Capt. Frank J. Coulter, a retired decorated career naval officer who commanded the submarine USS Skipjack in the Pacific Theater during World War II, died June 21 of respiratory failure at his Severna Park home.
He was 93.
The son of a police officer and a homemaker, Captain Coulter was born in Baltimore and raised in Canton, and later in the 1600 block of N. Broadway.
After graduating from Polytechnic Institute in 1935, he earned his bachelor's degree from the Naval Academy in 1939.
Captain Coulter began his naval career as an ensign aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania in the Pacific Fleet, and later joined the destroyer-minesweeper USS Perry as an engineer.
Promoted to lieutenant and serving as engineering officer on the Alden, Captain Coulter participated in the Battle of the Java Sea in February 1942, when the Japanese Imperial Navy defeated an allied fleet.
At the end of the seven-hour naval battle, five Allied vessels had gone to the bottom.
"My father was fortunate to have been aboard one of the few ships that survived the Battle of the Java Sea," said his son, Frank J. Coulter Jr. of Vienna, Va.
"Among the U.S. Navy losses was his four-year roommate at the Naval Academy, Lt. Jg. Kenneth Kollmyer, who was serving aboard the cruiser USS Houston when it was sunk following the main action in the Java Sea," his son said.
Captain Coulter's 17-month duty aboard the Alden ended in late 1942 when he was assigned to the Navy's Submarine School in New London, Conn., and after graduation, he joined the crew of the USS Skipjack in the Pacific.
"My father liked to say one of the reasons he asked to join the Submarine Service was the food on board," his son said.
Mr. Coulter said his father was being recruited for submarine service and when aboard a submarine based in Hawaii, they immediately left port and dove below the surface.
"He immediately felt a change in attitude — that is, there wasn't the constant rocking that he was accustomed to on the small ship to which he was then assigned," he said. "That was especially evident when it was time for lunch — the glasses and plates stayed in place. And the food was great, with steak and fries featured on the menu."
During his 42 months aboard the Skipjack, he participated in several war patrols as torpedo and gunnery officer and later as executive officer.
In March 1944, he was promoted to lieutenant commander, and in December assumed command of the vessel, which he held for 20 months.
"He was just 27 years old and out of the Naval Academy for just over five years" when he took command of the Skipjack, his son said.
"My father participated in five war patrols, two of which were deemed successful enough to merit the Submarine Combat Patrol insignia," he said.
"He survived depth charge attacks during several of the war patrols and earned a Bronze Star and a Navy Commendation Medal for the part he played in making successful attacks and evasive maneuvers during two patrols," Mr. Coulter said.