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USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation
C/O Art Curtis
P.O. Box 318063
San Francisco, CA 94131-8063
415-334-0263
415-350-0531
Art Curtis: awcurtis@comcast.net

STORIES OF THE MEN

McCandless, Bruce; Lt. Cdr., USN

 

Commander Bruce McCandless Comander Bruce McCandless
Born: 12 August 1911, Washington, D.C.
Rank: Commander
Organization: Unites States Navy
Accredited To: District of Columbia
Other Navy Award: Silver Star

 

Commander Bruce McMandless, 31, took battle command control of the flagship after Admiral Callaghan, Capt. Cassin Young, and other senior officers were killed, and brought her victoriously thought the Battle of Savo Island in the Solomons. “Superb initiative,” “distinguished service above and beyond the call of duty,” “great seamanship and great courage” were phrases of the citation. The youthful officer is the son of Capt. Byron McCandless, co-author of “Flags Famous in American History,” National Geographic Magazine, October 1917, who said, after this ceremony, “Bruce used to be known as my son; now I am his father.”

Medal of Honor

Gold Bar

For conspicuous gallantry and exceptionally distinguished service above and beyond the call of duty as communication officer of the U.S.S. San Francisco in combat with enemy Japanese forces in the battle off Savo Island, 1213 November 1942. In the midst of a violent night engagement, the fire of a determined and desperate enemy seriously wounded Lt. Comdr. McCandless and rendered him unconscious, killed or wounded the admiral in command, his staff, the captain of the ship, the navigator, and all other personnel on the navigating and signal bridges. Faced with the lack of superior command upon his recovery, and displaying superb initiative, he promptly assumed command of the ship and ordered her course and gunfire against an overwhelmingly powerful force. With his superiors in other vessels unaware of the loss of their admiral, and challenged by his great responsibility, Lt. Comdr. McCandless boldly continued to engage the enemy and to lead our column of following vessels to a great victory. Largely through his brilliant seamanship and great courage, the San Francisco was brought back to port, saved to fight again in the service of her country.

Rear Admiral Bruce McCandless

Commodore Byron McCandless' Naval Career took him around the world with few opportunities to return home to Florence. His son Bruce McCandless was born August 12, 1911 at Washington D.C. Bruce McCandless followed in his father's footsteps, attending the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he graduated in 1938.

Following graduation Bruce McCandless served with Scouting Squadron 11-S in cruiser INDIANAPOLIS, and in destroyer CASE. Upon completion of a General Line course at Annapolis, 1938-1939, he became Communications Officer of cruiser U.S.S. SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38). He was serving in that famed cruiser at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese made their infamous raid.

Then a Lieutenant Commander, McCandless continued to serve aboard the U.S.S. SAN FRANCISCO as she helped protect fast carrier task groups guarding reinforcements to the Samoan Islands, conducting raids at New Guinea, and giving direct support to the Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings in the Solomons. His ship fought to victory in the Battle of Cape Esperance to spare Marines on Guadalcanal from a fierce naval bombardment, then endured a savage action to repel enemy aircraft attacking transports off Guadalcanal.

The flagship of a cruiser-destroyer task group under Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan, U.S.S. SAN FRANCISCO led the formation the night of November 13 14,1942, to intercept a Japanese raiding force of 2 battleships, 1 light cruiser and 14 destroyers steaming south with orders to bombard and knock out the Henderson Field in Guadalcanal. Well-aimed salvos found their mark on both Japanese battleships before U.S.S. SAN FRANCISCO came under fire from three directions and was so damaged that she temporarily lost power and steering control. As she slowed from 17 knots, enemy shells exploded on the navigating bridge and flag-bridge killing Rear Admiral Callaghan and all but one of his staff.

Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless found himself the senior officer on the bridge and took command to continue to fight to the finish. His cruiser was caught between two columns of enemy ships, sustaining 45 separate hits by heavy shells and countless fragment and machine gun hits. Though he was seriously wounded, Lieutenant Commander McCandless boldly continued to direct gunfire at the enemy on every side and led the task group to victory. When the desperate sea fight ended, 3 enemy destroyers were damaged, two sunk, and the rudderless battleship HIEI so damaged that aircraft were able to sink her the next day.

Henderson Field was again saved from bombardment. Air operations from that field on the next day disposed of 11 troop-laden enemy transports. Despite the serious damage and great loss of life on board, U.S.S. SAN FRANCISCO lived to fight again. Her temporary commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his supreme courage and superb leadership that resulted in victory in the face of overwhelming odds in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (12-13 November 1942). He was also given a meritorious promotion to the rank of Commander in recognition of this achievement. 

Commander McCandless remained on the U.S.S. SAN FRANCISCO as she helped drive the enemy from the Aleutians and assisted in the capture and occupation of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands. Detached from the cruiser 8 March 1944, he took command of destroyer GREGORY which supported the capture of Iwo Jima and shot down 6 enemy aircraft during combat operation off Okinawa. Commander McCandless was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry while commanding GREGORY off Okinawa 1-8 April 1945. His ship provided anti-aircraft protection to ships in the transport area and served on radar picket stations during this period.

On 8 April 1945, four enemy suicide planes attacked. Two were destroyed and a third driven off but a fourth crashed into his ship. Commander McCandless skillfully directed his men to quickly control damage so that his destroyer was able to drive off further attacks and return to port. GREGORY was routed to San Diego where her crushed and torn hull was repaired under the direction of the father of the commanding officer, Commodore Byron McCandless.

Commander Bruce McCandless was detached from GREGORY in October 1945. He served as Assistant Chief of Staff for the Naval Operating Base at Terminal Island, California, until October 1946. After heading the District Affairs Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, he commanded Mine Division Two. In June 1950 he was ordered to the Naval Academy for duty in the Executive Department. Having been promoted to the rank of Captain, he transferred to the Retired List 1 September 1952 and advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral on the basis of combat awards.

He died at Washington, D.C., on 24 January 1968.

 

Letter from: Jack Wallace, Annapolis, Md

Greetings CAPT Bennett, CAPT McCandless, crewmen and friends of USS San Francisco.
 
On behalf of the USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation I extend a heartfelt thank you to the crew on this Veteran's day 2005. Our families are grateful to you for your sacrifices and will always remember what you have done for our country.  
 
The attached photo is the headstone at the gravesite of RADM Bruce McCandless. It is located in the United States Naval Academy cemetery in Annapolis. This photo was taken this morning on behalf of the USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation. Of note, RADM McCandless is buried two plots next to FADM King.
 
Alert members of the SFMF noticed the name spelling error on the Admiral's headstone via a photo on our new website. I have been in touch with CAPT McCandless and his father's headstone is to be replaced. I will be able to monitor the replacement progress and report to the McCandless family in short time.
 
Thank you to those of the foundation who caught the error so we could info the McCandless family. 
 
Again, thanks to ALL Veterans on this, the 11th November 2005!
 
Cheers,
Jack Wallace
Annapolis, Md.
Member USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation

 

Bruce McCandless Headstone

 

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