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Clarence Nelson Hinkamp

Clarence N Hinkamp
Clarence N Hinkamp

Clarence Nelson Hinkamp was born in Milwaukee to parents Henry Hinkamp, who was born in Holland in 1856 and who had emigrated to the US. Henry arrived in the US at age 12. He married Alleta De Noyer, born in 1859 in Wisconsin to Dutch emigrant parents. The couple had four sons.

Clarence Nelson Hinkamp was the second son, born June 6, 1884. Brother Levi was born in 1881, younger brother, Paul Hinkamp was born in 1885 and youngest was Grant M 'Frank' Hinkamp born in 1890.

It appears the family and friends called him Nelson.

It was unclear what the father did exactly for employment, he was listed as a 'Commercial Agent' by the 1900 census. The family was well off enough to have a house servant named Mollie Raeeker living in the household.

Clarence had secured an appointment to the US Naval Academy through Congressman William Henry Stafford, who represented Milwaukee's 5th District, and entered the Academy on June 15, 1903. He acquired a number of nick names while there such as, 'Hinkyvich', 'Heine', Hink', 'Nels' and 'Dutch'. He appears to have been well liked and was noted to be very energetic. He had a hobby of making model cars that were popular with the other cadets. He was very mechanically inclined. In the Academy yearbook, 'The Lucky Bag', there is even a cartoon of him pulling one of his model cars through the halls and being caught by an officer.

Upon graduation, where he graduated third in his class in standings, he was sent home on orders before heading to his first assignment. This turned out to be the battleship Kentucky, BB-6, and young Clarence was about to sail around the world with the 'Great White Fleet'. President Theodore Roosevelt sent a fleet of sixteen battleships with escort vessels around the world to demonstrate US Naval power to the rest of the world.

When the fleet returned from its trip he received orders in April 1909 to report to the second submarine flotilla, for Instruction in 'submarine duty' aboard the submarine Octopus, (USS C-1 SS-9). The submarine at that time was at Norfolk, Virginia. She operated from there and Newport, Rhode Island.

In the 1910 US Census he shows up on three census sheets. One for the Boston Navy Yard showing he was listed as aboard the tender vessel Castine and one for the Castine itself on May 2, 1910. Fifteen days later he shows up on the census for the submarine Stingray, (USS C-2 SS-13) as the commanding officer. He is an Ensign and commands a crew of fifteen enlisted men.

Previously to the Stingray he had been attached to the submarine Tarantula (USS B-3 SS-12) probably for additional submarine instruction.

In command of the Stingray, (USS C-2 SS-13) she operated assigned to the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet and later the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla which cruised the East Coast of the United States performing training and developing operational skills. In October 1911 it had been reported that the Stingray had returned from 'battle practice' with a record of 50 percent hits for all torpedoes fired at targets 2000 yards away both surfaced and submerged. A remarkable record for its time.

In November 1911 Clarence was detached from command of the Stingray and sent to Fore River Shipyard located in Quincy, Massachusetts to oversee the construction of the submarine Sturgeon, (USS E-2 SS-25) and to command it when it was commissioned.

By July of 1912 Clarence had been promoted to Lieutenant (jg) and in September was transferred to the USS Tonopah, the former USS Nevada (BM-8), renamed to free the name for the future battleship Nevada BB-36. Tonopah was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet's submarine force as a submarine tender. These Monitor class ships with the low free-board were used in this capacity since the early submarine were such small vessels and it made access back and forth easier.

In August 1913 Clarence was detached from command of the Tonopah and sent home to wait for orders. What those orders were is not known. The next time we catch up with him he is in Washington DC, maybe at the Washington Naval Yard and most likely at the Bureau of Steam Engineering.

We do know that on July 15, 1915 it was reported he was in an accident where he was driving his car at about 10 PM and collided with a horse drawn buggy. The buggy driver was 61 year old Herbert M. Smith, he was thrown from the buggy and seriously injured. Two passengers in the buggy, John Hahn and a black man named Wallace Burton were also thrown out of the buggy but only sustained minor injuries.

In October of the same year John Hahn was suing Hinkamp for $10,000 for personal injury and damages. What the outcome of the lawsuit was is not reported.

During this time Clarence was giving talks about submarines and torpedoes to various organisations. It was probably supported by the Navy to help drum up support for funding for more submarines. The organizations putting on the talks usually charged a fee for attendance. Soon after the sinking of the USS F-4 outside of Honolulu harbor a talk he was giving at Poll's Theater in Washington DC it was decided that all the proceeds were to go to the widows and families of the men lost on the F-4.

In October 1915 he was reassigned to the USS Florida BB-30 from the Bureau of Steam Engineering.

On December 25, 1915 Clarence Nelson Hinkamp was married to Frances Maddox Miller, five years his junior. She was the daughter of Mr and Mrs Ben De Mier Miller. The couple were giving a Christmas tea supposedly to announce their engagement but turned the tables on the guests and had the wedding ceremony then and there, surprising all there. They honeymooned at Atlantic City. Upon his return the Florida was off to Guantanamo Bay. Frances stayed with her parents until his return. They are later to be stationed in Rhode Island.

