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Maurice Rindskopf, WWII submarine commander, 93

Rear Admiral Maurice Rindskopf, youngest submarine commander in World War II, with Admiral John S. McCain Jr. Rear Admiral Maurice Rindskopf, youngest submarine commander in World War II, with Admiral John S. McCain Jr. (Courtesy of Family/1968 File)
By Dennis Hevesi
New York Times / August 8, 2011

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NEW YORK - Rear Admiral Maurice H. Rindskopf, the youngest commander of a US fleet submarine during World War II who directed the sinking of 15 Japanese vessels, one of the highest totals in the war, died July 27 at his home in Annapolis, Md. He was 93.

The cause was prostate cancer, said his granddaughter, Amy Rindskopf.

Mr. Rindskopf was 26 when, as a lieutenant commander, he took over the USS Drum after its captain fell ill and had to undergo surgery. Fleet submarines such as the Drum were the Navy’s top-of-the-line long-distance subs, built just before the war and during it. The Navy still had World War I-era submarines, but they were primarily used as patrol vessels.

He was an ensign when he was assigned to the Drum in 1941 and was the officer in charge of torpedo targeting (and later executive officer) before being named commander in June 1942. In his three years aboard, he was directly involved in the firing of 125 torpedoes, leading to the confirmed sinking of 15 ships - most of them cargo vessels. Of all the submarines in World War II, the Drum ranked number eight in confirmed tonnage sunk.

“He basically ran the fire-control party for the entire time,’’ said James Scott, the author of “The War Below,’’ a soon-to-be-published book about America’s submarine battles against Japan. “The submarine war was an economic war, and the Drum played a vital role in destroying Japan’s ability to have the natural resources needed to prosecute the war.’’

Mr. Rindskopf would receive the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Bronze Star. He later served as commander of two submarine flotillas and of the Navy’s submarine school in New London, Conn.

After being promoted to admiral in 1967, he was assistant chief of staff for intelligence to Admiral John S. McCain Jr., commander of the US Pacific Command during the Vietnam War and father of Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Maurice Herbert Rindskopf was born in Queens, N.Y. After graduating at the top of his class from Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn in 1934, at 16, he was accepted into the Naval Academy, where he was a star player on the lacrosse team.

Not all of the sinkings during Mr. Rindskopf’s time at the helm of the Drum were of large vessels. On his first patrol as commander, the targets were two sampans - small, flat-bottomed wooden boats - that were being used as spy vessels off the islands of Palau. Using a torpedo would have been overkill, so they were sunk by gunfire.

“There were two survivors swimming in the ocean and rather than kill them, which he was authorized to do, he took them on board and put them to work in the kitchen,’’ his granddaughter said.