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Henry Kent Hewitt papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSC-032

Content Description

The Naval War College Naval Historical Collection houses a small but interesting segment of Hewitt materials.

The collection focuses mainly on the illustrious wartime career of Admiral Hewitt, although there are materials from both earlier and later time periods. The materials are contained in fourteen boxes and a folio file drawer. The collection measures thirteen linear feet and is divided into four series: correspondence, writings, miscellany, and photographs.

Series I, official correspondence, consists of letters, memoranda, and telegrams, both congratulatory and informational, dealing with the various amphibious operations that ADM Hewitt commanded. They include Operations Torch, Husky, Avalanche, and Dragoon-Anvil. Correspondents were from the highest military and civilian echelons and include General Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Admiral Ernest .J. King. Other correspondence deals with President Roosevelt's voyage in USS INDIANAPOLIS to the Pan American Conference in Buenos Aires in 1936 and in the post-war period with reminiscences of World War II. Correspondents from this Lime period include Winston Churchill, Admiral Sir John Cunningham, RN, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The second series, writings, contains the unpublished memoirs of Admiral Hewitt. The memoirs contain a ten page chronology of his life and career as well as a full autobiographical treatment.

Series III, miscellany, consists of citations, honorary; degrees, invitations, programs, and typescripts of an oral history interview with his daughter, Mary Kent Hewitt Norton, and remarks at the commissioning of USS HEWITT (DD 996) in 1974. Diplomas, Certificates, and U.S. Naval Commissions are in the folio collection.

Series IV, photographs, contains pictures of Admiral Hewitt in in career situations as well as albums of Amphibious Force Operations in French Morocco in 1942 and his visits to European ports as Commanding Officer, Twelfth Fleet in 1946.

Dates

  • 1903 - 1957

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to all researchers, unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Material in this collection is in the public domain, unless otherwise noted.

Biographical Note

Admiral H. Kent Hewitt was born on February 11, 1887, in Hackensack, New Jersey, to Robert and Mary Kent Hewitt. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy as a member of the class of 1907, but due to a shortage of junior officers in the fleet he graduated in September 1906 and was immediately assigned to the USS MISSOURI. There he developed an interest in gunnery practice and improvement that he pursued as his career progressed. In 1907, the MISSOURI joined the Great White Fleet in its thirteen month cruise around the world. During the voyage, Hewitt gained invaluable experience in seamanship and command, as he served as assistant navigator and signal officer. Along with an extended period at sea, he experienced the thrill of visiting exotic ports along the way.

For the next three years he served in the battleships CONNECTICUT and FLORIDA as watch and division officer and in the destroyer FLUSSER as executive officer and navigator under then Lieutenant William F. Halsey. In 1913, Hewitt married Floride Hunt of San Francisco, California, whom he had met five years earlier at a Monterey ball during a port call of the Great White Fleet. Shortly thereafter, Hewitt was assigned as a mathematics instructor at the Naval Academy, the first of several rewarding tours of duty there. On August 27, 1915, the couple's first child, Floride Hunt, was born in Annapolis.

In June 1916, Hewitt's tour of shore duty ended and he was ordered to command the USS EAGLE, a converted yacht outfitted for surveying work. Hewitt spent some six months in Cuban waters carrying out surveying assignments and protecting American lives and property on the island after a revolution occurred in 1917.

When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Hewitt received a destroyer command, the USS CUMMINGS that was assigned to convoy duty in Brest, France. After the war's end, he served in USS LUDLOW that functioned as a plane guard for the NC4 flights. That same year he returned to the Academy as an instructor in engineering and physics, a position he held for the next two years.

His next assignment as gunnery officer in the PENNSYLVANIA was a formidable one, but one which did much to advance his career. The PENNSYLVANIA had not performed well in battle practice or gunnery trials and Hewitt was tasked with improving the ship's record. For the next two years he worked diligently, and by 1923 the ship won the battle efficiency pennant.

His success earned him a three year assignment as Head of the Gunnery Section of Fleet Training under the Chief of Naval Operations. Before he departed for Washington in 1923, his second daughter, Mary Kent, was born on July 5. From 1926 to 1928, he was again assigned to gunnery billets on the staff of Commander Battleship Divisions and then as fleet gunnery officer in the Pacific Fleet under the command of ADM Louis R. de Steiguer.

In 1928, Hewitt was ordered to the Naval War College as a member of the senior class of 1929. He stayed on for two additional years as a member of the Department of Operations, and Strategy and Tactics. His war college years were both enjoyable and profitable professionally, as they provided him with a good background for future command positions. In 1976, four years after his death, the Naval War College named the third building of a new and modern academic complex after him.

For the next five years he held a variety of ship and shore assignments, including the command of Destroyer Division 12, Operations Officer for the Commander-in-Chief: Pacific Fleet, and a return three year stint as Head of the Department of Mathematics at the U.S. Naval Academy. In 1936, Hewitt was given command of USS INDIANAPOLIS. The INDIANAPOLIS had been selected to take President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Pan American Conference at Buenos Aires, Argentina, that year. With the president and commander-in-chief on board, everything had to go well; even the slightest mishap would reflect badly on his career. Fortunately, the cruise went smoothly and Hewitt received a letter of congratulations from Roosevelt complimenting him on his "smart ship."

In 1937, he reported as Chief of Staff to VADM Joseph Taussig, Commander Cruiser, Scouting Force. Taussig gave Hewitt command of his own cruiser division and thus he spent another rewarding year at sea. A two year assignment as commander of the Naval Ammunition Depot in Puget Sound, Washington, followed. At that time he was promoted to rear admiral. In 1940, he took command of the Special Services Squadron stationed in Panama and conducted a special reconnaissance mission to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. This interesting assignment was of short duration as the Squadron was disbanded after three months.