In November 1916 Clarence was transferred from he Florida to the old Spanish American War protected cruiser USS Olympia (C-6). They are living in Norfolk, Virginia.

Clarence Nelson Hinkamp was promoted to Lieutenant from Lieutenant (jg) in January of 1917.

In July 1917 a newspaper story describes a paper written by Hinkamp and published prior to the war about how a submarine can hover and it is thought this information may be in use by the Germans waiting for convoys.

In December 1917 the US is in WW I and Clarence is 'away on duty' while his wife is wintering with her parents in Washington DC.

For his work in WW I Clarence was awarded the Navy Cross. Citation 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 Clarence Nelson Hinkamp, United States Navy, for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Division Commander of mine sweepers engaged in efficient and hazardous operations in the approaches to St. Nazaire, during World War I.
Action Date: World War I
Service: Navy
Rank: Commander
Company: Division Commander
Division: Mine Sweepers

Recalled home late in the war he and his wife and mother in law attended the launching of the destroyer Maddox DD 168, named in memory of Mrs Miller's father, W. A. T. Maddox, U. S. M. C. Frances Hinkamp christened the ship.

After the war, now a Commander he is placed in charge of 'Gunnery and Engineering Performances' On July 14, 1919 son Maddox Nelson Pieter Hinkamp is born. He is to be the couples only child. He will be called Pieter. He will follow in his father footsteps and become a naval office and serve in WW II.

In September 1920 Clarence is detached from the Office of Gunnery and Engineering Performances and transferred to the battleship Mississippi as the Navigation officer. The Mississippi is stationed in the Pacific moored at San Pedro, California, she operated along the west coast. The family packed up the household and moved to Long Beach.

While attached to the USS Mississippi a flash light exploded and burned his face and eyes on March 17, 1921. He was sent to the hospital for treatment.

It looks like by December 1922 the family is back in Washington DC. It was reported in the papers that the couple had attended the Army/Navy Game in Philadelphia. Army defeated Navy 17 to 14.

What Clarence is doing in Washington is not mentioned but by 1925 he is the Commander of the 16th Naval District and he was back in the Pacific with his family with him this time. The 16th Naval District took in the Philippines and all of the 'Asiatic Station' facilities.

On September 30, 1926 Clarence and Frances and 3 year old Pieter sailed from Shanghai aboard the SS President Taft. They arrived in San Francisco on October 26. From here we loose track of him until 1928 when shows up as attending the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

The 1930 US Census show the couple living at 1232 33rd Street in Washington DC, about a mile west of Washington Circle Park. They have a servant living with them, perhaps a nanny, named Ella Lewis, age 50. Son Pieter is now 10 years old.

What Clarence is doing is still a mystery. In 1932 the whole family is again on a ship and sailing from Los Angles to New York. Why or how they got to the west coast is not explained. They arrive in New York on July 4th 1932 aboard the SS California.

By 1935 he is a Captain and is the Captain of the Battleship Wyoming BB-32. The ship is at Philadelphia in October 1935 and Captain Hinkamp is making a courtesy call on the city's mayor at City Hall.

By 1937 the Wyoming is in the Pacific and off San Pedro conducting firing exercises. The Wyoming had been converted into a training ship according to the terms of the London Naval Treaty of 1930. A 5 inch shell was being loaded into the breach of a gun when it exploded. The explosion killed seven Marines and wounded ten others.

Captain Hinkamp turned his ship and sailed at high speed to San Pedro where the hospital ship Relief was. He brought his ship alongside and transferred the dead and wounded. A large investigation into the accident ensued.

In 1940 the census shows the couple back in Washington DC and living in the same home. Son Pieter is away at the Naval Academy. Clarence is now 55 years old. Frances is 51 though she reports on the census paperwork she is 48. He is now the Captain of the battleship USS Texas BB-35.

In September 1940 Captain Hinkamp sailed from Norfolk to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and renders a 13 gun salute to Rear Admiral Clark H. Woodward. A return salute of seven guns is given by shore batteries. He was there to pick up supplies. She was accompanied by the troop ship MacCauley which took on a contingent of marines for a training cruise.

In April 1942, it was announced that now Ensign Maddox Nelson Pieter Hinkamp was engaged to marry a Miss Polly Colahan.

There is no mention of what Captain Hinkamp did during WW II though he did serve in some capacity.

In 1953 he is retired and they are living in Virginia Beach, Virginia where Frances won a Blue Ribbon for her African Violets at a flower show. No mention of what Clarence is doing.

On October 26, 1961 Clarence Nelson Hinkamp passed away at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia of complication of Adenocarcinoma, a form of cancer. He was buried at Eastern Shore Chapel Cemetery, Virginia Beach, Virginia, Plot: East Lawn 31A.

Frances Miller Hinkamp passed away in 1972 and was buried with her husband of 42 years.

Son Maddox Nelson Pieter Hinkamp passed away Nov. 10, 1998 and is buried Cedar Cemetery, Jamestown, Rhode Island, USA

The Midshipman Photo above courtesy of NavSource.

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