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Leon Grabowsky; Youngest Captain of a Destroyer in World War II

Obituaries

August 05, 2000

Leon Grabowsky, 82, a decorated U.S. Navy officer who was youngest captain of a destroyer in World War II. Grabowsky was born in Paris to Polish immigrants who came to the United States when he was 3. He enlisted in the Navy after high school in New Jersey. He graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1941 and was posted as an ensign aboard the ill-fated battleship Arizona. He escaped the fate of 1,177 fellow sailors because he was ordered ashore for a routine physical when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred. He went on to participate in some of the war's most decisive and bloody battles. He was a 27-year-old lieutenant and executive officer of the destroyer Leutze when the captain was seriously wounded in the battle for Iwo Jima. Grabowsky took command of the Leutze in a harrowing battle at Okinawa and managed to keep the Leutze and its badly damaged sister ship, the Newcomb, afloat, despite an intense kamikaze attack. He saved both ships and most of the crews, earning the Navy Cross. He went on to become one of the most decorated members of his Naval Academy class, earning a Bronze Star, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Republic of Vietnam-Navy Distinguished Service order. He later helped develop the Sidewinder missile and was commanding officer of the Concord Naval Weapons Station near San Francisco. After retiring from the Navy in 1971, he taught business classes at Diablo Valley College. On July 28 in his Danville, Calif., home of complications from Parkinson's disease.

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