Arnold Ellsworth True (January 23, 1901 – December 11, 1979) was a highly decorated officer in the U.S. Navy with the rank of rear admiral, who is most famous for his service as Commanding officer of the Sims-class destroyer USS Hammann during the Battle of Midway.
Arnold Ellsworth True was born in Owenton, Kentucky on January 23, 1901 and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1920. His early naval career included serving in cruisers, destroyers, and other ships, as well as with airships until 1929, when he began studying Aerology and Meteorology. After receiving his Master of Science Degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1931, he practiced those disciplines in a variety of navy positions.
Lieutenant Commander True attended the Naval War College in 1938-39 and then assumed command of the new destroyer USS Hammann (DD-412) in August 1939. His ship was part of the destroyer screen assigned to protect the USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the pivotal showdown with the Japanese Navy at The Battle of Midway. On June 6, 1942, after the carrier was damaged by Japanese dive bombers, his destroyer was ordered alongside the Yorktown to provide pumping power as part of a massive effort to keep the vessel afloat so that it could be salvaged.
According to the official navy record:
The first torpedo appeared to pass under the Hammann in the vicinity of No. 2 gun and exploded against the side of the Yorktown. The second torpedo struck the Hammann in #2 fireroom. This torpedo apparently broke the ship's back as a pronounced sag was noted in this vicinity. The forward bulkhead of forward engine room was carried away. Large quantities of oil, water, and debris were blown high into the air coming down on both Hammann and Yorktown. The Hammann was blown out from the Yorktown and aft parting all mooring lines and hoses. The commanding officer received a heavy blow in the solar plexus by being thrown against a desk in the pilot house, which rendered him temporarily unable to breathe or speak and later proved to have broken a rib. The ship began to settle immediately and the Executive Officer, who was on the bridge passed the word "All hands abandon ship." By the time the Commanding Officer was able to walk from the Pilot House to the starboard wing of the bridge, the main deck forward was awash and the ship was settling rapidly by the head. Life rafts had been launched and a great number of men were on the rafts or in the water. As soon as all personnel were clear of the bridge, the Gunnery Officer, Executive Officer and Commanding Officer climbed down the outside ladder to the forecastle deck. The forecastle deck was just submerging and all three swam clear of the ship. It is estimated that the ship sunk within three to four minutes from the time of the first torpedo explosion.
In the four minutes it took for the Hammann to sink, 80 of her crew were killed either by the torpedo blast, the sinking, or the setting off of her depth charges as she went down.
True went on to command Destroyer Division Four from late 1942 to 1943, and then served in a variety of Navy Weather and Aerology billets until he retired.
Capt. True retired from active duty in December 1946, at which time he was promoted to the flag rank of rear admiral. For much of the remainder of his life, Admiral True wrote and lectured about the war in the Pacific. He died on December 11, 1979 in Palo Alto, California at the age of 78. He was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.