Retired Navy Vice Adm. Francis W. Rockwell, 92, who accompanied Gen. Douglas MacArthur on his dramatic escape from the Philippines early in World War II, died of cardiac arrest Tuesday at his home in St. Simons Island, Ga.
Adm. Rockwell was commandant of the Navy Yard at Cavite Bay near Manila when the Japanese opened hostilities in December 1941, bringing the United States into the war.
By early 1942, the American position in the Philippines had become untenable. Gen. MacArthur and Adm. Rockwell were ordered to escape. Adm. Rockwell planned the journey, using PT boats to take them from Corregidor, a fortified island in Manila Bay, to a rendezvous with an Army Air Corps Flying Fortress. The plane took them on to Australia.
Later in the war, Adm. Rockwell commanded the amphibious forces that out sted the Japanese from their bases on Attu and Kiska islands in the Aleutians.He then commanded the Navy's amphibious training program and the Bureau of Naval Personnel.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Silver Star for his service in the Philippines, and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Legion of Merit for his work in the Aleutians.
During World War I, while commanding a destroyer on antisubmarine duty in the North Atlantic, he won the Navy Cross.
Adm. Rockwell was born in South Woodstock, Conn., and was a 1908 graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Before World War I, he served aboard the destroyer Jarvis at Tampico during the Mexican campaign in 1914, and taught electrical engineering and physics at the Naval Academy.
Adm. Rockwell was gunnery officer and executive officer of battleships between the wars, and served in the Navy's budget office in Washington during the late 1930s.
He lived in Washington until retiring to Georgia in 1956.
His first wife, the former Mary Allison Wilmer, died in 1970.
Adm. Rockwell is survived by his wife, Marjorie A., of the home; a son, Warren T., of Washington; two daughters, Mary Elizabeth Lowe, of Sea Island, Ga., and Katharine Ferguson Anderson, of Newport Beach, Calif.; eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.