In November 1940, Hewitt took command of Cruiser Division 8. Based in Pearl Harbor, the ships were maintained at maximum wartime readiness at all times. Command of Task Force 7, consisting of a cruiser division, a battleship division, and destroyers, beckoned next. The Task Force was involved in neutrality patrols and amphibious exercises as President Roosevelt had declared a state of national emergency by then. Just prior to and immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hewitt's force was escorting convoys bound for England.

In April 1941, Hewitt was named Commander or the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet, with Headquarters in Hampton Roads, Virginia. There he was deeply involved in organizing and planning for forthcoming amphibious landings. As Commanding Officer of the Western Naval Task Force. Hewitt's role in successfully implementing Operation Torch, the landings on the coast of Morocco in November 1942, was monumental. The mission was an unqualified success and a major contribution to the allied effort in the European Theatre.

Hewitt returned home to a promotion to vice admiral and to even greater responsibilities in the ensuing years. As Commander of the Eighth Fleet, he led the Allied amphibious force at Sicily and Salerno in 1943 and Southern France in 1944. All three of these operations, Husky, Avalanche, and Dragoon-Anvil, were major factors in the eventual defeat of the Axis powers in Europe by May 1945. Although Hewitt, a reserved man by nature, never received the publicity and renown of other more flamboyant military leaders, he emerges as one of the great operational planners and commanders of World War II.

In the immediate post-war period Hewitt commanded U.S. Naval Forces, Western Europe, and the Twelfth Fleet. He returned to the United States in 1946 and was assigned to special duty at the Naval War College for a year. Prior to his retirement in 1949, he served as naval representative to the UN Military Staff Committee.

Hewitt spent his retirement years living quietly in Foretop, his home in Orwell, Vermont. He wrote a number of articles and book reviews for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings and was awarded an honorary degree by Middlebury College in 1949. He died on September 15, 1972, and was buried in the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, MD.

Admiral Hewitt's direct descendants included his two daughters: the late Mrs. Floride Taylor, who resided in Middletown. RI and the late Mrs. Mary Kent Norton, who lived in Spokane, WA.

Hewitt's medals and decorations include the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal (both Army and Navy), the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre with Palm (France), the Order of Kutuzov (USSR), the Order of the Bath (England), the Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil), the Order of Abdon Calderon (Ecuador), the Order of Nichan lftikhar (Tunisia), the Order of King George I (Greece), the Order of Sts. Maurizio and Lazare (Italy), the Order of Orange-Nassau (the Netherlands), the Order of Leopold and Croix de Guerre (Belgium). His campaign medals include the Naval Expeditionary Medal, the Dominican Medal, the Victory Medal, the American Defense Medal, the American Area Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Area Campaign Medal. Hewitt was also a member of the Chevaliers du Tastevin, a society of wine lovers and gourmands devoted to the wines and food of Burgundy, France. His clubs were the Army-Navy, the University, and the Century.

Chronology of Naval Servce

1887
Born, Hackensack, New Jersey, February 11.
1906
Graduated from U.S. Naval Academy. Annapolis, Md.
1907-1909
USS MISSOURI (BB-11), U.S. Atlantic Fleet around the world cruise, Assistant Navigator, Signal Officer.
1908
Promoted to Ensign.
1910
USS CONNECTICUT (BB-18), Watch and Division Officer.
1911
USS FLUSSER (DD-20), Executive Officer and Navigator; Promoted to Lieutenant, .J .G.
1912
USS FLORIDA (BB-30), Watch and Division Officer.
1913-1916
U.S. Naval Academy, Instructor in Department of Mathematics; Promoted to Lieutenant.
1916-1917
USS EAGLE (PY), CO; Promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
1918
USS CUMMINGS (DD-44), CO; Promoted to Commander.
1919-1921
USS LUDLOW (DD-112), CO; U.S. Naval Academy, Department of Electrical Engineering and Physics.
1921
USS PENNSYLVANIA (BB-38). Gunnery Officer.
1923-1923
Office of Chief of Naval Operations, Division of Fleet Training. Head of Gunnery Section.
1926
Commander Battleship Division, Battle Force, Battleships Division Gunnery Officer and Aide.
1927
Battle Force, Battle Force Gunnery Officer and Tactical Officer.
1928-1931
Naval War College, Newport, RI, Student and Staff Member.
1932
Commander of Battle Fleet, Assistant Chief of Staff; Promoted to Captain.
1933-1936
U.S. Naval Academy, Department of Mathematics, Head.
1936-1937
USS INDIANAPOLIS (CA-35), CO.
1937
Commander Cruisers Security Force, Chief of Staff and Aide.
1938-1940
U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot, Puget Sound, WA; CO.
1939
Promoted to Rear Admiral.
1940
USS Special Services Squadron, CO.
USS PHILADELPHIA (CL-11 ), Commander Cruiser Division Eight.
1942
Atlantic Fleet, Amphibious Force, CO; Promoted lo Vice Admiral.
1943-1944
U.S. Naval Forces in North West African Waters, CO.
1945-1946
U.S. Eighth Fleet, CO; Promoted to Admiral; U.S. Twelfth Fleet, CO.
1946-1947
Naval War College, Newport, RI. Special Duty.
1947
UN Military Staff Committee, U.S. Naval Representative.
1949
Retired from U.S. Navy, March 1.
1972
Died, September 15, I 972, Middlebury, Vermont.

Extent

16 boxes