Wilkinson, Theodore Stark “Ping”, born, 22-12-1888 in Annapolis, Maryland and graduated from the U. Naval Academy in 1909 at the head of his class. Attached to the Bureau of Ordnance where he helped perfect anti- submarine depth charges like the Mark VI USN mine that was heavily used in the mine screen laid across the North Sea. He participated in the Vera Cruz expedition and won the Medal of Honor for conducting a raid that capture the customs house. He also participated in arms limitation talks in 1933 and 1934. Wilkinson was later captain of the Mississippi and Chief of Staff of the Hawaii naval district. Wilkinson had just been promoted to rear admiral and was serving as Director of Naval Intelligence when war broke out in the Pacific. Though considered brilliant by his fellow officers, he had no experience in intelligence work. His career might have been ended by the Pearl Harbor disaster had he not unsuccessfully urged the Chief of Naval Operations, Harold Raynsford “Betty” Stark, to call Husband Edward Kimmel when his code breakers realized the significance of the famous fourteen-part message sent to the Japanese embassy just before the attack. Stark chose to send a telegraph instead, which arrived hours after the attack. In October 1941 after a few months in command of Battleship Mississippi, he was named Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence. In August 1942, Wilkinson was reassigned to the South Pacific and command of Battleship Division 2 and in the latter month was named Deputy Commander of the south Pacific Force under William Frederick “Bull” Halsey. He later commanded the amphibious forces that invaded Bougainville in November 1943. This was followed by the Palaus invasion in September 1944 and the Leyte invasion in October. After directing the long-planned assault on Peleliu in the Palau Islands on the 15th and Ulithi Atoll on the 23rd, he quickly shifted his forces from the cancelled Yap campaign to the recently moved up Philippinnes invasion, redeploying brilliantly to make the schedeuled landing on John Reed Hodge’s XXIV Corps, motto “Honed in Combat” at Dulag, Leyte, on October 20th. Hodge died age 70, on 12-11-1963 in Washington D.C. Wilkinson was promoted to Vice Admiral shortly before directing the landings on Luzon and he overcame heavy opposition, including furious kamikaze attacks, to put a corps of Walter Krueger’s 6th Army, nickname “Aloma Force” ashore at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, January 1945, cooperating with Admiral Daniel Eward Barbey
in that operation. Barbey died age 79, on 11-03-1969 in Bremerton, Washington. In September III’ Phib conveyed Robert Lawrence Eichelberger’s 8th Army to Japan for occupation duty.
Death and burial ground of Wilkinson, Theodore Stark “Ping”.
Ping Wilkinson died 21-02-1946, age 57, he was drowned when his automobile plunged from a ferry into the Elisabeth River, but he saved his wife’s life by pushing her from the car a second before it sank. His wife Catherine said that he lost control of the car and when he realized that they were going off the the front end of the boat he opened the door, yelled “jump” and shoved her out. Admiral Wilkinson’s body was recovered about seventy-five minutes after the accident by a driver who removed it from under the steering wheel of the automobile. The Admiral was unfamiliar with the car, having borrowed it from a friend, his wife said. A court of inquiry will be appointed to investigate the accident, which occurred as the couple was going from their home in Washington, D.C. to Charleston, South Carolina.
Morison said of him: “A highly intelligent, industrious and conscientious officer, Wilkinson was also an excellent co-operator.” He proved to be a superb amphibious commander. Wilkinson is buried on Arlington National Cemetery in Section 2.
Cemetery and grave location of Wilkinson, Theodore Stark “Ping”