People > Admiral Walter Crosley

Walter Crosley

Rear Admiral Walter Selwyn Crosley was born in East Jaffrey, October 30, 1871, his father being at the time pastor of the Universalist Church. When young Walter was six months old the family removed to Franklin, Ohio, where he received his early schooling. In 1887 return was made to the east, to Danbury, Connecticut, whence, in 1889, he received appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Upon his graduation in 1893 he was assigned to the practice ship Bancroft, soon transferred to the U. S. S. Detroit and sent to Rio de Janeiro, where he participated in the Brazilian Revolution. In March, 1894, he sailed on the U. S. S. Charleston by way of the Straits of Magellan to Mare Island Navy Yard on the west coast. Here Cadet Crosley, during a railroad strike, had command of a Gatling gun loaded on a flat car ahead of the locomotive, the purpose of which was to awe the strikers so that trains might proceed in safety. Yokohama was the next port of call, and in the Chino-Japanese War the Charleston proceeded to Chemulpo, Korea, whence Cadet Crosley was sent to Seoul with a marine guard for the American Legation. Subsequent to this experience he secured promotion to the rank of Ensign at Annapolis on July 1, 1895. Then followed service on the V. S. S. Minneapolis and later on the Indiana, the first United States battleship. In 1898 he was ordered to the New York Navy Yard, where he fitted out the old Morgan line tug Algonquin with "everything from a paper of tacks to a hawser," and put to sea for service in the Spanish-American War with a motley and inexperienced crew. First running a "trolley service" to Havana and return in a ship which proved unseaworthy, he was transferred to the tug Leyden and, with four guns, went to blockade Cardenas at Nipe Bay. There the Leyden, aided by the Wasp, sunk the Spanish gunboat Don Jorge Juan. Ensign Crosley then proceeded under orders to Porto Rico, where six hundred and sixty-seven refugees were embarked and carried safely to Ponce. After five months, during which the Leyden cruised twenty-three thousand miles, the boat was de-commissioned following the armistice and Crosley was assigned to duty at the Naval Academy for several months.

Ordered to the Philippines in 1899, he became Flag Secretary to Rear Admiral J. C. Watson on the flagship Baltimore at Manila Bay, soon becoming Lieutenant Junior Grade. Volunteering then for duty against the Insurrectos, he was wounded in the leg at Noraleta. He next became executive officer on the Saratoga, nautical schoolship. In 1901 he was advanced two numbers for "eminent and conspicuous conduct in battle " during the war with Spain and promoted to Lieutenant. In 1902, after cruising in the Mediterranean and the West Indies in the training ship Monongahela, he was assigned to duty with the General Naval Board, just instituted. Afterwards there was sea service as flag lieutenant on the staff of Rear Admiral R. D. Evans, Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet. Ninteen hundred and six brought promotion to Lieutenant Commander, while the next four years were passed as a member of the Conference at Naval War College. In 1912 he was advanced to Commander, and served as aide to Vice Admiral Hugh F. Williams of the Royal Navy.

At the outbreak of the World War in Europe in 1914, Commander Crosley was placed in command of the Prairie and sent to Haiti and San Domingo during the American occupation, where he received foreign residents aboard his ship, and, landing his forces, occupied the city, being many times under fire. In 1917 he was detailed to Berlin as Naval Attache, but, relations being severed with Germany before his arrival, he went on to Petrograd in the same capacity, reaching that city by way of Japan, Korea, China, and Siberia. The year in Russia was one of constant danger for Captain and Mrs. Crosley. The Government was disappearing, and when, one night in July, the Bolsheviki captured Petrograd, the Crosleys were safely escorted to the American Embassy by a Russian officer who risked his life in the service. Dangers increasing, orders came to leave the country by way of Finland and Sweden. With the assistance of the American Ambassador escape was made, although passports were demanded nineteen times during one night's train ride to Helsingfors, Finland. There Captain Crosley took charge of a party of sixteen Americans and a Roumanian diplomat who had been trying to leave for weeks. As they neared the frontier, Captain Crosley arranged a truce between the Reds and Whites, whereby the party crossed the ice escorted by a Red general carrying a large American flag. Finally reaching Stockholm, Sweden, Captain Crosley there received orders to proceed to Madrid, Spain, as Naval Attache, where he remained until the armistice. Then followed command of the Rhode Island in returning troops from France and service in command of the Seventh Naval District, with headquarters at Key West.

In 1927 Crosley was made Rear Admiral, taking command of Train Squadron One of the Fleet Base Force; then of the Ninth Naval District and Great Lakes Training Station, near Chicago, in connection with which he served on the Committee of Arrangements for the Century of Progress Exposition. Then followed command of Battleship Division Three at Canal Zone and of the Fifteenth Naval District. Rear Admiral Crosley was honorably retired on November 10,1935. A distinctive honor came to him when he represented the United States at the International Hydrographic Conference at Monaco in 1926, where he was chosen presiding officer.

In 1895 Captain Crosley married Pauline de Lannay Stewart, of Columbus, Georgia. They have two sons, both graduates of the Naval Academy. The elder, Floyd Stewart, was seriously injured by an explosion on a destroyer in the World War and is retired with rank of lieutenant. The younger, Paul Cunningham, is now a lieutenant on the active list of the Navy.

Walter Crosley

Portrait of Walter S. Crosley. This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs in the Bain Collection number: ggb2005024515.

Name: Walter Selwyn Crosley
Born: October 30, 1871
Place of Birth: East Jaffrey
Died: January 6, 1939
Place of Death: Baltimore, MD
Occupation: Rear Admiral, USN
Place of Burial Unknown