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Vice Adm. Kleber Sandlin Masterson, Sr.
JULY 12, 1908 - MAY 3, 1998
Admiral Masterson, then a lieutenant, was a crew member of the USS Arizona when it was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was at his quarters on shore when the attack began but arrived at dockside to see the ship engulfed in flames.
Vice Adm. Kleber Sandlin Masterson, 89, a battleship gunnery officer in World War II and an ordnance expert who helped build the Navy's arsenal of nuclear missiles, died May 3 at Inova Alexandria Hospital in Alexandria, Va.
As a newly promoted rear admiral in 1957, Vice Admiral Masterson commanded the missile division in the Office of Naval Operations and joined a ballistic missiles committee that played a leading role in equipping the Navy's nuclear submarine fleet with Polaris missiles.
Vice Admiral Masterson later commanded the U.S. 2nd Fleet and the Striking Fleet Atlantic of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, based in Norfolk, Va. When he retired in 1969, he was director of the Weapons Evaluation Group, part of the Pentagon, in Washington.
Vice Admiral Masterson, who was born in San Jon, N.M., graduated from the Naval Academy in 1930. He also graduated from the Naval War College.
In 1939, he was assigned to the USS Arizona, and on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor, he was at his shore quarters and saw the Arizona aflame and sinking at dockside.
Then, as gunnery officer of the USS Pennsylvania, he took part in the Attu-Kiska campaign in Alaska in 1943 and the Marshall Islands campaign in the western Pacific in 1944. He was decorated when the Pennsylvania won a citation for "outstanding heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War."
Posted to the Bureau of Ordnance in the Navy Department, he earned a citation for outstanding performance as head of engineering planning in the bureau's Research and Planning Division. He was given a number of assignments, both at sea and ashore, before commanding the missile staff in the Office of Naval Operations.
He is survived by a son, Kleber Masterson Jr. of Alexandria, who also is a retired rear admiral; two sisters, Ruth Bliss of Flagstaff, Ariz., and Pattie Boyd of Las Vegas; two grandsons; and three great-grandchildren.
His military decorations included two awards of the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Navy Commendation Medal and France's order of merit award.
All personnel attached to the Pennsylvania and actually present and serving during the period of May 4, 1943 through February 10, 1945 in the Pacific, or any part thereof, earned a Navy Unit Commendation. The commendation awarded U.S.S. Pennsylvania reads as follows.
U.S.S. Pennsylvania (BB-38) Navy Unit Commendation.
The Secretary of the Navy takes pleasure in commending
The UNITED STATES SHIP PENNSYLVANIA for service as follows:
"For outstanding heriosm in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War Area from May 4, 1943 to February 10, 1945. Operating under ten separate commands, the U.S.S. PENNSYLVANIA was the only battleship to take part in every combat amphibious operation during this period from Attu in the northern area to Lingayen in the Philippines. Imperiled by perpetual fog, she served as Flagship of the Task Force Commander during the Aleutians Campaign and navigated in poorly charted waters to deliver her accurate broadsides on predetermined but invisible targets; intensive fire from her batteries blasted the way for our assault waves in the Gilberts, the Marshalls and the Marianas, silencing the enemy's heavy coastal guns, locating and neutralizing camouflaged emplacements and rendering sturdy support for our land forces. A gallant and dependable veteran, the PENNSYLVANIA completed nearly thirty years of unfailing service by her deadly close-in bombardment and gunfire support in the recapture of the Philippines, fulfilling her prolonged and vital mission without casualty to herself or her personnel by Japanese fire. Handled superbly in the face of many obstacles throughout this period, the PENNSYLVANIA achieved an illustrious combat record, reflecting the courage, skill and brilliant teamwork of the officers who plotted her course, the pilots who spotted her gunfire and the operational force which aided in maintaining her fighting efficiency."
All personnel attached to and serving on board the U.S.S. PENNSYLVANIA during the above period are hereby authorized to wear the NAVY UNIT COMMENDATION Ribbon.
/s/ JAMES FORRESTAL
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY