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NEWS | Feb. 5, 2021

Passing of Naval Reserve Rear Adm. John W. Cronin, Jr. (Ret.)

By Samuel J. Cox, Director, Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Adm. John W. Cronin Jr. (Courtesy photo by the Cronin family)
SLIDESHOW | 1 images | Rear Adm. John W. Cronin Jr. Rear Adm. John W. Cronin Jr. (Courtesy photo by the Cronin family)

U.S. Naval Reserve Rear Adm. John Cronin, retired, passed away 25, Jan 2021. Cronin's work in the Naval Intelligence Reserve program founded a renaissance in the intelligence community bringing Reserve expertise into the spotlight. Naval History and Heritage Director, Rear Adm., retired, Samuel Cox provides the following biography on Cronin's Navy Reserve legacy.
From Naval History and Heritage Command director,
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral John. W. Cronin, Jr., U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired) on 25 January 2021 at age 94 due to complications of COVID-19.  John enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1944 and served as a Naval Flight Officer and in Reserve Intelligence billets until his retirement in 1986 in the mobilization billet, Commander Naval Intelligence Command.
In 1944, at age of 17, John Cronin attended the University of South Carolina and on 1 July of that year enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve.  While in the reserve, he subsequently attended Howard College in Birmingham, Alabama and then Georgia Tech University.  He was honorably discharged on 19 June 1946 and then commissioned the next day as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, reporting for active duty on 9 July 1946 aboard the new destroyer USS HOLDER (DD-819) out of Norfolk, VA.  HOLDER then deployed to the Mediterranean and Red Sea with port visits in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  Upon conclusion of active duty in June 1947, he returned to Georgia Tech where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Management in 1949.  He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) in June 1949.
In November 1950, LTJG Cronin was assigned as personnel officer to Reserve Anti-Submarine Squadron VS-901 at NAS Miami, FL.  In January 1951, he was recalled to active duty during the Korean War with Naval Air Reserve Anti-Submarine Squadron VS-801 “Sea Tigers” at NAS Norfolk, operating the search radar in the Grumman AF-2S/AF-2W Guardian ASW aircraft off various escort carriers during the Korean War.  The Guardians operated in pairs, with one configured with sensors (hunter) and the other with weapons (killer;) at the time it was the largest single-engine propeller aircraft in the Navy but was underpowered and suffered a severely high accident rate.  Promoted to lieutenant in June 1952, he was released from active duty in February 1953 and returned to the inactive reserve.
In March 1953, LT Cronin served as administrative officer for the Naval Reserve Transport Squadron (VR) at Naval Air Reserve Training Unit (NARTU) Miami.  In January 1954 he was assigned as the CIC Officer for Naval Reserve Air Wing 80 at NARTU Miami.  He was promoted to lieutenant commander in April 1958 and then attended Naval Reserve Officer School (6-2) as a student from January 1959 to March 1959.
In August 1959, LCDR Cronin served with Naval Reserve Activity (NRA) Air Wing Staff (AWS-74(S)) as “DD Operational Control” Officer.  In October 1962, he served with Air Wing Staff AWS-93L as Operational Control Watch Officer and was promoted to commander in December 1962.
In July 1967, CDR Cronin was assigned to Naval Air Reserve Staff NARS-93(L) as “Chief of Staff OPCON (12).” He was promoted to captain in March 1968.  In July 1969, CAPT Cronin assumed command of Naval Air Reserve Intelligence Unit (NAIRU) W-1 as NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.  In July 1971, he was assigned as Executive Officer for Naval Reserve Intelligence Division 4-1, Philadelphia, PA.  In September 1974, CAPT Cronin served as a member of the Naval Air Reserve Staff W-1.  In August 1975 he became Individual Ready Reserve Unit (IRRU)-104 Area Coordinator Commanding Officer.  In March 1976 he assumed command of INTEL Volunteer Training Unit (VTU)-104.  From July 1974 to October 1977, CAPT CRONIN was also the Area Coordinator for Reserve Intelligence Activity Commander (RIAC)-16.  In October 1977, he became the Naval Reserve Command (NRC) Headquarters Detachment 0119 Area Coordinator.  In October 1978, he served as Area Coordinator for Volunteer Training Unit (IVTU)-104.  He was promoted to rear admiral on 1 July 1979, subsequently serving as Commander, Naval Reserve Intelligence Program with a mobilization billet to Commander, Naval Intelligence Command.  RADM Cronin retired in 1983.
RADM Cronin’s awards include the Legion of Merit, Navy Commendation Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal (Europe,) National Defense Service Medal (two awards,) Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Korean Service Medal with bronze star, and Naval Reserve Medal.
In his civilian life, John Cronin worked for Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co. of Hartford, CT.  In 1962 he became General Agent in Philadelphia, CT for the same company, heading one of the largest agencies in the country, before retiring in 1988.  He was a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). Following that he served for ten years as the George Joseph Chair in Agency Management at Bryn Mawr College.  He also served as the President of the Kiwanis Club, Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Association for Life Underwriters and the General Agents and Managers Association.   He was a trustee of the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation for over 25 years, and Chairman of the Board of Philadelphia Armed Services YMCA.  He had been an Eagle Scout in his youth.
RADM Cronin’s career blows a big hole in the adage that “nice guys finish last.”  By all accounts John Cronin was the quintessential nice guy, who nevertheless could lead and get things done fast and right even under the most challenging circumstances.  Much of his career was spent dealing with such challenges; early on he flew as a search radar operator in the Guardian aircraft, the first U.S. Navy aircraft specifically designed as an Anti-Submarine Warfare platform.  It was also considered a dangerous beast that killed too many Navy aircrewmen (and a few on the flight deck,) but the lessons were quickly incorporated into the S-2 Tracker.  Initially focused on Air Wing Staffs, his career assignments gravitated toward Air Intelligence and then Intelligence in general.  As a captain and rear admiral, he led the Naval Intelligence Reserve Community through some of the toughest times in the post-Vietnam 1970’s when budgets were paltry, the national mood was foul, anti-war sentiment was high, and recruiting was challenging.  Nevertheless, RADM Cronin and those who worked for him did bring in exceptionally talented personnel, in some respects rivaling the Naval Intelligence Reserve Program in 1939-1941 that paid big dividends during World War II.  Those who were mentored and led by RADM Cronin went on to lead a renaissance of Naval Intelligence Reserve Community in the late 1980’s so that by events such as the Haiti Crisis, Cuban Refugee Crisis and the Balkan Crises in the 1990’s, Naval Reserve Intelligence augmentation of Joint Intelligence Centers and Numbered Fleet Intelligence Centers was viewed as highly valuable necessity.  By Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, Naval Intelligence Reserves were amongst the most heavily tasked and in demand of all Naval Reserve specialties.  RADM Cronin set a standard of professional excellence and willingness to sacrifice for the cause that permeates the Naval Intelligence Reserve to this day.  He will be truly missed.
Samuel J. Cox (SES)
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Director of Naval History
Curator for the Navy
Director, Naval History and Heritage Command