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Rodney Hiram Dobson

Rodney Hiram Dobson
Rodney Hiram Dobson

Rodney Hiram Dobson was born on July 12, 1893 to parents, Thomas H Dobson who was a Druggist who ran his own store in Brockport, NY and mother Mary W Dobson. Rodney was the youngest of four children. Brother Harold was born in 1886, Sister Ellenor, born 1888, brother George was born in 1891.

After graduation from school Rodney went to Oregon and took a railroad land grant. There he owned a ranch that he kept for three years. During this time he want to Alaska to visit a sister who lived there. On his trip back the ship was in a terrible ice storm and the crew and passengers had to chop ice off the decks and rigging to stop it from sinking.

When war broke out Rodney Hiram Dobson, enlisted as a Seaman 2/c on May 29, 1917, he was 23 years and 10 months old at the time. He was assigned duty aboard the USS PC-24, a 173 foot long submarine chaser. While on board he was washed overboard and rescued but it took over three hours to revive him. Family members tell that he never talked about that experience. 'But we learned later ' said brother Harold, 'that he asked the pastor of the church whether it was possible for a man near death to see into the beyond.'

On September 5, 1918 he executed the oath of office and was sworn in as an Ensign, U. S. N. R. F., (United States Naval Reserve Force), a war time promotion. On that date he was sent to the naval academy at Annapolis, Md. for duty 'under instruction' as an officer. He left the Naval Academy on January 31, 1919.

He was commissioned a temporary Lieutenant (junior grade) on June 6, 1919.

On June 14, 1919 he was assigned to the Cruiser and Transport force at Hoboken, N. J., to the USS Koningin der Nederlanden, a Dutch ship that had been acquired by the US Navy, where he served as a watch and division officer aboard the transport ship.

Fellow officers that served with him aboard the transport say he was a 'splendid officer' and he was a 'savvy' fellow and an all-around 'likeable chap'.

The vessel was placed out of commission after he was aboard for six months. He was then sent to the USS Hopewell DD 181 and was aboard during the 1920 US Census as part of the crew.

Dobson then volunteered for Submarine duty and was sent to the Submarine School at Groton, Conn.

On June 25, 1921 Rodney Dobson married Miss Goldye M Stevens of Schenectady, NY. The wedding was describes as thus: 'The wedding of Miss Goldye M. Stevens, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lester Miller Stevens, of 605 Rugby Road and Ensign Rodney H. Dobson of Brockport took place Saturday noon in the bride's home. Rev. Dr. B. W. Rogers Tayler performed the ceremony. The bride wore a gown of cream lace with cloth of gold hat. Relatives were present at the ceremony, after which Ensign and Mrs Dobson left for the north. They will live in Newport after July15.'

The couple had one child, Rodney Hiram Dobson, jr born in 1923. He graduated the US Naval Academy in 1944.

We know that on May 4, 1922 he was sent to the USS K-3 for duty. What he was doing prior to the K-3 is unknown. He most likely placed the K-3 out of commission at Hampton Roads on February 29, 1923.

A submarine he was aboard was cruising across the mouth of the Potomac River when the craft's propeller caught in a steel net. He was one of five men who volunteered to free the propeller and they stripped down to jump into the icy waters. They were almost paralysed when dragged back into the submarine after completing their task.

On December 21, 1922 he was commissioned a full Lieutenant (junior grade) retro active from Jan. 31. 1922.

On August 20, 1923 he was sent to duty as the Commanding Officer of the USS O-4. The O-4 was stationed at New London Submarine Base and was active in training enlisted and officer students.

In 1924 he is seen returning from Panama but what he was doing there is unknown.

On September 4, 1925 he received orders to take command of the USS S-51. A mere twenty one days later the S-51 was rammed by the steamer SS City of Rome and sank in moments taking all but three to their deaths. The three survivors were enlisted men.

Dobson had been on the bridge when the submarine was hit and was thrown into the water and was heard by these men trying to get help for the submarine and men in the water. His voice was soon lost and the three men were picked up by the boats from the City of Rome. His last words heard by the men in the water were; 'Please throw a line...'. Thirty three crew died in the collision. It is unknown at this time if Dobson's body was ever recovered. There was a memorial service held in June 1926 for him.

After the sinking a number of wives and family of the dead filed law suits against the Navy and the US government asking for reparations up to $100,000 each for the loss of these men. The cases went up to the US Supreme Court and the suits were denied.

Goldye Dodson remarried in 1928 to William Morrow Fechteler, another Naval Officer who rose to the rank of Admiral. He died in 1967. Goldye died in 1975 and is buried with him at Arlington National Cemetery

Son, Rodney Hiram Dobson, jr passed away in 2005.

An American Legion Post was named for Rodney Hiram Dobson in New York.

US Navy Photo

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