Harold R. Holcomb, a retired rear admiral who began his naval career as an enlisted man in World War I and ended it 33 years later as a combat veteran of both the Pacific and European theaters, died Sunday in Pasadena.
He was 88 and moved to this area from Arizona in 1979, shortly after the death of his wife. He had been a justice of the peace in Scottsdale and purchasing agent and hospital administrator for Maricopa County while there.
Holcomb retired from the Navy in 1950, ending a career that began when he enlisted in 1918, was discharged after the Armistice and then reenlisted in 1919 as an officer.
Between wars, he sailed with the fleet to quell an uprising in Nicaragua, helped evacuate the victims and quell the fires that followed the 1933 Long Beach earthquake and commanded recruit regiments at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois.
As World War II neared, he was given command of a destroyer division transporting lend-lease supplies to Britain, but with the outbreak of war, he was sent to the Pacific, where he commanded Destroyer Squadron 2, a force of 12 ships involved in such battles as Guadalcanal, Midway and Coral Sea.
Five of the vessels were sunk during combat.
His ships also provided escort for the carrier Hornet, which launched the Doolittle bombing raid on Japan in April, 1942.
Holcomb returned to the European theater for the Normandy invasion, commanding a Seabee regiment. After the war, he became deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Germany, and commander of the U.S. Naval Advance Base at Bremerhaven, West Germany.
His survivors include a son, Lowell; a daughter, Cynthia Holcomb Hall, a member of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.