Rear Admiral Richard Nott Antrim
Richard Nott Antrim, born in Peru, Indiana, on 17 December 1907,
entered the Naval Academy in 1927 and graduated on 4 June 1931. He
served briefly in the 11th Naval District before reporting to NEW YORK
(BB 34) as fire control officer. Detached from that battleship in April
1932, he received flight instruction at the Naval Air Station (NAS),
Pensacola, Fla., before serving consecutive tours of sea duty in
SALINAS (AO 9), NITRO (AE 2), and TRENTON (CL 11).
Subsequently ordered to the Bethlehem Steel Corp., Quincy Mass., Antrim
assisted in fitting out PORTLAND (CA 33) and after her commissioning,
served as a division officer in that heavy cruiser until the spring of
1936. After that time, he became assistant first lieutenant in
CROWNINSHIELD (DD 134) before undergoing instruction in
lighter-than-air (LTA) flight at NAS Lakehurst, N.J. Antrim
subsequently received his naval aviator (LTA) designation, qualified
for duty as an airship, kite, or free-balloon pilot. In the spring of
1938, Antrim arrived on the Asiatic Station and served as executive
officer of BITTERN (AM 36) before joining POPE (DD 225) in December
1939, as her executive officer. The outbreak of war in the Pacific in
December 1941 found Antrim still serving in that capacity.
During her brief wartime career, POPE played a significant part in two
major engagements fouht by the venerable Asiatic Fleet destroyers-the
Battle of Makassar Strait and the Battle of Badoeng Strait, as well as
in the last act following the Battle of the Java Sea.
In the former, POPE delivered close-range attacks that momentarily
helped to delay the Japanese landings at Balikpapan. During the action,
Lt. Antrim cooly selected targets for his guns and torpedoes, placing
his shots so accurately in the midst of a large Japanese convoy" and
thus inflicting damage to several enemy ships. After the Battle of
Badoeng Strait, POPE's commanding officer, Comdr. Welford C. Blinn,
reported that his executive officer was "highly deserving of
commendation for the meritorious performance of his several duties
before and throughout the action." Citing Antrim as a "ready assistant
in navigation fire control, and torpedo fire," Blinn recommended him
not only for a destroyer command but for a "decoration deemed
appropriate." Antrim later received a Navy Cross for this service.
The Battle of the Java Sea (27 to 28 February 1942) ended all Allied
hope of stemming the Japanese onslaught. In the wake of that action,
the smashed Allied fleet attempted to escape the cordon of Japanese
warships rapidly tightening the noose around Java. Among the small
groups was one composed of the British heavy cruiser HMS EXETER, the
destroyer HMS ENCOUNTER, and POPE.
The ships slipped out of Surabaya, Java, on the evening of 28 February,
but were spotted the next day by Japanese aircraft. A surface force of
cruisers and destroyers located the fleeing trio, and a fierce action
ensued, with EXETER and ENCOUNTER after having put up a stiff fight,
going down under a deluge of Japanese shells. POPE, however, fought on,
managing to make a temporary haven in a passing rain squall.
Unfortunately, the destroyer-one of those Asiatic Fleet flushdeckers
"old enouh to vote"-could not elude her pursuers. Ultimately, damaged
by Japanese bombs, from aircraft summoned from the carrier RYUJO, and
by shells from the Japanese force, POPE began to sink, but not before
all but one of her men had reached safety in life rafts and the
destroyer's sole motor whaleboat. Antrim, wounded in the action, helped
to gather the life rafts around the boat to facilitate the disribution
of what meager supplies were available to the men. His devotion to duty
during the ordeal inspired and sustained his shipmates' morale.
For three days and nights, POPE's survivors doggedly stuck together as
a group until picked up by a Japanese warship and transferred to
Japanese Army authorities at Makassar, in the Celebes.
There, Antrim performed an unforgettable act of personal bravery.
During the early part of his imprisonment at Makassar in April 1942, he
saw a Japanese guard brutally beating a fellow prisoner of war (POW)
and boldly intervened, attempting to quiet and reason with the guard,
as others, and some 2,000 POW's closed in about the scene.
However, the Japanese ignored Antrim's entreaties and continued beating
the prisoner unmercifully. After receiving some 15 blows with a hawser
and the kicks of three other guards, the victim was almost insensible.
At that instant, Antrim stepped forward. The expressions of the
Japanese changed to incredulity as the lieutenant volunteered to take
the remainder of the battered man's punishment. This action threw his
captors off balance and drew a roar of acclaim from the Allied POW's
gathered around. Antrim's stand, while saving the life of the other man
also saved his own and won new respect for the American officers and
men. Later, his leadership in serving as a spokesman for his fellow
POW's earned them an improvement in camp living conditions. For his
conspicuous act of valor at Makassar in the spring of 1942, Antrim
later received the Medal of Honor.
Subsequently when the Japanese forced Antrim to take charge of a labor
detail assigned the task of constructing slit trenches for protection
during air raids, he carefully rearranged the construction work plans
approved by the Japanese and gained their approval of his own ideas.
Under the eyes of their captors, the POW's due the slit trenches all
right, but in a curious pattern recognizable from the air as a giant
"U.S." which clearly and craftly identified the occupants of the
trenches. This audacious action possibly saved hundreds of prisoners of
war from mistaken bombings by Allied planes. Antrim carried out the
plan in spite of the fact that discovery of his trick would have
resulted in instant beheading! For that alteration of construction work
Antrim received a Bronze Star.
Ultimately liberated after the war in the Far East ended in August
1945, Antrim returned to the United States and enjoyed rehabilitation
leave before attending the Repatriated POW Refresher Course at the
Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. in May 1946. He then brushed up
on his pilot training at NAS Lakehurst and later completed a course at
the Naval War College. The valiant officer-who had been listed as
missing since the sinking of POPE in March 1942-received the Medal of
Honor and Bronze Star from President Harry S. Truman in ceremonies at
the White House on 30 January 1947.
Later, following a brief stint at the Fleet Sonar School, San Diego,
Calif. in June and July 1947, Antrim went to sea in command of the
destroyer TURNER (DD 834). He next underwent further instruction at
NAS, Lakehurst, before assuming the duties of Assistant for
Lighter-than-Air Planning and Programs Office of the Chief of Naval
Operations (CNO), Washington, D.C. in December 1948.
Following further Washington duty-with the Policy Advisory Staff,
Department of State, and the Psychological trategy Board-Antrim
commanded the attack transport MONTROSE (APA 212) before returning to
the capital for a brief tour of duty as Head, Amphibious Warfare
Matters Section, Office of the CNO, prior to his retirement on 1 April
1954. He was advanced to rear admiral on the retired list on the basis
of his combat awards.
Rear Admiral Antrim died on 7 March 1969 in Mountain Home, Arkansas. He
is survived by his wife Mary Jean Packard Antrim, the ship's sponsor,
and their three children.