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Adm John Walter “Black Jack” Reeves, Jr

Adm John Walter “Black Jack” Reeves, Jr

Death 15 Jul 1967 (aged 79)
Burial Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, USA
Plot 26, 0, 814
Memorial ID 1110219 · View Source
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Admiral, U.S. Navy
World War I, World War II

John W. Reeves, Jr. graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with the Class of 1911. During his naval career he acquired the nickname Black Jack, which was reportedly based on his temperament.

As a Lieutenant Commander, in 1928 he commanded the destroyer USS Parrott (DD-218).

In 1936, at the age of 48, Reeves was one of the oldest men ever to be designated a Naval Aviator. When the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) was commissioned on 25 April 1940, it was commanded by Captain Reeves.

On 12 January 1943, Rear Admiral Reeves participated in the Occupation of Amchitka to dislodge Imperial Japan forces from the Aleutian Islands; he commanded the Alaskan Sector Escort Group consisting of one gunboat, one minesweeper, and three fast minesweepers.

On 7 Mar 1944, Reeves was Commander, Carrier Division Four (COMCARDIV) Task Group 58.1 and his flagship was the USS Enterprise. Reeves' Task Group 58.3, consisting of the Enterprise, Lexington, San Jacinto and Princeton, played a key role in the Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19–20 June 1944.

Reeves also served as Head of Naval Air Transport and Commander, Western Caroline Sub Area.

Vice Admiral Reeves' final assignment was as Chief of the Naval Air Training Command at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Upon his retirement in May 1950, he was advanced in rank to four-star Admiral. *

* The Act of Congress of 4 March 1925, allowed Navy officers to be promoted one grade upon retirement if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat. These promotions were colloquially known as "tombstone promotions" because they conferred the prestige of the higher rank but not the additional retirement pay, so their only practical benefit was to allow recipients to engrave a loftier title on their business cards and tombstones. An Act of Congress on 23 February 1942, enabled tombstone promotions to three- and four-star grades.

Medals and Awards

Navy Distinguished Service Medal (3 Awards)
Legion of Merit with Combat "Valor" Device (2 Awards)
Navy Presidential Unit Citation
Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal

Amusing Anecdote

Reeves got the nickname Black Jack because he was reportedly stern, demanding, and rarely in a good mood.

Now consider a young naval officer named Jerry Flynn. The name itself conjures up good images: a witty Irishman, a sailor's officer, an encourager, etc.

This was the Jerry Flynn of the carrier USS Enterprise, where he served as a Lieutenant (j.g.) in the Gunnery Department. As you might imagine, his good-natured bantering with Rear Admiral "Black Jack" Reeves wasn't always well received. One day, when the Admiral had heard a bit more of Jerry's tongue than he thought was proper, he remarked: "Flynn, this ship isn't big enough for the two of us!"

A week or two later, as the Admiral was being piped over the side for a new assignment, Jerry fired a parting shot: "Well, Admiral, as you said, one of us had to go!"

A Second 'Side' of 'Black Jack'

Ralph Hare, a great-nephew of John Reeves, shared a story that shows a different side of him. He said that in Reeve's retirement he lived in Warrington, FL, just outside Pensacola. In the early 1960s he would invite Ralph to visit and bring a date. He saw to it that Ralph's dates were always impressed; dinners at the officers club, sailboating, crabbing in the shallows at night. His remark was that "Once upon a time a Black Jack, but to me Uncle Jack, a good sailor and a good man."

In Retirement

After retirement from the Navy, Reeves served as General Manager of Los Angeles International Airport from 1950 to 1952.


Reeves was married twice. He had two children by his first marriage to Isabel Ley. His son, John, a USNA graduate, was killed in flight training during WWII and was never married. His daughter, Margaret, was married to Adrian Balstra and they had no children.

His second wife, Dorothy H. Reeves, preceded him in death on 2 April 1962. She is buried next to her husband.

Bio compiled by Charles A. Lewis

Family Members







  • Maintained by: Charles A. Lewis
  • Originally Created by: US Veterans Affairs Office
  • Added: 26 Feb 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1110219
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Adm John Walter “Black Jack” Reeves, Jr (25 Apr 1888–15 Jul 1967), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1110219, citing Barrancas National Cemetery, Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, USA ; Maintained by Charles A. Lewis (contributor 47162573) .