Rear Admiral Richard Dewey Zern, USN
January 10,1905 – February 22, 1958
Richard Dewey Zern was born in Viola, Illinois, on January 10, 1905, son of John G. and Nellie Dewey Zern. He attended Western Illinois State Teachers College for a year before entering the Naval Academy on 1 August 1923. He was graduated and commissioned Ensign on June 2, 1927.
After graduation he remained at the Naval Academy for the course in Aviation Ground Training, and on August 26, 1927 reported to the USS ARIZONA (BB-39). He then was transferred to the USS CORRY (DD-334), the USS BROOME (DD-210), USS NEW YORK (BB-35), and the USS HOLLAND (AS-3). On May 10, 1934, he joined the USS WHITNEY (AD-4) for transportation to New York City, and on 28 June returned to Annapolis, where he was a student (General Line) at the Naval Postgraduate School. He completed instruction on May 31, 1935, and was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, followed by duty in the Division of Naval Communications, until May 20, 1936. On 8 June he joined the USS MILWAUKEE (CL-5).
In January 1937 he began staff duty with flagships USS ARIZONA, USS MARYLAND (BB-46), USS TENNESSEE (BB-43), and USS WEST VIRGINIA BB-47). He was detached on June 17, 1939, and a month later returned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department. His next assignment was with the Asiatic Fleet. On November 4, 1941, he reported to the USS MARBLEHEAD (CL-12), as Navigator. During the period August 15, 1942, to May 26, 1945, he served as Aide and Flag Secretary, successively, to Commander Battleship Division SIX; commander Battleships, U.S. Pacific Fleet; and Commander Battleship Squadron TWO, attached to the flagships USS WASHINGTON (BB-56), USS MASSACHUSETTS (BB-59), USS NORTH CAROLINA (BB-55) and USS SOUTH DAKOTA (BB-57).
He returned to the United States in May 1945, designated Officer in Charge, Navy Unit, Armed Forces Radio Services, at Los Angeles, California. Detached in June 1947, he was a student at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, from July of that year until May 1948. On June 11, 1948, he assumed command of the USS CHISKASKIA (AO-54) a large fleet oiler of the Naval Transportation Service. From February 29, 1952 until being relieved on April 1, 1952, he served as Head, Security Branch, Naval Communications Division and Head, Naval Security Group. From May 1952 until
September 1953, he was at sea in command of Destroyer Squadron FOUR (and Destroyer Division 41), and in October 1953, he began an assignment as Chief of Staff and Aide to Commander Training Command, Atlantic Fleet.
Reporting in September 1955 to the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, he served as Professor of Naval Science, until relieved of all active duty on June 30, 1957. On July 1, 1957, he was transferred to the Retired List of the U.S. Navy and advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral on the basis of awards for actual combat.
Rear Admiral Zern died at Ann Arbor, Michigan, on February 22, 1958 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on February 26. He is survived by his wife, the former Thelda Irene Burnett of Long Beach, California and a son, Richard Burnett Zern. The family resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Source: NCVA/Echoes of Our Past