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Eldred Bewes Armstrong

Eldred B Armstrong
Eldred B Armstrong

Eldred Bewes Armstrong was born on June 14, 1886 in Terre Haute, Indiana to parents William H Armstrong (1844 – 1914) and May Emaline Eldred Armstrong (1849 – ?).

He was the youngest of five children. Oldest was sister May, born in 1871; brother Richard was born in 1875, he died in 1902 at the young age of 27; sister Helen Louise was next born in 1877, she passed away in 1955. Brother William Cross came along in 1880.

He got his unusual name from his mothers maiden name, Eldred and his grandmothers maiden name, his grandmother was Mary Bewes.

Father William had been born in England and came to the US as a child. In 1870 his occupation was listed as an Assistant Assessor for Internal Revenue. By 1900 he was involved in manufacturing concerning surgical equipment.

Nothing is known about Eldreds' youth other than he received an appointment to the US Naval Academy in 1902 from Senator Albert J. Beveridge from Indiana after passing entrance examinations. When he learned of this he sent a telegram to his father reading; 'Hip Hip Hurrah! Congratulate me! I've passed in everything! Send me check to pay entrance fee.' No doubt his father was happy about this since he was admitted to the Academy with the class of 1906 soon after.

The papers reported on September 9, 1903 while he and some classmates were home on leave in Indianapolis that; 'Admiral and Mrs. Brown will give a dinner at the Columbia Club tonight entertaining for their sons. Paymaster George Brown and Midshipman Hugh Brown, and will have with them Capt. and Mrs. W. E Armstrong and son, Midshipman Eldred Armstrong and Mr. and Mrs. E. R. Darlow and son, Midshipman George Darlow. The young men are at home on a month's leave.'

On September 19, 1903 still at home on leave some of his friends gave him and his Academy friends a dance. The newspapers reported; 'A dance was given last night at the Woodruff Clubhouse by a number of young people in honor of Midshipman Hugh Brown, Eldred Armstrong and George Darlow and Paymaster George Brown, who are home on vacations. '

In 1904 his mother and girl named Alberta Conlen traveled to the Naval Academy to attend the commencement ball with Eldred. There is no other information available for this young lady. She may have been an early love interest.

At the Academy he was known by various names besides his given name, they were 'Puggie' and 'Armie'. He apparently had a flair for drama and comedy and regaled his class mates with his routines from time to time.

In January 1905 he was promoted to be an officer in his class in the Ninth Company-Lieutenant,. Ray S. McDonald from North Dakota; ensigns, Eldred B. Armstrong, Indiana and George Alexander, Ohio. The ranks are Academy ranks, the men are all still Midshipmen. During his Senior Cruise he was assigned to the USS Maryland (ACR-8).

When he graduated he ranked eighteenth in his class of 101 Midshipmen. After graduation and his normal one month leave home he was assigned to the fleet.

In March 1908 Eldred was promoted from Midshipman to Ensign. We still have no idea where he is posted. He might be assigned to any number of ships in the Atlantic Fleet but the records are absent to this researcher.

As best as we can extrapolate in 1908 he married Ethel Towers, 1891 to 1944. She shows up in US Census rolls and the couple had one child, Eldred Bewes Armstrong Jr born in 1920.

Officers are issued a 'Signal' code when they graduate that follows them their whole career. We learn at this time at Eldred B Armstrong's Signal is 'EBVW'.

In 1909 he is sent home for one months leave. After his time at home he reported to the Navy Yard at Norfolk for 'instruction' but what instruction isn't told but we can surmise that it was 'submarine instruction' aboard the USS Adder.

He is then assigned to a period of time of 'Observation and Trials' for the submarines Grayling, Bonita and Snapper that were under way at the Fore River shipbuilding. Lieutenants J C Townsend and P P Bassett and Ensign E B Armstrong were there to conduct these trials.

In October 1909 he was given command of the USS Stingray, (USS C-2 SS-13). The command was a short one. By the end of the year Eldred has been transferred, this time to the USS Minnesota (BB-22) after her return from the cruise of the 'Great White Fleet' around the world.

From the Minnesota he was transferred to the USS Castine which was a submarine tender. He was to take on the duties of the Exeutive Officer and Navigator. In October 1910 he was in receipt of orders that sent him from the Castine to the battleship USS Michigan (BB-27) which was cruising the east coast of the United States and the Caribbean Sea. He is now a Lieutenant.

