Vice Adm. Kleber Sandlin Masterson, 89, a battleship gunnery officer in World War II and an ordnance expert who helped build the Navy's arsenal of nuclear missiles, died May 3 at Inova Alexandria Hospital in Alexandria, Va.
As a newly promoted rear admiral in 1957, Vice Admiral Masterson commanded the missile division in the Office of Naval Operations and joined a ballistic missiles committee that played a leading role in equipping the Navy's nuclear submarine fleet with Polaris missiles.
Vice Admiral Masterson later commanded the U.S. 2nd Fleet and the Striking Fleet Atlantic of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, based in Norfolk, Va. When he retired in 1969, he was director of the Weapons Evaluation Group, part of the Pentagon, in Washington.
Vice Admiral Masterson, who was born in San Jon, N.M., graduated from the Naval Academy in 1930. He also graduated from the Naval War College.
In 1939, he was assigned to the USS Arizona, and on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor, he was at his shore quarters and saw the Arizona aflame and sinking at dockside.
Then, as gunnery officer of the USS Pennsylvania, he took part in the Attu-Kiska campaign in Alaska in 1943 and the Marshall Islands campaign in the western Pacific in 1944. He was decorated when the Pennsylvania won a citation for "outstanding heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War."
Posted to the Bureau of Ordnance in the Navy Department, he earned a citation for outstanding performance as head of engineering planning in the bureau's Research and Planning Division. He was given a number of assignments, both at sea and ashore, before commanding the missile staff in the Office of Naval Operations.
He is survived by a son, Kleber Masterson Jr. of Alexandria, who also is a retired rear admiral; two sisters, Ruth Bliss of Flagstaff, Ariz., and Pattie Boyd of Las Vegas; two grandsons; and three great-grandchildren.
Pub Date: 5/26/98