Fitch became a naval aviator in 1930. Promoted to captain in 1931, he then commanded three naval air stations and also the carriers Langley and Lexington. He graduated from the Naval War College in 1938. In April 1940, Fitch took command of Patrol Wing 2 at Pearl Harbor and was promoted to rear admiral that July. In November, he assumed command of Carrier Division 1, with his flag in the carrier Saratoga.
Fitch served under Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher in the aborted Wake Island relief expedition. Transferring his flag to the carrier Lexington in the Battle of the Coral Sea, Fitch exercised tactical control over U.S. carriers. He then took command of U.S. Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet, and in September he commanded all ground-based naval and Marine aviation in the Guadalcanal Campaign. As such, he played an important role in the subsequent U.S. victory in the Solomon Islands.
Promoted to vice admiral in December 1943, Fitch became deputy chief of naval operations for air in August 1944. In 1945, he was the first naval aviator to serve as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. In July 1947, Fitch retired as a full admiral. He died at Newcastle, Maine, on 22 May 1978.
Nathan L. Gilbert
Hoyt, Edwin P. Blue Skies and Blood: The Battle of the Coral Sea. New York: S. Eriksson, 1975.; Reynolds, Clark. Famous American Admirals. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1978.; Sweetman, Jack. Great American Naval Battles. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1998.