Asst. Engineer Joseph Mason Reeves

Battleship OREGON

(November 20, 1872 - March 25, 1948)

By Thomas Wildenberg


Click here to read the wartime letters of  Asst. Engineer Joseph Mason Reeves
Click here for the diary of Fireman George W. Robinson
Click here for Ordinary Seaman Bertram Willard Edward's account of life aboard OREGON
Click here for William Reitzel's Manual for Operating the Oregon's Triple Expansion Seam Engines
Lt. Cmdr. J.M.  Reeves c. 1908
Lt. Commander James Mason Reeves, circa 1908

Mr. Wildenberg is the author of Reeves's biography titled All the Factors of Victory: Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves and the Origins of Carrier Airpower.
General:

Joseph Mason Reeves served aboard the Battleship OREGON as an assistant engineer during the cruise of the U.S.S. OREGON sround South America and was in charge of her port engine during the Battle of Santiago.

Biography:

Joseph Mason Reeves born on November 20, 1872. He  was appointed as a naval cadet from Illinois on September 8, 1890. On July 1, 1896, he was appointed assistant engineer, being detailed  the crew of the Battleship OREGON two months later, on July 28, 1896. By the time 1897 drew to a close and the curtain began to rise on the Spanish American War, he was listed as having three years and five months of sea duty, and three years and eight months of shore duty under his belt.

On OREGON, Reeves had the experience of serving aboard OREGON during its fabled cruise around South America to reach the Cuban theater of war. Later, he was in charge of her port engine during the Battle of Santiago. OREGON served a key role in the battle, exceeding her rated speed, catching up to the Spanish Cruiser CRISTOBAL COLON and the Armored Cruiser BROOKYLN. It was the shots from the OREGON's guns that convinced the officers of the COLON to give up the chase and beach the vessel, ending the battle. As a result of his performance during the battle Reeves was advanced three numbers in grade and was later praised by Captain Charles Clarke who stated that the OREGON's extraordinary performance "was largely due to his [Reeves'] conduct during the battle." Reeves was also served as the chief engineer of the prize crew that attempted to salvage the CRISTOBAL COLON which had been run aground.

After the separate Engineering Corps was abolished, Reeves continued in the service as a line officer with a highly distinguished career that included forty-eight years of active duty. He taught the first electrical engineering course at the Naval Academy and placed the JUPITER (Navy's first turbo-electric ship) in commission. Reeves went on to command a number of battleships and was considered the Navy's leading authority on gunnery when he was assigned as Head of the Naval War College's Strategy Department in 1924. A year later, Captain Reeves, who was then fifty-two years of age, qualified as a Naval Aviation Observer. Reeves was the first officer in the United States Navy to command a carrier division, the first to bear the title "Carrier Commander," and was the first flying officer to achieve the rank of Commander-in-Chief when he was assigned Commander of the U.S. Fleet in 1934 with the rank of admiral.

He retired from the Navy at his permanent rank of rear admiral in 1936 and was recalled to active duty in 1939. He was promoted twice during World War Two, and retired for the second time in 1947 with the rank of full Admiral.

Reeves died in Pautuxent, Maryland on March 25, 1948 and was laid to rest in the Naval Academy Cemetery next two his wife, Eleanor, and two of his three children.
 

Chess set that Reeves "liberated" aboard the CRISTOBAL COLON


Bibliography:

(As a service to our readers, clicking on titles in red will take you to that book on Amazon.com)

Andrews, Adolfus Jr., Admiral with Wings: The Career of Joseph Masons Reeves. Bathelor's Thesis, Princeton University, 1943 (copy in Navy Department Library, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC).

Fitness Report covering the period 17 March to 30 June 1898, and Report for 1 July-5 August 1898. Joseph Mason Reeves File, Proceedings of the Naval and Marine Examining Boards, 1928-1941, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, RG-125, National Archives, Washington, DC.

Fox, Mark, Rear Admiral, USN - Photo of Chess set.

Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the navy of the United States and the Marine Corps to January 1, 1898. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1898) 50, 129

"Service Record" dated 2 October 1901, Joseph Mason Reeves File, Proceedings of the Naval and Marine Examining Boards, 1928-1941, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, RG-125, National Archives, Washington, DC.

"Service Record" dated 29 April 1948, copy in Reeves Biographical File, Operations Archives, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.

U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery and Columbarium Records http://www.usna.edu/cemetery/PDF%20Files/Section%207/1584C-%20Reeves,%20J.%20M.pdf

Wildenberg, Thomas, All the Factors of Victory: Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves and the Origins of Carrier Airpower. Brassey's, Dulles, VA, 2003.


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