Walden Lee Ainsworth Papers

Manuscript Collection #250
Ainsworth, W. L. (Walden Lee), 1886-1960
Physical description
0.22 Cubic Feet, 100 items , including naval campaign file for the Solomon Islands, photographs, citations and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Walden Lee Ainsworth Papers (#250), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1942–1948) including naval campaign file for Solomon Island, photographs, citations, pamphlets, battle, pictures.

Biographical/historical information

Walden Lee ("Pug") Ainsworth was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 10 November 1886. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1910, and was commissioned an ensign on 7 March 1919. In 1940 and 1941, Ainsworth commanded a destroyer squadron in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. There he also commanded the battleship Mississippi until 4 July 1942 when he became Commander Destroyers, Pacific Fleet. In December 1942, he took command of cruiser-destroyer task forces in the Solomon Islands. After the conclusion of World War II, Ainsworth was Commandant Fifth Naval District from 22 August 1945, until his retirement on 1 December 1948. Admiral Ainsworth died on 7 August 1960.

Scope and arrangement

Most of the collection consists of official U.S. Navy documents. They concern the operations of the task force commanded by Admiral Ainsworth (10 December 1942 to 4 June 1944) in the Solomon Islands Campaign. The first section of the admiral's papers is a narrative of naval operations, beginning with the bombardment of the Japanese airfield at Munda, 4–5 January 1943. Using the latest in radar and the most modern instruments, this was the first naval action where surface, submarine and aerial units were coordinated, a "first lesson" in amphibious warfare. Action off Guadalcanal (23–24 January 1943, 15–16 March 1943, and 12–13 May 1943). The January 1943 bombing was the first instance of destruction of enemy planes by 5 inch fire in full radar control. Mining operations of Blackett Strait (5 May 1943) were followed by the combined mining and bombardment operations of the Munda-Vila-Kula Gulf area (12–13 May 1943). After conducting the night bombardment of Vila Stanmore and Bairoko Harbor (4–5 July 1943), Ainsworth's task force was directed to attempt the interception of the Tokyo Express (5 July 1943). Thus ensued the second Battle of Kula Gulf (5–6 July 1943).This was a repeat of the action of 12–13 May 1943, but with considerably more enemy fire in return. Only a few days later, orders from Admiral Halsey sent the force on an offensive sweep up "the slot" to take part in the Battle of Kolombangara (12–13 July 1943). There was considerable damage to both sides in Ainsworth's attempt to seize Kula Gulf and bombard areas on Kolombangara. Upon conclusion of this operation, Captain McInerney led Destroyer-Squadron Twenty-One (16 July 1943) on a daring but successful destroyer rescue attempt of 165 survivors of the Battle of Kula Gulf. The final two operations under Ainsworth's leadership in this campaign were bombardments of Japanese installations at Kieta and Numa Numa (27 December 1943) and in the Shortlands-Faisi area (8 January 1944).

The second section of Admiral Ainsworth's naval papers are statistics of the Solomons' campaign. They cover the summary of activities including bombardments, actions against surface ships, submarines and aircraft, mining operations, and casualties. Thirdly are dispatches of congratulations and encouragement to Admiral Ainsworth and various officers under his command, the majority from Admiral Halsey. The fourth section consists of press releases announcing awards presented to Ainsworth and men in his command. For his service and leadership in the Solomons' campaign, Admiral Ainsworth received the Legion of Merit (11 April 1945), a gold star in lieu of a second legion of merit, the Navy Cross (February 1944), the Distinguished Service Medal (December 1943), and citations for service 10 December 1942 to 18 July 1943, and for the Kula Gulf engagements. Also in the collection are mounted citations to various ships in the Admiral's task force. The fifth section of papers are plans for the operations of Ainsworth's task force, all of which were mentioned in the first section, the Narrative. These describe proposed action and include bombardment, communication, battle, navigation, and firing plans. Last in this major portion of the Admiral's collection are reports for Navy use on the operations carried out.

The remainder of the collection consists of pictures, pamphlets and an annual. Most interesting are photographs of the ceremony where Eisenhower and Nimitz receive honorary LLD's from the University of Richmond and the reception afterwards. Ainsworth wrote a pamphlet on the Battle of New Orleans entitled "An Amphibious Operation that Failed" (February 1945), a copy of which is in the collection. A remembrance of Ainsworth, written by his communications officer (April 1972) describes Ainsworth's character and lauds his leadership ability. In a program and its folder for the commissioning ceremony of the USS Ainsworth is a drawing of the ships insigne, a press release of the launching and memo from Samuel E. Morison, Rear Admiral USNR (Ret.), remembering his contacts with Admiral Ainsworth. An annual of the USS Mississippi, 1941–1945, which the Admiral once commanded (1942) is also included.

Administrative information
Custodial History

January 18, 1974, ca. 100 items; Naval campaign file for Solomon Islands (1942–1944), photographs, citations, and miscellaneous (1942–1948). Gift of Mr. H. Gardner Ainsworth, Chevy Chase, Md.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mr. H. Gardner Ainsworth

Processing information

Processed by P. Ellis, April 1974

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Ainsworth, W. L. (Walden Lee), 1886-1960
Corporate Names
Mississippi (Battleship : BB 41)
United States. Navy--Drill and tactics
United States. Navy. Naval District, 5th--Officers
United States. Navy. Pacific Fleet--Officers
World War, 1939-1945--Amphibious operations
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Solomon Islands--Guadalcanal
World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations, American

Container list
Box 1 Folder b Solomon Islands Campaigns File: Plans
Box 1 Folder c Solomon Islands Campaigns File: Reports
Box 1 Folder d Solomon Islands Campaigns File: Miscellaneous
Box 1 Folder e USS Mississippi War Record, 1941-1945
Folder os1 Item 1 Japanese Surrender - USS Missouri (2 Sept 1945), 1945
Folder os1 Item 2 USS Mississippi, 1938
Folder os1 Item 3 USS Burke, 1947
Folder os1 Item 4 Commendations, undated