Commander Ray Cannon Needham
Admiral Needham earned the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Gold Star and Combat "V"; the Order of Star of Ethiopia, with Plaque, presented by Emperor Haile Selassie on 7 February 1953; the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; China Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal, with Bronze Star; and the Philippine Liberation Medal.
Ray Cannon Needham was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on September 11, 1908, the son of Ray B. and Lillian (Cannon) Needham. He was a great-great grandson of Brigham Young. He attended public schools in Salt Lake City, and after a year at the University of Utah was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, entering as a Midshipman from his native state on June 29, 1927. He was graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Science and commissioned Ensign on June 4, 1931.
Through subsequent promotions he advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral to date from July 1, 1958, and Vice Admiral, to date from August 1, 1963.
Needham came to the U.S.S. Tarawa (CV-40) in August 1948 as a Commander. He served as Executive Officer to Captain Howard L. Young for eight months before taking command of the Tarawa in April 1949 to oversee the ship's first decommissioning which took place 30 June 1949.
After graduation from the Naval Academy in 1931, he had Elimination Flight Training at the Naval Air Station, San Diego, California, and in August of that year joined the U.S.S. Saratoga as a bomber pilot until May 1933 when he was transferred to the U.S.S. Alden, a unit of Destroyers, Pacific Fleet, in which he served briefly as Assistant Gunnery Officer.
In August 1933, he reported to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, as a flight student, and following his designation as Naval Aviator in September 1934, was assigned to the U.S.S. Langley. He served in the Air and Navigation Departments of that aircraft carrier until March 1935.
He next had two years' duty as pilot in Dive Bombing Squadron Two, based on the U.S.S. Saratoga, and in May 1937 returned to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, for a tour of duty as an instructor. He rejoined the Saratoga in the Pacific in 1939 and served as her Landing Signal Officer until August 1941.
During the next two months he was attached to Aircraft, Battle Force, in the Pacific, awaiting assignment as Executive Officer of the Advanced Carrier Training Group, in which capacity he served during the first year of United States' participation in World War II.
In December 1942 he was sent to the Commissioning of the Naval Air Station, Daytona Beach, Florida, for duty as Training Officer. Detached two months later, he assisted in the fitting out of the U.S.S. Baffins, an aircraft carrier escort (later transferred to Great Britain) and served briefly as Air Officer after her commissioning in June 1943.
He had similar duty for two months aboard the U.S.S. Mission Bay, another escort carrier, from her commissioning in September of that year, and in November 1943 reported to the U.S.S. Solomons for precommissioning duty, and subsequently as Executive Officer, and remained on board for 15 months in the anti-submarine war in the Atlantic.
Detached from the Solomons in January 1945, he joined the Staff of Commander Carrier Division Four (a Task Force of Fast Carrier Task Forces in the Pacific) and served as Operations Officer until after the cessation of hostilities.
He was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and cited in part as follows:
"For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services as Operations
Officer on the Staff of a Fast Carrier Task Group Commander during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Japanese Homeland from April 5 to 17 and July 1, to August 15, 1945....(he) planned and coordinated the Task Group's aircraft to maximum advantage. His outstanding ability and devotion to duty under fire were vital factors in the infliction of extensive damage upon the enemy..."
Returning to the United States in October 1945, he reported for duty as Executive Officer at the Naval Air Station, San Diego, California. In August 1948 he joined the U.S.S. Tarawa (CV-40), and after serving as the Executive Officer for eight months commanded that carrier until June 1949 when the ship was decommissioned.
He was then ordered to the Navy Department, Washington, D.C., where he served as Head of Distribution Detail Section, Aviation Personnel Division, in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Completing that tour of duty in August 1951, he was a student at the National War College, until June 1952.
From July 1952 until July 1953 he was Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Duxbury Bay (AVP-38), Flagship for Commander Middle East Force in the Persian Gulf. He then returned to the National War Collage, to serve on the Staff as a Member of National Strategy Division. When detached in June 1954, he became Commander Naval Air Bases, First Naval District, and Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, Rhode Island. On February 6, 1956 he was ordered to sea as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Wasp, and under orders of March 19, 1957, he later served as Chief of Staff and Aide to Commander Carrier Division Two.
On December 27, 1957 he reported as Deputy to the Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Naval Personnel for Personnel Control, Navy Department. On February 18, 1958, he assumed the duties of Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for Personnel Control.
Ordered in December 1959 to duty as Commander Carrier Division Two, he assumed that command on March 4, 1960. He was Chief of Staff and Aide to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, from April 1961 until August 1963, then became Deputy Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and Chief of Staff and Aide to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet. He also served as Chief of Staff and Aide to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic, and to the Commander in Chief, Western Atlantic.
"For exceptionally meritorious conduct...during the period August 1963 to August 1965..." he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the Second Legion of Merit. The citation further states in part:
"During this period of crises and unprecedented weapon system advances (he) displayed keen foresight and astute military judgment in the deployment of Atlantic Fleet forces to assure the readiness of the Fleet to support national policy, personally supervising the smooth and orderly transition of Command and Area Coordination imposed by General Orders 5 and 19 without loss of effective Fleet support at any time.
"In April 1965, with both the military and political situation deteriorating rapidly in the Dominican Republic, he skillfully directed the expeditious and strategic positioning of Naval and Marine Corps units, alerted Army and Air Force groups for possible contingency operations, directed the successful, casualty-free evacuation of thousands of noncombatant personnel of many nationalities, and coordinated the ensuing safe and efficient introduction of Army and Air Force units into the Dominican Republic.
"Through his invaluable advice and assistance, he was instrumental in isolating the armed conflict to a small section of Santo Domingo. He was also instrumental in the introduction into the Dominican Republic of contingents of the Inter-American Peace Force and the subsequent phased withdrawal of U.S. Forces..."
On September 7, 1965 he became Naval Inspector General, Navy Department and "for exceptionally meritorious service...(in that capacity) from August 1965 to August 1969..." he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. The citation continues in part:
"...Through his skillful guidance and coordination, changes recommended as a result of inspections conducted under his supervision, greatly enhanced the readiness of the combatant forces, their state of training, maintenance of equipment, morale of personnel, and support by the shore establishment.
"(He) drew upon his great wealth of knowledge and experience to develop the Naval Command Inspection Program. His personal attention and initiative were reflected in the numerous command inspections which were conducted for the first time at the Fleet and Departmental levels, and resulted in improved efficiency
of organizations and operations. Additionally, Vice Admiral Needham initiated a number of special studies of problem areas, including review of Manpower Management; missions, functions, and tasks of District Commanders; Maintenance Data Collection Systems; and Naval Training Surveys, achieving marked success in each endeavor..."
Hospitalized from May 1969, he was transferred to the Retired List of the U.S. Navy on August 1, 1969. In retirement, Needham and his wife, the former Miss Margaret Poulton of Los Angeles, California, lived in Salt Lake City, Utah. They had three children: Winifred, Margaret and William.
Mrs. Needham died in 1976 and the admiral subsequently married the former Estelle Reid. Admiral Needham died in Bethesda, Maryland, on 29 October 1979. A memorial service was held at the Fort Myer Chapel and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.