Sheldon Hoard Kinney, 86, a retired Navy rear admiral whose ship sank three German U-boats in one night and who saw combat service in three wars, died Dec. 11 at his home in Annapolis. He was a former commandant of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Adm. Kinney was born in Pasadena, Calif., and loved sailing and the ocean from his earliest years. As a 16-year-old, he was a crew member on a sailing schooner to Hawaii, and he enlisted in the Navy in 1935, a year before he was to finish high school. His older brother, Gilbert, also joined the Navy in the 1930s and lies entombed at his duty station aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.
Sheldon Hoard Kinney in an undated photo. He was also Naval Academy commandant.
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As a seaman, Adm. Kinney served aboard the USS Omaha and then as a signalman aboard the USS New York, which represented the United States at the last gathering of the world's great dreadnaughts for the Coronation Review at Spithead by Great Britain's King George VI.
Even though he had not finished high school, he was selected from the fleet to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in 1937. He received a bachelor's degree in marine engineering in February 1941; his class graduated early for immediate sea duty because of looming war. Upon graduation, he was presented with the Class of 1897 Sword that's now displayed with his medals at Bancroft Hall.
He also received two master's degrees -- in international economics and international politics -- and his juris doctor degree, all from George Washington University. He was a 1960 graduate of the National War College.
As an ensign, Kinney served aboard the USS Sturtevant, which was assigned convoy duties in the North Atlantic, where its sister ship, the USS Reuben James, had been sunk. His ship survived being rammed.
On a subsequent operation, he received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism for diving from his ship to rescue two downed aviators. Later, the Sturtevant was sunk, and he survived by floating on a bag of coffee beans.
He took command of the USS Edsall in 1943, becoming the youngest commanding officer of a destroyer-type ship. He then commissioned and took command of the USS Bronstein. The Bronstein was credited with sinking three German U-boats in one night and putting a fourth out of action. He was awarded the Navy Cross, and the Bronstein received a Presidential Unit Citation.
Adm. Robert Carney, chief of naval operations from 1953 to 1955, described the Bronstein's fight that night as "the most concentrated and successful antisubmarine action by a U.S. Navy ship during World War II."
Adm. Kinney served as the anti-submarine warfare officer on the staff of the Commander Destroyers Atlantic at the end of World War II. He went on to command the USS Ludlow and the USS Taylor during the Korean War. He also commanded the Navy's first guided missile frigate, the USS Mitscher, and served in London on the staff of the commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe.
He commanded the USS Mississinewa, Amphibious Squadron 12, and then the naval gunfire support ships of Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 11 in Operation Sea Dragon in Vietnam. His final command was as Commander Cruiser Destroyer Forces Pacific.
He was commandant of the Naval Academy from 1963 to 1967 and had lived in Annapolis off and on since 1953.
After his retirement from the Navy in 1972, he served 10 years as president of the State University of New York Maritime College at Fort Schulyer.
He was a founder and later rector (president) of the World Maritime University of the International Maritime Organization of the United Nations at Malmo, Sweden. He also served as special adviser to the secretary general of the IMO in London.
His other military decorations include the Legion of Merit (Combat V) with two Gold Stars, the Bronze Star (Combat V) and the Navy Commendation Medal.
Survivors include his wife of 64 years, Elizabeth "Lea" Douglas Kinney of Annapolis; two sons, Douglas Kinney of Washington and Bruce Kinney of Snellville, Ga; a brother; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.