If the Naval Submarine League had a Gray Dolphin award for the oldest surviving World War II skipper, Rear Admiral Warder would have cherished it for a long while until he died peacefully on 1 February 2000 at age 95.
Admiral Warder was born in Grafton, West Virginia, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1925, and spent the obligated time at sea in MILWAUKEE before completing Submarine School in 1928 in Class 39.
He spent his early submarine years in S-16 and S-40 before assuming command of S-38 in 1936. He commissioned SEA WOLF (SS 197) in December 1939 as Commanding Officer and retained command until January 1943. He completed seven successful war patrols tallying six ships sunk. His exploits earned him the Navy Cross with gold star, the Bronze Star with Combat V, and two letters of commendation. His success in the shallow water of Davao Gulf in the Philippines on his seventh patrol earned him kudos from ComSubPac, Rear Admiral English. His subsequent duty as ComSubDiv 122 and Wolfpack Commander earned him the Legion of Merit with gold star and Combat V.
I first had the pleasure of serving under Captain Fred Warder when he was Officer-in-Charge of the Submarine School, and was blessed with a staff of no fewer than 33 patrol-wise skippers. His leadership encouraged the entire staff to teach “wartime experience, not textbooks”. During his tenure many future Polaris skippers, and several future four-star Admirals matriculated. His career satisfaction in that job convinced me that one day I wanted to have it.
After he was promoted to Flag Officer in 1952, I again had the opportunity to serve under him as a destroyer skipper when he was ComCruDiv FIVE in WestPac. There I watched him earn the respect of his peers and subordinates by the high standards of leadership he displayed, by his concise decision making, and his concern for his troops.
He was appointed ComSubLant in 1957, and in 1958 I did assume the billet of Officer-in-Charge of the Submarine School. He foresaw that the nuclear submarine would be the primary ASW weapon system against the Soviet’s massive undersea buildup; and steadfastly supported those working for him. He was amongst that considerable group of submariners senior to Admiral Rickover’s first commanding officers who sometimes ran afoul of the Old Gentleman. For example, his Materiel Officer recommended that SEA WOLF II be re-cored with the spare sodium reactor to put her back on line in three months. Rickover thought that “stupid” and decreed that the replacement be a NAUTILUS pressurized water unit and that job took 21 months.
He supported me, too, proof of which is in the accompanying photograph taken at the Submarine School in 1959 on the occasion of the presentation of a handmade model of HOLLAND (SS-1). I, on the other hand, lost a contest with Admiral Warder when, as OIC I asked him to intervene to prevent the producer of OMNIBUS, a national TV program doing a documentary on the School, from bringing the swimmer/actress Esther Williams into the show. He suggested that was my problem-and problem it was. She was a disaster. He was awarded a gold star in lieu of a third Legion of Merit for his service as ComSubLant.
RADM E.M. Eller, USN(Ret.), Director of Naval History; Mr. Floyd D. Houston, New York Model Builder; RADM F.B. Warder, ComSubLant; CAPT M.H. Rindskopf, OIC Submarine School.
Admiral Warder retired in 1962 after a tour as COM 8 for which he was awarded a gold star in lieu of a fourth Legion of Merit.
He was The Naval Submarine League Legendary Submariner in 1986. A gentleman, accomplished submariner, and an admired leader who will be missed by all in the Force.
CAPT Robert W. Bulmer, USN(Ret.)
CAPT J.E. Clarke, USN(Ret.)
STCM(SS) Barry Miller, USN(Ret.)
RADM Charles Nace, USN(Ret.)
Mr. James J. Norris
Mr. Howell L. Potter
CAPT George L. Street, III, USN(Ret.)
CAPT Frank A. Thurtell, USN(Ret.)
RADM Frederick B. Warder, USN(Ret.)