Cliff Van Hook was born on April 10, 1886, in Washington, D.C. He was appointed a Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy on July 6, 1905, and graduated on June 4, 1909, receiving his commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy two years later, on June 5, 1911 (this was customary at the time). His first assignment was aboard the armored cruiser USS South Dakota (ACR-9) from June 1909 to May 1910, followed by service aboard the armored cruiser USS Montana (ACR-13) from May 1910 to July 1911. Ens Van Hook served aboard the auxiliary cruiser USS Dixie (AD-1) from July 1911 to October 1913, and then aboard the battleship USS New Jersey (BB-16) from October 1913 to September 1915. During this time, LtJg Van Hook participated in the Veracruz Expedition in Mexico from April to August 1914. His next assignment was as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy from September 1915 to December 1917, followed by service at the Philadelphia Navy Yard during the fitting out of the destroyer USS Waters (DD-115) from December 1917 to May 1918. LCDR Van Hook served aboard the destroyer USS Cushing (DD-55) from May to October 1918, and then as Commanding Officer of the destroyer USS Lamson (DD-18) from October 1918 to January 1919. During this time he served on convoy missions in the North Atlantic during World War I. His next assignment was to Quincy, Massachusetts, for the fitting out of the destroyer USS Cowell (DD-167) from January to November 1919, followed by service at Squantum, Massachusetts, for the fitting out of the destroyer USS Breck (DD-283) from November 1919 until her commissioning on December 1, 1919, and as her Commanding Officer from December 1919 to July 1921. CDR Van Hook served as Aide to the President of the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, from July 1921 to June 1923, and during this time he also completed Naval War College training. His next assignment was as Navigating Officer aboard the battleship USS Texas (BB-35) from July 1923 to March 1924, followed by service as Navigating Officer aboard the battleship USS California (BB-44) from March 1924 to June 1926. He served as Executive Officer of the patrol yacht USS Mayflower (PY-1) from August 1926 to February 1927, and then as a member of the U.S. Naval Mission to Brazil from February 1927 to January 1931. CDR Van Hook attended U.S. Army Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from January to April 1931, and then as Executive Officer of the destroyer tender USS Melville (AD-2) from April 1931 to June 1932. He served with the Commander Destroyer Division Eleven from June 1932 to June 1933, and he then attended Army War College in Washington, D.C., from June 1933 to June 1934. His next assignment was to the Office of Naval Operations with the Navy Department in Washington, D.C., from June 1934 to May 1936, followed by service as Executive Officer of the battleship USS Maryland (BB-46) from June 1936 to February 1937. He served as Commanding Officer of the hospital ship USS Relief (AH-1) from February to October 1937, and then served with the U.S. Navy ROTC program at the University of California at Berkeley from October 1937 to May 1940. CAPT Van Hook next served as Commanding Officer of the heavy cruiser USS Portland (CA-33) from June 1940 to January 1942, serving in the Pacific Theater during the opening months of World War II from December 1941 to January 1942. RADM Van Hook served as a Member of the General Board in the Navy Department in Washington, D.C., from February to April 1942, and then as Commandant of the 15th Naval District and Commandant of Naval Operating Base Balboa in the Panama Canal Zone, as well as Commander of the Panama Sea Frontier, from April 1942 to October 1943. His next assignment was in the Office of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, in Washington, D.C., from October to November 1943, followed by service as Deputy Commander of U.S. Seventh Fleet in the Pacific Theater from November 1943 to August 1945. RADM Van Hook's final assignment was as Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Australia-New Guinea from August 1945 until his retirement from the Navy on May 1, 1948. Cliff Van Hook died on November 28, 1975, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His Navy Cross Citation for service in WWI reads
For distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the USS Lamson, engaged in the important, exacting and hazardous duty of patrolling the waters invested with enemy submarines and mines, in escorting and protecting vitally important convoys of troops and supplies through these waters, and in offensive and defensive actions, vigorously and unremittingly prosecuted, against all forms of enemy naval activity.