Joseph James McClelland was born June 19, 1916, at Seattle, Wash., where he attended elementary and secondary schools and the University of Washington.
Appointed a cadet on July, 1936, he was graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn., with a Bachelor of Science degree and with a commission as Ensign on May 20, 1940. During his four years as a cadet, he served as Commander of the Cadet Battalion and actively engaged in baseball, football, and boxing, serving as team captain in the latter two sports.
He served his first tour of duty as watch officer on board the 327-foot Coast Guard Cutter Duane, operating out of Boston, Mass., on Neutrality Patrol and Weather Patrol in the Greenland region. During the early stages of World War II, he served aboard the Cutter Onondaga out of Astoria, Ore., and saw action with that vessel in Alaska during the Japanese attack on Dutch Harbor. He was next stationed at the Coast Guard Academy as an instructor.
He returned to sea in command of the destroyer escort Vance (DE-387) on convoy escort duty in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, and then had a succession of commands which included the cutters Potomac and Mistletoe, and the Jackson at St. Thomas, V.I.
He next was stationed at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C., in the Office of Personnel until May 1949, and was then assigned to post graduate study at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif. He was awarded a Master of Arts Degree in Education in June 1950. He then commanded the Coast Guard Cutter Ivy out of Astoria, Ore., for a year before returning to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington until May 1955.
As Executive Officer on board the Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind of Seattle during the following two years, he served in the Arctic and on the 1956-57 Antarctic Operation Deep Freeze II in support of the International Geophysical Year Scientific Programs. In July 1957, after returning from the Antarctic he was assigned to the 13th Coast Guard District office in Seattle as Chief, Personnel Division.
For two years beginning in July 1961 he commanded the Cutter Bibb out of Boston, Mass., on search and rescue and ocean station patrol duty in the North Atlantic. After completing a year of studies at the National War College, Washington, D.C., in June 1964, he again served at Coast Guard Headquarters in the Office of Personnel. During that tour of duty, he earned a Master of Arts Degree in International Affairs (M.A.I.A.) from George Washington University.
In July 1967, he moved to New York as Chief, Operations Division at the 3rd Coast Guard District office and after a year was named Chief of Staff.
By nomination of the President on January 16, 1969, the then Capt. was appointed to rank as Rear Admiral from January 31, 1969. Simultaneously he was named to the post of Chief, Office of Boating Safety, to begin his fourth tour of duty at Coast Guard Headquarters.
In August 1970, he assumed the post of Commander, 13th Coast Guard District, Seattle, Wash. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for that tour of duty.
In July 1973, he became Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn.
Early in 1974, RADM McClelland was designated to succeed retiring Vice Admiral Mark A. Whalen as Commander, Pacific Area, and Commander, 12th Coast Guard District, San Francisco, with the rank of three star Vice Admiral effective July 1, 1974. He retired from that post on July 1, 1976, with the Legion of Merit award.
VADM McClelland belongs to the Phi Delta Fraternity, the Newcomen Society, the National Defense Transportation Association, the National Oceanographic Association, and the New York Yacht Club. He is currently president of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association and a member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Foundation.
VADM McClelland is married to the former Jane M. of Washington, D.C. They have two children, Joseph J., Jr., a Lieutenant in the Coast Guard Reserve, and Carolyn Michel.