Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Bloch, Claude Charles (1878–1967)

U.S. Navy admiral who served as a commander at Pearl Harbor. Born in Woodbury, Kentucky, on 13 July 1878, Claude Bloch graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1895 and was a cadet at the Battle of Santiago Bay during the 1898 Spanish-American War. He was also part of the international force sent to relieve the foreign legations in Beijing during the 1900 Boxer Uprising. A gunnery specialist, Bloch served in European waters during World War I, commanding a battleship. In 1927, he was chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. During the 1930s, Bloch held several important administrative positions, including budget officer and judge advocate general, and his appearances before congressional committees were widely considered superlative. A staunch advocate of preparedness and a member of the navy "gun club," which emphasized a blue-seas navy based on battleships and cruisers rather than carrier aviation, Bloch supported the fortification of Guam. In 1937, he became commander of the Battle Force, U.S. Fleet, and the following year, he took command of the West Coast–based U.S. Fleet.

In 1940, Bloch became commander of the 14th Naval District, Pearl Harbor, normally an enjoyable preretirement assignment. As a warning gesture to Japan in 1940, however, President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred the West Coast Fleet, Bloch's former command, from California to Hawaii. Bloch sought to strength Hawaiian defenses, but he encountered much interference and obstruction from the fleet's new commander, Admiral Husband Edward Kimmel. Yet Bloch's own opposition to the installation of antitorpedo nets contributed to the disastrous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor of 7 December 1941. Although both Kimmel and General Walter Short, the army commander, were removed from their commands, Bloch served out his term until April 1942, when he retired. A congressional inquiry subsequently exonerated him from all responsibility for the Pearl Harbor debacle.

Recalled to Washington in April 1942 to serve on the navy's General Board, he retired in August 1942 at the rank of full admiral. In retirement, he headed the Navy Board for Production Awards until the end of World War II. Bloch died in Washington, D.C., on 6 October 1967.

Priscilla Roberts


Further Reading
Clausen, Henry C., and Bruce Lee. Pearl Harbor: Final Judgment. New York: Crown Publishers, 1992.; Conroy, Hilary, and Harry Wray, eds. Pearl Harbor Reexamined: Prologue to the Pacific War. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990.; Prange, Gordon William, with Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon. Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986.
 

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