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Kirkwood Harry Donavin

Kirkwood H Donavin
Kirkwood H Donavin

Kirkwood Harry Donavin was born on June 16, 1886 in Delaware, Ohio to parents George B. Donavin (1859 – 1924) and Edith Stewart Jones (1862 – 1930). His parents were somewhat prominent in the area where they lived.

He seemed to have had a nickname of 'Patsy' but when it was given to him in unknown. It may be an artefact from the Naval Academy.

On June 17, 1897 it was reported in the newspapers that 'Patsy' and his cousin Edward Clark celebrated their respective birthdays, ages 11 and 17.

After high school he attended Ohio State University and pledged Phi Delta Theta as a freshman. While at University he received an appointment as a Midshipman to the United States Naval Academy from Ohio on June 28, 1904.

While at the academy he proved to be a less than outstanding sailor and received many remarks about housekeeping, promptness and talking throughout his years there. He was popular and was in demand when anything fun was going on. His senior year he was involved with the 'Hops', as dances were called at that time, committee and helped organize the events.

Upon graduation from the Academy he was assigned to the Cruiser Milwaukee C-21 which was in reserve in Puget Sound and was placed back in active service in the summer for a cruise to Hawaii. On October 15, 1908 he was transferred to the battleship Wisconsin BB-9 just in time for the 'Great White Fleet' cruise around the world.

In 1909 he received orders to the USS West Virginia (ACR-5) as part of the Pacific Squadron and made a trip to the 'Orient' which returned to the West Coast in March of 1910.

On June 6, 1910, the day he was promoted to Ensign he married Miss Dorothy Draper at her family's home in San Rafael, California. Her father was Col T. Walu-Morgan Draper. (No information can be located on him) The couple were to move to San Diego where Donavin was to be the Commanding Officer of the submarine USS Pike whose name was to be changed to A-5.

During his time as CO of Pike he performed a media stunt in March of 1912 that had him board an airplane flown by Lieut Theodore G. Ellyson at San Diego and fly across the harbor and get in a car that drove him to the wharf his submarine was moored at and cast off and be submerged in 15 minutes for doing all three things. This was notable enough to make the newspapers of the time.

The Pike, A-5, arrived at the Puget Sound Navy Yard on June 26, 1912 and, two days later, was placed in reserve. By February 1913 Donavin was still in the Northwest and is probably attached to the Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Company. His wife Dorothy moved up to Bremerton to be with him. This was during the building of the submarine F-4. The Submarine was commissioned May 3, 1913 with Kirkwood Harry Donavin in command.

On June 6, 1913 Donavin is promoted to Lieutenant junior grade.

On July 23, 1914 the cruisers South Dakota and West Virginia sailed from San Francisco towing the tenders and submarines for duty at Pearl Harbor naval station. The South Dakota and West Virginia spent some time cruising in Hawaiian waters before undertaking the return voyage to the West Coast.

The submarines, under command of Lieut Charles E. Smith, were four of the 'F' group, the first submarine division of the Pacific Fleet. The individual commands are:
USS Alert (tender), Lieut Bruce L. Canaga.
F-1 (submarine) (trophy ship for gunnery, 1913), Lieut. Charles E. Smith.
F-2 (submarine), Lieut Charles M. Yates.
F-3 (submarine), Lieut Leo F. Welch.
F-4 (submarine), Lieut Kirkwood H. Donavin.

Orders had been cut and issued to transfer Donavin home to await orders on July 14th but he may have been at sea at the time. He was to turn command of th F-4 over to Lieut Alfred Ede. The F-4 was to sink killing all crew, including Ede, on March 25, 1915 just off Honolulu Harbor.

Donavin's 1915 orders had him report to the US Naval Academy to instruct.

He was promoted to a full Lieutenant of the United States Navy on Aug 29, 1916.

His service seems to be a blank from here until he is reported to be Chief of Staff of the Commander of the Cruiser and Transport Fleet stationed out of Newport News in WW I. This group was responsible for the safe transport of goods and troops to the European Theater and after the war the return of the men and the bodies of the the dead. This post resulted in the awarding of the the Army Distinguished Service Medal.

The citation reads as follows;

"The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Commander Kirkwood Harry Donavin, United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility during World War I, as Chief of Staff of the Commander, Cruiser and Transport Fleet, Newport News Division.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 116 (1919)
Action Date: World War I
Service: Navy
Rank: Commander
Company: Chief of Staff to the Commander
Division: Cruiser and Transport Fleet, Newport News Division"

Reading over the criteria for this medal it is very specific.

" For service not related to actual war, the term 'duty of a great responsibility' applies to a narrower range of positions than in time of war, and requires evidence of conspicuously significant achievement. However, justification of the award may accrue by virtue of exceptionally meritorious service in a succession of high positions of great importance.

Awards may be made to persons other than members of the Armed Forces of the United States for wartime services only, and then only under exceptional circumstances, with the express approval of the President in each case."

It may be due to the circumstances that built up to the awarding of this medal that resulted in him being admitted to the Base Hospital #5 in Brest France on May 31, 1919 where he was diagnosed with "Neurasthenia", he was released the next day. Neurasthenia is a now outdated diagnosis for an undetermined group of symptoms. In todays world this could maybe be equated to what we call PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or perhaps CFS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In any rate this is what probably resulted in his resignation from active service on May 25, 1920. On March 23, 1921 he is noted to be on the Reserves List. He was given a final Honorable Discharge from the Navy on October 9, 1922. He was retired as a full Commander.

In 1922 Donavin was part of the committee that organized a reunion of the Cruiser and Transport Force personnel from WW I at the Hotel Shelburne in New York.

Now a civilian Donavin and family are now living in San Francisco. His wife Dorothy being a California native the move was probably a natural one. They show up living on Pacific Avenue in 1927. Probably a rental.

In 1928 and 1929 they are living on Broadway in San Francisco.

The 1930 census shows the family as Kirkwood H Donavin, age 43 wife Dorothy, age 42 and son Kirkwood M age 19 and daughter Patricia S age 15 living in San Francisco.

In 1931 the family is still on Broadway and he is noted as being the Operations Manager for the International Mercantile Marine Company. He is still involved with the oceans and seas. He is still living and working there in 1933 and 1934.

On October 2, 1938 he shows up as a passenger on board an airplane bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico.

On November 18, 1938 he is listed as a passenger on the liner SS Argentina some how connected with the US Maritime Commission. He had sailed to Rio de Janerio.

On March 29, 1940 he is listed aboard the SS Brazil that landed in New York on April 13, 1940. His wife Dorothy is with him. Both of these vessels were owned by the Moore-MaCormack Lines who he worked for.

In 1942 he is listed as back to living on Pacific Avenue and he is the Pacific Coast Manager at Moore-MaCormack Lines which operated until bought out by United States Lines in December 1982.

At this point we loose him again until 1960 when he shows up in a city directory and living with his wife on Carmelo Street and 10th Ave. in Carmel, Ca. They are still there in 1962 and 1963 when Dorothy passed away at age 76.

In July 1966 Kirkwood remarried to Flora Miller. The marriage lasted a little over 3 months and the couple divorced in November 1966.

Kirkwood Harry Donavin passed away on January 1, 1968 and is buried with wife Dorothy at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery, Annapolis, Maryland.

Thanks to Ron Reeves and Wolfgang Hechler for additional information.

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