Howard County

Admiral George E. Peckham



Navy Issues Report on Clash Off Vella Lavella in Solomons, Oct. 6

Washington, D.C.—(AP)—An Iowan commanded one of the three U. S. destroyers which sent an enemy cruiser and two destroyers to the bottom in a long-odds battle against nine Japanese warships off Vella Lavella in the Solomons, Oct. 6. The six other enemy craft fled in disorder.

Commander George E. Peckham of Cresco, Ia., commanded the destroyer Selfridge in the short and fast engagement, the Navy disclosed Wednesday night in reporting details of the fight.

Far Outnumbered.

“Aware that they were far outnumbered in a waters controlled by the enemy, the U. S. ships boldly closed with the Japanese until less than 7,000 yards separated them,” the Navy said.

“Then blinding gun flashes split the silence and blackness of the steamy Solomon islands and the battle was on. Torpedoes were launched by the destroyers just before the guns fired.”

The destroyer group consisted of the Selfridge, O’Bannon, and Chevalier. The Chevalier was lost but most of her personnel was rescued.

Born Near Cresco.

Cresco, Ia.—Cmdr. George E. Peckham, who was commander of one of three U. S. destroyers that sent three Japanese war craft to the bottom off Vella Lavella in the Solomons, Oct. 6, was born near Cresco, the son of the late Mrs. and Mrs. George Peckham, sr. About 35 years old, he was graduated from Cresco high school, and later from the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.

Source: Waterloo Daily Courier, November 18, 1943


Rear Admiral George E. Peckham, one of Cresco’s famous sons, ended a 28 year naval career when he retired in 1959.

George Peckham was raised by his grandparents in Cresco. He graduated from Cresco high school in 1926.

He entered the United States naval academy as the seventh consecutive political appointee from Cresco. He graduated and was commissioned ensign in June, 1931.

He attended Stanford University, where he received his Master’s degree in education, and the army war college at Carlisle barracks, Pennsylvania.

His early tours of duty included the light cruiser, the “U.S.S. Cincinnati,” the radio-controlled target ship, the “U.S.S. Boggs,” and the destroyers, “U.S.S. Overton” and “U.S.S. Buck.”

While participating in the Aleutian islands campaign, he took part in the battle of the Komandorskie Islands. He was awarded the Silver Star for action in that battle, the longest sustained naval engagement of World War II.

He assumed command of the destroyer, “U.S.S. Selfridge” on October 3, 1943, and three days later was engaged in night action off Vella Lavella. During this battle, the Selfridge’s bow was blown off by a torpedo. He brought the disabled ship back to the United States and was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of second Silver Star medal for these actions.

As commanding officer of the then new destroyer, the “U.S.S. Waldron,” he operated with famed carrier ask forces 38 and 58 until the end of World War II.

Following the war, he served on the staff of Commander, Atlantic Reserve fleet, as executive officer of the battleship, the “U.S.S. Missouri,” in the office of the chief of naval operations, and as commanding officer of the attack transport, the “U.S.S. Menifee.”

As commander of amphibious squadron two in 1957-58, he established the first six-ship dependents cruise in naval history and participated in the Lebanon landings. He reported to the amphibious training command in August, 1958.

Among his outstanding contributions during his active duty was the compilation and editing of an officers fact book, still used throughout the Navy for counseling junior officers.

He was promoted to the rank of rear admiral in October, 1959, during a retirement ceremony held in his honor at the naval amphibious base, in Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia.

Admiral Peckham’s medals and awards include the Silver Star medal with two gold stars, commendation ribbon with metal pendant, American defense service medal with “A” clasp, navy unit commendation, American area campaign medal, Asiatic-Pacific area campaign medal with six battle stars, European – African – Middle Eastern area campaign medal, Philippines Liberation medal with bronze star, Navy Occupation Service medal, World War II Victory medal and National Defense service medal.

Rear Admiral and Mrs. Peckham now live in Falls Church, Virginia.

Source: The Times-Plain Dealer (Centennial Edition), Wednesday, June 15, 1966 (photo included)