Radford, Arthur William

Alternative names
Birth 1896-02-27
Death 1973-08-17

Biographical notes:

Admiral, United States Navy; chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1953-1957.

From the description of Arthur William Radford memoirs, 1972. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754871630

Arthur William Radford (1896-1973), naval officer, was born in Chicago, the son of John Arthur Radford, an electrical engineer, and Agnes Eliza Knight. Raised in Riverside, Ill., and Grinnell, Iowa, he entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1912. After graduating in the upper third of his class in 1916, he served two and a half years on the battleship South Carolina, which escorted one transatlantic convoy during World War I. Radford''s keen intellect led to his posting as flag lieutenant (aide) to two successive admirals from 1918 to 1920, after which he entered flight training at Pensacola, Fla. Upon completing the student course in November 1920 in the rank of lieutenant, he remained as an instructor of aerial gunnery for another year. From then on, he became an increasingly important figure in the development of the navy''s air arm, beginning with his assignment to the newly established Bureau of Aeronautics (1921-1923). He married Dorothy Hume about 1919; they had no children and were later divorced. Radford spent virtually all of his flying years in the Pacific, the initial four in seaplanes and gunfire spotting off two battleships. In 1929, following two years at Naval Air Station San Diego in the rank of lieutenant commander, he commanded the Alaskan Aerial Survey Detachment, which mapped southeastern Alaska for the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Forest Service. Assigned to the new aircraft carrier Saratoga late that year, he was flight deck officer and then skipper of its crack Fighting Squadron 1B. He remained on board as flag secretary to the carrier force commander Admiral Harry E. Yarnell in 1931 and 1932, during which the carriers executed a successful mock surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. A three-year tour of duty with the Bureau of Aeronautics flight division ended with Radford''s appointment as navigator of the seaplane tender Wright. In 1935, he returned to the staff of the carrier admiral Frederick J. Horne as tactical officer in the rank of commander. While commander from 1937 to 1940 of Naval Air Station Seattle he initiated its expansion. In April 1939 he married Mariam Jeanette McMichael (formerly Mrs. Earl Winfield Spencer) of Portland, Oreg.; they had no children. Radford spent one year as executive officer of the first carrier named Yorktown before being assigned to establish and command the naval operating base at Trinidad in the British West Indies in August 1941. He was recalled to the Bureau of Aeronautics four months later by its chief, Admiral John H. Towers, to undertake the immense task of expanding the navy''s wartime aviation training program. He assumed the post in December, attained the rank of captain the next month, and applied his organizational genius and knack for innovation as director of aviation training during the critical first year and a half of the war. His reward was promotion to the rank of rear admiral in July 1943 without ever having commanded a ship, unusual in the annals of the navy, and assignment as commander of a division of fast carriers in the Pacific. As such, he directed attacks on Wake Island in October and the Gilbert Islands in November, in the latter operation introducing night fighters to the carriers. The next month, Admiral Towers made Radford his chief of staff in the Pacific Fleet air forces, only to have Radford recalled to Washington in March 1944 as assistant to the deputy chief of naval operations for air. He virtually ran that office until October, when he returned to the Pacific as commander of Carrier Division Six, a task group of fast carriers. With his flag in the second carrier Yorktown, he participated in the South China Sea, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa campaigns, as well as in attacks on the Japanese homeland during 1945. Following the Japanese surrender, Radford commanded fleet air at Seattle until January 1946, when he became deputy chief of naval operations for air as vice-admiral. By this time, he had become heir apparent to Towers as unofficial leader of naval aviation and also of the airmen''s resistance to the armed forces unification movement. After commanding the Second Task Fleet in the Atlantic for most of 1947, he became the navy''s spokesman on Cold War strategy as vice-chief of naval operations from January 1948 until April 1949. He then reported as commander in chief of the Pacific Command and of its naval component, the Pacific Fleet, as well as high commissioner, Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, in the rank of full admiral. Radford led the so-called revolt of the admirals against preferential funding for the U.S. Air Force strategic bombers over that for naval aviation during the fall of 1949. He commanded the U.S. Pacific Fleet during the Korean War and directed overall naval operations in that conflict until June 1953. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), beginning that August. Radford became second only to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles as adviser to Eisenhower on American foreign and defense policy during his two two-year terms as chairman of the JCS. A champion of "massive retaliation" as the cornerstone of U.S. strategy against the Soviet Union, he advocated unilateral American intervention on the side of France in the Indochina war in 1954, including the use of atomic weapons should Communist China enter that conflict. Eisenhower followed Congress and the British in rejecting this option, however, and France was defeated; Admiral Radford later admitted that Eisenhower had been right to do so. The other crises that dominated his tenure were the Formosa Straits incidents of 1954-1955 and the Suez crisis of 1956. Radford retired from the navy in August 1957 and served as a consultant and director of several corporations for the remainder of his life. He died at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington, D.C., and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

From the description of Radford, Arthur William, 1896-1973 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10679382

Biographical/Historical Note

Admiral, United States Navy; chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1953-1957.

From the guide to the Arthur William Radford memoirs, 1972, (Hoover Institution Archives)


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  • World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations
  • Indochinese War, 1946-1954
  • World War, 1939-1945 Campaigns Pacific Ocean
  • World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns


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  • United States Military policy. (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Pacific Ocean (as recorded)