Captain Paul Henrik Bjarnason NSN: 0-77152, United States Navy (Ret.)
Paul (born Poul) Henrik Bjarnason, 85, a retired Navy captain who was a highly decorated combat veteran of World War II and later worked for the Navy as a civilian, died of congestive heart failure Jan. 4 at his home in Falls Church. Capt. Bjarnason was commanding the destroyer-minelayer Henry A. Wiley when he sailed into Okinawa in May 1945. As the ship came under concentrated attack from the air, he "directed skillfully coordinated offensive gunfire to destroy four enemy planes," according to the citation accompanying the Navy Cross he was awarded after the battle. It is the Navy's highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor. Capt. Bjarnason, at the time a commander, also received the Legion of Merit, with Combat "V" for valor and a second Legion of Merit. His ship received the highly prized Presidential Unit Citation for its service under his command. After the war, he held a variety of staff, command and teaching posts on land and at sea. He taught seamanship and navigation at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, graduated from the Naval War College and served as head of the anti-submarine warfare surface training section in the office of an assistant chief of Naval Operations. From 1958 until retiring from active duty in 1961, he served as commanding officer of the naval station of the Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Capt. Bjarnason, a native of San Diego, enlisted in the Navy in 1930, serving as a sailor before entering the Naval Academy from the fleet. In 1936, he graduated from the academy. Before the war, he served aboard such ships as the carrier Saratoga and battleships Mississippi and California. He also commanded a ship doing hydrographic research projects. In November 1942, he became became executive officer and navigator aboard the destroyer Stockton. He worked on convoy operations in the Atlantic, then went to the Southwest Pacific theater in the fight for the Admiralty Islands and took command of a mine division. After he retired in 1961, he was a program manager with the Naval Electronics Systems Command until about 1980.
Other Comments: Awards (see ribbon bar for citations):
Legion of Merit with combat "V" and star for second award
Presidential Unit Citation
USS Pruitt DM-22, 1944-1945
USS Henry A. Wiley DM-2, 1945-1946
USS Chemug AO-30, 1954-1955
Naval Base Guantanamo Bay Cuba, 1958-1961
WHEREAS, The valiant service of the USS Henry A. Wiley (DM 29) is being commemorated with a plaque at the National Museum of the Pacific War on March 17, 2007, and a number of the courageous sailors who served as its crew are gathering for this memorable occasion; and
WHEREAS, Commissioned in 1944, the USS Henry A. Wiley began its illustrious history escorting the USS Texas, USS Missouri, and USS Arkansas on the long journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal; in February 1945, the ship was called into battle for the invasion of Iwo Jima; situated only 400 yards off shore, it fired more than 3,600 rounds and destroyed nine pillboxes in support of marine infantry, including the unit that raised the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi; and
WHEREAS, The ship subsequently proceeded to Okinawa, where it supported minesweeping operations and helped secure Kerama Retto before the U.S. invasion; it then performed radar picket, patrolling, screening, bombardment, and mine removal duties for nearly five months, destroying numerous Japanese aircraft; on May 4, 1945, while going to the aid of the sinking USS Luce DD-522, the Henry A. Wiley came under heavy air attack, and during a furious 15-minute engagement, it downed three kamikazes and two Baka bombs, before playing a significant vote in rescuing survivors of the Luce; and
WHEREAS, Before returning home on January 17, 1946, the USS Henry A. Wiley participated in further minesweeping and mine destruction operations in the East China Sea and off the coasts of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan; and
WHEREAS, The USS Henry A. Wiley earned four battle stars for its participation in the Pacific War, and it was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for heroic service during the battle of Okinawa; in addition, Captain Paul H. Bjarnason, commanding officer of the Henry A. Wiley at Okinawa, was awarded the Navy Cross and the Legion of Merit; the ship was decommissioned in 1947; and
WHEREAS, The USS Henry A. Wiley (DM 29) distinguished itself with might, precision, and tenacity during crucial campaigns of the Pacific War, emerging with minimal damage and no loss of life, and it is indeed fitting to honor this remarkable ship and its brave crew for their exemplary service in behalf of their fellow Americans; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 80th Texas Legislature hereby recognize March 17, 2007, as Henry A. Wiley Day and salute the ship's crew members for their gallantry during World War II.