During all this time he was maintaining his listing in the Indianapolis City Registry showing he was a 'sailor' away from his home address.

He was still attached to the Michigan during the 1911 Presidential Review. The Michigan was anchored in the Hudson River at about W 60th Street, near the head of the fleet. He is listed as one of eight senior officers aboard.

By August 3, 1912 he had already left the Michigan and was aboard the USS Missouri (BB-11) and was being transferred from her to the USS Louisiana (BB-19) to be attached as an aid on staff.

By 1914 he has managed to arrange a shore position at a recruiting station in his home town of Indianapolis, Indiana. In January 1915 he has been detached and sent to 'Olympia' unfortunately the information doesn’t say whether he is going to Olympia, Washington to another shore position or to the USS Olympia (C-6), an old Spanish American war cruiser. We suspect it is the latter but have no data.

In 1916 we see he is been sent T.A.D. (Temporary Assigned Duty) to the USS Kentucky (BB-6) patroling off the Mexican coast after the Vera Cruz Incident.

After the US enters WW I there is little to no information available on Eldreds where abouts until we see that he has assumed command of the old destroyer USS Mayrant DD-31. It was engaged in anti submarine patrols and and convoy protection. For his command he was awarded the Navy Cross. The citation reads as follows;

Navy Cross
Awarded for actions during the World War I
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander Eldred Bewes Armstrong, United States Navy, for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. MAYRANT, engaged in the important, exacting, and hazardous duty of patrolling the waters infested by enemy submarines and mines, protecting vitally important convoys of troops and supplies through these waters, and in offensive and defensive action, vigorously and unremittingly prosecuted against all forms of enemy naval activity during World War I.
Action Date: World War I
Service: Navy
Rank: Commander
Company: Commanding Officer
Division: U.S.S. Mayrant DD 31

After the war he was assigned to the 'Atlantic Cruiser Fleet' but in what capacity is unknown. He was soon assigned as the Executive Officer of the USS Antigone a German ship seized by the Navy after war was declared. The ship was renamed and was used as a transport moving troops and goods to Europe and after the war Eldred was aboard for the removal of over 22,000 troops, bringing them back to the US.

In 1920 he had orders that took him to Bremerton but doing what is not disclosed. We do know that on September 16, 1920 son Eldred Bewes Armstrong Jr is born at the Navy Hospital there.

We see that in 1923 he and his family is are returning from Shanghai, China to San Francisco. What his billet was on Asiatic Station is not disclosed.

1924 finds him still back in the USA and as the commanding officer of the Newport Torpedo Station in Newport, Rhode Island. A post he was to retain until 1926 when he entered the US Navy War College. He and his family show up in the 1925 Rhode Island State Census. He is 38 years old, Ethel is 34 and young Eldred Jr is 4 years and seven months old.

1927 finds him back in Asia and in command of the old gunboat USS Asheville PG-21. Asheville spent the larger part of her service as a part of the Asiatic Fleet with extensive service in China as a member of the Yangtze River Patrol and in the Philippines. A command he kept for two years. The Asheville was sunk by the Japanese in 1942 with heavy loss of life.

In 1928 he was ordered back to the United States. The family sailed from Shanghai on July 28, 1928 aboard the SS President Grant. The ship arrived in Seattle on August 13, 1928.

In 1929 he has become the Officer In Charge of the Receiving Station in Newark, New Jersey. A post he will keep until 1931 when he assumes command of the 12th Naval District. He stayed at this post until June 30, 1934 when he retired from the Navy. He had served for 32 years. The couple with son Eldred Jr retired to Monterey, California.

With the eruption of WW II he returned to active duty. Again we are in the dark as to his contribution and in what capacity. Son, Eldred Jr, either joined or was drafted into the Army and served in the Army Air Corps. He was attached to the 301st Bomb Group stationed in Foggia, Italy. He was home on leave in the US with five other fellow Sargents from the same bomb group and all were in an auto accident on August 21, 1943. Eldred Jr was among the three killed, the rest were injured. One was returned to duty in Italy.

1944 struck another blow to Eldred. From all the best guesses we can find out, wife Ethel Towers Armstrong died July 19, 1944. He finished out the war having lost his wife and only child.

On June 20, 1950 Eldred Bewes Armstrong passed away. His internment certificate lists 'No Known Relatives' to bury him. He is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at San Bruno, California, Plot: N, 2560.

US Navy Photo.

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