USS Little Rock (CLG 4 ) and in March 1968 was ordered detached for duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department.

In addition to the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart Medal, Captain Mitchell has the American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; European.African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one combat star; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with silver star (five operations); World War II Victory Medal; Navy Expeditionary Medal; National Defense Service Medal with bronze star; Korean Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one star; and the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation Badge.

Captain Mitchell is married to Danielle Louise Mitchell and resides in Vienna, Virginia.

From: Navy Office of Information Internal Relations Division (OI-43O) 23 April 1968 (with additions)

Additional Information
Mitchell USNA   

From U.S. Naval Academy
1942 Yearbook

Class of 1942

Mitch, Jig Jig

His mind is as broad as his smile; his heart is big — characteristics big enough and broad enough to carry him over any deck on the Seven Seas. Athletics had to be surveyed plebe year, but that disappointment curbed none ot his enthusiasm. Last recollection ... a voyage up the Nile . . . crocodiles with live rows of teeth. Bon voyage, Mitch, may we ever be shipmates.

Wrestling 4, 42: Reception Committee 2, 1  GPO

The following anecdotal info on John J. Mitchell is from the book ”Battle for the Solomons” by Ira Wolfer

A substantial ingredient of heroism is the ability to keep thinking in the face of disaster and to conquer the instinct of self-preservation and never to let go of anything until the experts command otherwise. A Wasp survivor story that best illustrates this feature of the United States Navy is told by Ensign John Jenks Mitchell, twenty-two-year-old Annapolis graduate from Washington, DC. As his shipmates put it, Mitchell established a new world’s record for an involuntary high jump by getting himself blown thirty feet high and sixty feet away. The record for the last war was believed to have been thirty feet high and few feet away.

Ensign Mitchell is now convalescing very nicely here from a broken leg. His major distress seems to be that the broken leg temporarily is preventing him from passing the physical examination necessary before receiving a promotion to lieutenant (jg) which he has been given.

(Ref: Google books)

The following is from "The Ship that Held the Line: The U.S.S. Hornet and the First Year of the Pacific War"  By Lisle A. Rose
Naval Institute Press 1995

"On the afternoon of September 14 (15, 1942), the Wasp - in company with the Hornet, the battleship North Carolina, and more than a dozen screening ships- was proceeding at 16 knots on the familiar northwesterly course. At 2:15 p.m. she turned into the wind to launch planes, then at 2:42 turned back toward her base course of 280 degrees. Before she had completed the turn, her lookouts sang out and pointed to three incoming torpedo tracks close off the starboard bow. The fish were on target and nearly home; the Wasp had no chance of evading any of the three.

The first struck home just forward of the island. The powerful blast lifted the entire ship and hurled her forward, flinging two F4F fighters into the sea and throwing hundreds of her crew from their feet. Ensign John Jenks Mitchell, a twenty-twoyear-old Naval Academy graduate, was thrown 30 feet into the air and landed 60 feet away. He recalled the impact of the torpedo as "a loud, unruly noise - something like a railroad train going up a flight of stairs - and the next thing I knew it was ten days later and I wanted a cigarette." (From his hospital bed in Noumea, two weeks after his injury, Mitchell joked to a reporter: "I am thinking about putting in my chit to qualify for landings on the flight deck.")"

Crew Remembrances & Anecdotes

Just thought I would let you know that I spoke with Captain Mitchell this past Friday, 22 Aug 2008.  The Captain and his family are doing well and celebrated his 88th Birthday.

I was the Captain's Orderly / Driver during his tour as CO of the Little Rock.

Neil D. Fritz
Marine Detachment
USS Little Rock

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