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
NEC 000X-Unknown Navy Officer Classification/ Designator
Location Not Specified
Country/State Not Specified
USS California (BB-44) Details
Hull number BB-44
Launched: Nov. 20, 1919
Photo from 1921.
On Dec 7th she was docked at Pearl Harbor: Battleship Row; forward of the Maryland and Oklahoma
Fate: The California was struck by two torpedoes and one bomb. The first torpedo hit at 8:05 a.m.; the second came moments later. With a gaping hole in the ship, it started capsizing. Despite efforts to bail water from the ship, it sank to the harbor bottom after three days of progressive flooding.
The ship was raised via cofferdams, moved to the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard on April, 1942, with repairs to her cage mainmast and all six 14" forward guns were removed to facilitate her refloating. It took until January, 1944 for the ship's total reconstruction but it was a match for most of the newer US battleships in all but it's main guns (still 14").
An after view of the USS California.
January, 1945, the USS California was hit by a Japanese kamikaze where 44 of her crew died and 155 injured. Battle repairs were made to keep her battle-worthy and on station. She stayed on station until the end of the month and returned to Puget Sound for repairs. She was back on station for the landings at Okinawa and from there until the Japanese surrender in mid-August.
Of historical interest is that after the official end of WWII, the USS California was still on duty and after different assignments in Philippines and other areas in SE Asia, she returned to the US on Dec 7, 1945 - exactly 4 years to the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.