Delbert Black The first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)

A Very Important Sailor

Mr. Black, my parents told me, was a "very important man in the Navy". Even though I wasn't in the Navy I got to know the 1st Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy very well. I got to know him as an elementary school kid. Delbert, Ima and their son Donny lived right across the street from us in Springfield, VA.

I would see Mr. Black returning from work, or while I was out riding my bike all the time. He always had a kind word for me and my younger brother. We lived in a great neighborhood and had great neighbors. My Dad was in the Marine Corps and he was in the Navy, so he was good to go in my book.

I never really understood what he did in the Navy, I was only a young kid, but I knew he was a special man. My brother and I really got to know him when my father was in Vietnam in 1968 & 69. It seemed like he was over at our house all the time. Every two and three days he was knocking on the door asking my mom if she needed anything. Mr. Black always spoke to us kids. "You boys behaving?" and "You make sure you help your Mom" were what I remember hearing most.

Several years after he had retired and moved, I was talking with my Dad about the good old days. We were talking about what great neighbors we had and Mr. and Mrs Black's names came up. My Dad explained that when we knew him, Delbert Black was the very first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON). He had many outstanding accomplishments, an amazing career and was a 1st class leader.

From Pearl Harbor to MCPON

MCPON Black joined the Navy in March of 1941. He was serving aboard the USS Maryland (BB 46) in Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th, 1941. The Maryland was at Battleship Row alongside Ford Island next to the USS Oklahoma during the attack. Ironically, MCPON Black was from Oklahoma. Maryland was hit by two Japanese bombs during the attack, but later made it to the Puget Sound Navy Yard for repairs. Maryland would go on to participate in numerous engagements. His ship was torpedoed several times and attacked by Kamikaze’s during WWII. Maryland earned seven battle stars for WWII service and saw action at in support of landings at Tarawa, Saipan, the Philippines and Okinawa among others.

During his thirty year career MCPON Black served a total of 21 years at sea aboard 9 warships. In April of 1967 he was selected for the newly established billet as the Senior Enlisted Advisor of the Navy. The title was changed to Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy the same year. He was a trail blazer in the Navy and became the first official “Voice of the Enlisted Sailor”. He was the right man for the right times as his tour as MCPON was at the height of the Vietnam War. One of his many major accomplishments was to start the Navy’s Command Master Chief Program. The Navy could not have picked a better Sailor as the 1st Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. His tour was during the height of the Vietnam War.

USS Marlyand (BB-46)
USS Marlyand (BB-46)

A legacy of Service

MCPON Delbert D. Black retired from the Navy on the CPO birthday, April 1st, 1971. He died on March 5th, 2000. The Navy lost a great leader and man and my family lost a great neighbor and friend.

On May 7th, 2008 the Command Master Chief for Navy Forces/Region Japan, was named the first recipient of the Del Black Award for Deckplate Leadership. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Black’s “actions on behalf of the enlisted Sailor are viewed by the Chief Petty Officer community as a foundations for deckplate leadership”.

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