Edward Baxter Billingsley was born 18 June, 1910, in Melbourne, AR, into a prominent political family. His great grandfather had served as governor. His maternal grandfather was a country physician.
Billingsley began his naval career at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, in July, 1928. His first ship was the USS NEVADA. From 1934 – 1937, he served in China, aboard USS SACRAMENTO, last coal burning ship in the navy; he also served on the river gunboat USS MINDANAO, and on the patrol yacht ISABEL. He then served on the cruiser USS CHICAGO, for two years (1937 – 1939) where he was Assistant Engineering Officer. The Navy then assigned him to the U.S. Naval Training Station, at Norfolk, Virginia, where he remained until 1941. He married Patricia Malloy in December, 1939.
In August 1941, the Navy posted Billingsley to the not-yet commissioned destroyer, USS EMMONS, where he was to serve as engineering officer. EMMONS was commissioned on 5 December 1941. EMMONS’ first assignment was to join a force of five British and American Destroyers to escort the cruiser USS TUSCALOOSA deliver ammunition and supplies to the Russians and British stationed at Murmansk, in the Soviet Union, and to rescue survivors of Convoy PQ-17 stranded there.
In October, 1942, just prior to the invasion of North Africa, Billingsley was promoted to be executive officer of the EMMONS which served in the joint British – American invasion fleet. In 1943, Emmons again served with the Royal Navy, in making several voyages to the Arctic and the Norwegian coast while trying to lure the German navy out of their well-defended bases. He was promoted to command of the EMMONS on 4 July, 1943.
One of EMMONS’ first assignments to escort President Roosevelt on his trip to Teheran in the fall of 1943. In 1944, EMMONS returned to Europe as part of an antisubmarine unit prior to the Invasion of France. In May Billingsley earned a commendation for leading Emmons during the hunting and sinking of the U-616. During the Normandy Invasion, Emmons was in the thick of combat, providing close fire support ship at Omaha Beach. On 25 June, Billingsley and Emmons helped in the bombardment of Cherbourg. Billingsley earned a Silver Star medal for his courage under fire. In August 1944, Billingsley also served in the invasion of Southern France, again in a close fire support unit. For these actions, he received a Bronze Star. He later received the French Croix de Guerre medal EMMONS’ role in the liberation of France.
In fall of 1944, after EMMONS was converted to a high speed minesweeper and renumbered DSM-522, Billingsley was detached and given command of the USS JOHN A. BOLE (DD-755). BOLE was commissioned early in March 1945 and arrived off Okinawa at the end of June 1945 where she was serving as one of the many U.S. destroyers on picket duty, when Japanese kamikazes sank the USS EMMONS.
After the end of the war in the Pacific Theater, the BOLE became part of the American naval forces in the Yellow Sea between Japan and China. BOLE took part in the occupation of Korea, on 8 September 1945. During this operation, Billingsley commanded a naval task unit including of LSM 5, AND LSM 355, along with BOLE. Billingsley naval force and the army troops received the surrender of 60,000 Japanese troops on Quelpart Island on 2 August. He also disarmed the local Japanese naval forces including naval guns and 88 suicide motor boats.
Billingsley then returned to the US. In September 1946, he was assigned to take the Navy postgraduate Personnel Administration and Training course, at Northwestern University. He received his MA in June 1947. Later that June, he was ordered to report to the Bureau of Naval Personnel. He served two years as Assistant Director of the Special Services Division of the Welfare Activity.
From July 1949, to January 1951, Cdr. Billingsley executive officer, aboard the cruiser USS COLUMBUS (CA-74), flagship of U.S. Naval Forces in Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean seas. In 1950, COLUMBUS received a battle efficiency pennant. On 1 January 1951, Billingsley earned promotion to the rank of captain. During his first year as captain, February 1951 to May 1952, he was chief of staff and operations officer to the commander of Cruiser Division SIX, on board the cruiser USS MACON. His next assignment from July 1952 to August 1954, was as base operations officer at Pearl Harbor, whereupon he was named commanding officer of the cruiser USS MONTROSE which served in the Western Pacific during most of 1954 – 1955.
From November 1955 until January 1957, he was posted as commanding officer at Subic Bay, the main U.S. naval base in the Philippines after which he assumed his final assignment on active duty as commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Reserve Training Center at Indianapolis, Indiana. Billingsley retired on 1 November 1959 with rank of rear admiral.
After retiring, Admiral Billingsley returned to college, attending the Goethe Institute in Germany. He then attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which he received a PhD in Latin American History in 1965.
After receiving his doctorate, Billingsley served for a year as chair of the Social Sciences Department and as an assistant professor of history at Methodist College in Fayetteville, N.C. He then was chair of the History Department at the Fort Bragg Branch of the North Carolina State University for another year. In 1967, he joined the faculty of the University of South Florida at Tampa. In 1977, he retired with the rank of associate professor.
In his second retirement, Billingsley began researching his history of the USS EMMONS. He worked on this project from 1981 until 1989, when he privately published a limited edition for members of the U.S.S. EMMONS Association under the title The EMMONS Saga. Admiral Billingsley died on 3 September 1997.
Sources: USS EMMONS HISTORY, USS Emmons DD457 / DMS522 Association