James Blenn Perkins III (Jim) died 27 November 2021 in Huntington Beach, California, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 79.
Jim was born on 28 August 1942 in Alexandria, Virginia, to James Blenn Perkins Jr., and Patricia A. Perkins, the first of their five children. He grew up in Boothbay Harbor and attended local schools, graduating from Boothbay Region High School in 1960 (his class was the first to attend the new high school building all four years).
While in high school, Jim played on the football, basketball, track and baseball teams, earning 10 varsity letters. Jim’s football team won the state championship in 1958. He said they were never good enough to win, except for this particular year, with these particular guys. “It was a hell of a team,” said Jim. “I was smallest player on the line. Twenty-five of us in all, maybe twenty.” During the summers, Jim worked as a lifeguard at Buzzell’s Pool (the saltwater pool at Back Narrows, later the Y), teaching many local children to swim.
Senator Margaret Chase Smith nominated Jim to the U.S. Naval Academy. Known there as “Perk,” his motto of “work hard, play even harder” resulted in a few “trips to the dant” (Commandant). Nevertheless, he did work hard, and graduated with a bachelor of science in Naval Science (as did all USNA graduates at the time) and was commissioned an ensign on 3 June 1964. He later earned a M.S. in engineering ecoustics and a M.S. in National Security and Strategic Studies.
He married Connie Patten in December 1968, in Jacksonville, Florida, and they had two children, Susan and James IV.
Jim had a distinguished 35-year career as a Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy, retiring in 1999 as a Vice Admiral. His experience included six command tours as well as a wide variety of senior operational leadership positions. His commands included USS SCHOFIELD (FFG-3,) Destroyer Squadron NINE, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas, and Amphibious Group THREE. He was awarded a Bronze Star with Combat “V” and a Combat Action Ribbon.
As Commander DESRON 9, Jim led the operation that destroyed Iranian guns and intelligence collection site on the Sassan Oil Platform during Operation Praying Mantis in April 1988. This battle is one of five important naval battles featured in the book “Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles that Shaped American History” (2005).
Jim was Commander, Naval Forces Marianas from 1990-1992, with responsibility for over 10,000 service members and their families, as well as U.S. military relations with the Government of Guam. His family referred to him as the “King of Guam.” While in command of NAVFOR Marianas, as part of Operation Fiery Vigil in June 1991, he supervised the evacuation through Guam of over 21,000 military personnel and dependents (including their beloved pets) displaced by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines (the second largest volcanic eruption in the 20th Century), which buried Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay in ash. Other significant duties included command of a Guided Missile Frigate, command of a nine-ship Destroyer squadron, and CNO’s sponsor for the Navy’s current ASW suite.
From 1994 to 1997, as Deputy Commander in Chief (DCINC), U.S. Southern Command, Jim was responsible for operations involving over 5000 men and women from all military services in Central and South America. He led SOUTHCOM’s counter-drug, nation-building and disaster relief efforts, and during a four-month period as Acting CINC, took a leadership role in resolving international crises in Paraguay and Ecuador/Peru. Prior to this tour, he commanded the 25-ship Amphibious Group Three, and served as Senior Naval Commander in Somalia for relief operations (1992) and again for U.S. force withdrawal (1994).
His last assignment was as Commander, Military Sealift Command; Jim was responsible for 110 ships, 8000 employees and a $2.1 billion annual budget. During this tour, he skillfully executed his responsibilities in coordination with all the military services, 33 ocean transportation companies, eight labor unions, the U.S. Congress, and Departments of State and Transportation. He earned the NDTA DOD Distinguished Service Award for 1999.
After retiring from active duty in 1999, Jim served as President of L-3 Communications/TMA Corporation, providing project engineering, technical services, and information technology services to support government and commercial clients. He also served as the Senior Military Advisor for the American Maritime Congress.
Jim had a lifelong connection to and love of Maine, spending summers in Boothbay Harbor after his retirement until the pandemic made it too difficult to travel. His children and grandchildren share his deep love of Maine and treasure their time in Maine every summer.
Jim was a devoted grandfather and loved having his six grandchildren and seven honorary grandchildren visit him in Maine each summer. He routinely picked up muffins each morning from Hannaford. The kids would pop out of bed and run down to the dock house hoping to beat their sibling, cousin or friend to the best flavors, thus allowing their tired parents another 30 minutes of sleep!
One summer, his daughter Susan was lucky enough to spend several months in Boothbay Harbor and signed up for a “mommy and me” swim class at the Y with twins Adam and Jason. The program required an adult per child, and rather than have the twins miss out on the class, Jim volunteered to be the other "mommy." He jumped right in and bounced up and down, sang songs, and played with the boys. He adored his grandchildren and spent his final years going to soccer games and school events, buying Girl Scout cookies, and being as present in their lives as possible.
He had friends all over the world, from his childhood to his Navy career. He will be deeply missed by everyone who knew him.
Jim is survived by his children, Susan and James IV, their spouses, Elmer Wurts and Andrea Atkinson, and their children, Sarah Hirsch, Lillian Perkins, Adam Hirsch, Jason Hirsch, Claire Perkins, and Alexandra Perkins, all of Huntington Beach, California. Jim was blessed to live near his children and their families in recent years, and they all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving together only two days before he died.
Jim is also survived by his former spouse, Connie Perkins (Oceanside, California); his siblings, Sally Perkins (Tacoma, Washington), Sandra Perkins (Seattle, Washington) and Tom Perkins (Boothbay Harbor); their spouses, Jeffrey Ochsner and Lauri Perkins; and several nieces and nephews. Jim was predeceased by his parents, his sister, Judith Wright, and his nephew, Alex Wright.
There will be a celebration of Jim’s life in Huntington Beach, California, on 27 February. There will be a gathering in Boothbay Harbor later this spring, and a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery when that can be scheduled later this year. For more details, please see: https://www.forevermissed.com/vadm-james-blenn-perkins-iii/about .