Published in The Virginian-Pilot on Aug. 11, 2020.
Dexter Cleveland Rumsey August 4, 1917 - August 7, 2020
Captain Dexter Cleveland Rumsey, II, USN (Ret.) died on August 7, 2020, at the age of 103 years!
He was born August 4, 1917 at Fort Shafter Army Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Major Dexter C. Rumsey, US Army, and Rhoda French Cooley.
His mother divorced and remarried Leslie E. Gehres, a naval aviator and, after numerous relocations with his family, Dexter graduated from Western High School (1935) in Washington, DC, enrolled as a student in flight training at NAS Pensacola, FL, where he graduated after earning his gold wings and was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy Reserve (USNR).
Upon graduation he was assigned to Patrol Squadrons 52 (VP-52) where he became a pilot in a PBY Catalina (PBY-5) two-engine seaplane squadron. Soon after the squadron was moved to Rhode Island in 1938 and re-designated VP-72 when he was ordered to Argentia, Newfoundland, where he flew missions supporting US merchant convoys to Iceland, as they crossed the Atlantic.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he took his squadron there to replace PBY's that were destroyed in the attack. Throughout the war he was actively involved in Navy operations including the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway where he participated in patrolling the southwestern flank of the US fleet to report if the Japanese tried to attack from that direction. The PBY was designed for long-range missions and as a seaplane to land on the water, if necessary. VP-72 was ordered back to New Caledonia, Espritu Santo Island, with the tender, USS Tangier as support. There he assisted the Guadalcanal operation by patrolling for Jap ships and conducting air/sea rescue from Tulagi Island.
Next, Dexter was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics (BUAER) with the job of working with Catalina/Martin Mariner for production, modification, and other needed changes to the aircraft, such as adding RADAR (at last).
Next, he was assigned as commanding officer to Patrol Bombing Squadron, VPB-211, where he flew with a Martin Mariner Squadron in Brazil during operations in the south Atlantic searching for submarines. He returned to the Pacific theater in 1945 as Air Operations Officer on board the USS Cowpens (CVL-25) where he participated in operations until the ending of the war up until they participated in the signing of the surrender in Tokyo Bay. They on the Cowpens thought it was an honor to be so chosen as the first capital ship to go into the harbor until they figured out that they were clearing the way of any possible mines the Japanese might have planted there! After the surrender the ship's torpedo bombers, TBF-TBM's, were selected to go to the Japanese airfield, Atsugi, from which they were to drop supplies to allied prisoners being held in the mountains. Dexter was in charge of that detail.
Then he was assigned to the USS Chandeleur (AV-10) in Manilla as executive officer, which was involved in transporting US troops back to the USA. Dexter Rumsey ended up taking command of the ship which was part of U.S. Atlantic Reserve Fleet Group in Philadelphia until 1947, when he attended Naval General Line School in Newport, RI, before being assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics (BUAER), Washington, DC.
Next, he was ordered to Commander Operational Development Force Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk. Dexter then transitioned to the propeller fighter aircraft, F4U Corsair, as XO and CO of Fighter Squadron 41 stationed at NAS Oceana when not at sea on the USS Midway (CVA-41); he transitioned along with his squadron to the jet aircraft, F2H Banshee, during that tour.
Following his command assignment, he graduated from the US Air Force War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in 1954 and then, after assignment at NAS Key West, he served as Operations Officer of the carrier, USS Randolph (CVA-15) in 1955 and also served under Commander US Sixth Fleet. He was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, MD, and the Bureau of Naval Weapons, Washington, DC, before taking command of the oiler, USS Pawcatuck (AO-108) 1961-62.
Captain Rumsey then attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and Armed Forces Staff College before taking command of NAS Oceana in 1964 until 1966. He went to the Staff Commander Fleet Air Norfolk as Chief of Staff until he took over as the Commander Fleet Air Norfolk. After being relieved of that assignment, Captain Dexter C. Rumsey, II, USN, retired from active duty 31 December 1967.
After his service in the Navy, he worked for an engineering logistics firm, Stanwick Corporation in Norfolk, until his final retirement in 1993.
Dexter was awarded the following decorations during his Navy career: Legion of Merit, Air Medal, American Defense Service Medal with "A" device, World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 4 stars (Battle of Coral Sea, Battle of Midway, Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal & French Frigate Shoals), North and South Atlantic Theater Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal (Japan), National Defense service Medal with one star, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.
Dexter was married to the former Lucile Jenkins from Charlestown, SC, and to Helen Wright, both of whom have predeceased him. Dexter married again to Mary Shoemaker in Norfolk in 1999. Captain Rumsey's son, Dexter C. Rumsey III, served as a Marine officer in Vietnam and died of prostate cancer in 2017 which was aggravated by Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used during the war. Dexter II has two surviving sons, John Jenkins Rumsey and Dr. Robert Lebby Rumsey, MD, of his first marriage and a third son, Christopher Wright Rumsey, from his second marriage. He is also survived by his daughter-in-law, Bonnie Rumsey. His sister, Rhoda Rumsey Wells, predeceased him in 2013, but his other sister, Leslie Gehres Girard, still lives in La Mesa, CA. He is still survived by his wife, Mary Shoemaker Rumsey, his nephews CDR Robert Moore, Leslie and Peter Girard, and niece Maria Smith; grandson Dexter Rumsey IV and his granddaughter, Caroline Paxton, stepson George Shoemaker and stepdaughter Kathi Oti, plus granddaughters Sarah, Renee, and Lucile Rumsey, and several great grandchildren.
Dexter's funeral will be at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach.