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Austin

 

Stephen Fuller Austin was born on 3 November 1793 on the southwestern frontier of Virginia in what is now Wythe County. In 1798, his family moved to what is now Missouri. At the completion of studies at Transylvania University in April 1810, he returned to that area to begin what would be a widely varied career. He worked as a storekeeper, managed some of the local lead mines, and served as the director of the Bank of St. Louis. Concurrently, Austin was also a militia officer and a member of the Missouri territorial legislature. However, by 1820, the Austin family had fallen on hard times, and Stephen moved on to Arkansas in June of that year. Appointed a judge by the governor, he appears never to have served on the bench. Instead, he moved south to New Orleans to study law. While there, he also assisted in the editorial department of the Louisiana Advertiser.

 

While in New Orleans, Austin succumbed to his father's enthusiastic interest in settling Americans in the Mexican province of Texas. Visiting the area in 1821, he secured the governor's consent to settle the 300 families in Texas for which his father's grant called. In addition, he selected a fertile, well-watered site on the Gulf of Mexico for the colony and, in January 1822, supervised the establishment of the colony there. In the meantime, Mexico had successfully concluded her 11-year struggle for independence from Spain. That event, coupled with the Spanish origin of Moses Austin's original land grant, caused some doubt about the continued validity of the enterprise.

 

Stephen Austin, therefore, travelled to Mexico City to gain the approval of the new government. Political instability in the capital kept him there for about a year, but he returned not only with an official sanction but also with valuable experience and knowledge in negotiating with Latin officialdom, not to mention some powerful friends.

 

Upon his return, he brought with him a broad range of power. In a sense, he may be viewed as absolute dictator of Texas until 1828, combining in his person the roles of executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government as well as military head. He possessed the final authority to admit people to or exclude them from his grant.

 

Though much of this authority lapsed after the 1828 organization of a constitutional government for Texas, his influence continued to dominate the scene for several years thereafter. He served as a member of the legislature of Coahuila-Texas in 1831 and 1832 and was elected to the term beginning in 1835. However, events which led to the independence of Texas prevented him from serving that term.

 

A convention assembled in April 1833 requested of the Mexican government that Texas be separated from Coahuila and be granted the status of a state within the Mexican federation. Austin—using his knowledge of the Mexican psyche—opposed the method and timing, though he favored the objective. Nevertheless, he carried out the wishes of the convention by delivering its petition to Mexico City. Once the course was determined, he pressed the Texan case vigorously—perhaps too vigorously. For his pains, he was arrested on the spurious charge that he was really pushing for a Texan revolution with the object of appending Texas to the United States. As a result, he spent a year in prison and another six months of detention under bond.

 

A general amnesty law in July 1835 finally allowed him to return to Texas. Upon his arrival there, he found the people onthe threshold of revolt. A convention of Texans was scheduled for November 1835 to formulate a policy toward Santa Ana's changes to the federal constitution of 1824, but war erupted before the convention met. Thus the focus of their discussions quickly changed to defining the goals for which the Texans were fighting. Austin supported the successful moderate resolution which called for Texas autonomy, but still within the context of the federal constitution of 1824. Initially, therefore, the Texans fought only the centralist concept.

 

Yet, since they were fighting the central government— regardless of objective—the people of Texas needed assistance. Accordingly, a three-man commission—composed of William H. Wharton, Branch T. Archer, and Austin—was appointed to travel to the United States to seek loans and other assistance. The commissioners arrived in New Orleans in January 1836 and secured loans totalling about a quarter of a million dollars. Their trip up the Mississippi River generated a great deal of sympathy for their cause and no doubt contributed to the subsequent, large influx of Americans into Texas.

 

Nevertheless, in the United States, support for the Texans remained private rather than public. Despite the excellent connections of the three commissioners, the Jackson Administration avoided any hint of official support. While the three men were still in Washington, Texas declared its independence on 2 March 1836. Those two facts dictated their return to Texas to help establish the government of the new republic. Austin arrived back in Texas in June of 1836 and, supported by his two former colleagues in the United States, ran for the presidency of the republic. He lost to Sam Houston in the September election but, the following month, accepted the post of secretary of state in Houston's cabinet and served in that post until his death on 27 December 1836.

 

Austin is also the name of the city that serves as the capital of Texas and the seat of government for Travis County. Named in honor of Stephen Fuller Austin, the founder of Texas, it is located in central Texas on the Colorado River about 75 miles northeast of San Antonio.

 

John Arnold Austin—born in Warrior, Ala., on 30 August 1905—enlisted in the Navy on 20 November 1920. Between that time and 26 July 1935, he served four successive enlistments. On the latter day, Austin accepted an acting appointment as carpenter (warrant officer grade). That same day, he reported on board Canopus (AS-9) then serving as a unit of the Asiatic Fleet. On 8 August, he detached from temporary duty in the submarine tender and reported for duty in Augusta (CA-31). On 4 December 1935, Austin received a permanent warrant as a carpenter. He left the heavy cruiser on 13 July 1937 and reported on board Tennessee (BB-43) on 10 September 1937. He served in that battleship until detached on 14 June 1939 to proceed to further assignment to Rigel (AD-13) reporting on 18 July 1939. After 14 months in that destroyer tender, Carpenter Austin departed on 21 September 1940 bound for duty in Oklahoma (BB-37) and reported on board the battleship on 5 October 1940. In October 1941, Austin received a commission as chief carpenter (commissioned warrant officer).

 

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December 1941, Chief Carpenter Austin was in Oklahoma. When the battleship capsized as a result of Japanese bombs and torpedoes, he was trapped below water with many of his shipmates. Austin searched for a means of escape and found a porthole which, though beneath the surface, offered just such an avenue. As a result of his efforts, 15 sailors escaped a watery grave. Chief Carpenter Austin, however, did not. As his citation reads, "He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country." Chief Carpenter Austin was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.

 

The first Austin—originally a ship of the Texas Navy—was named in honor of Stephen Fuller Austin. The second Austin (DE-15) honored Chief Carpenter John Arnold Austin. The third Austin (LPD-4) was named for the capital of Texas.

 

II

 

(DE-15: dp. 1,140; 1. 289'5"; b. 35'1%"; dr. 9'11" (f.); s. 20 k.; cpl. 199: a. 33", 640mm., 520mm., 8dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 2dct; cl. Evarts)

 

The second Austin (DE-15) was laid down on 14 March 1942 at the Mare Island Navy Yard as HMS Blackwood (BDE-15) for the United Kingdom under the terms of the lend-lease agreement; launched on 25 September 1942: sponsored by Mrs. W. C. Springer; taken over by the United States Navy on 25 January 1943 and redesignated DE-15; and commissioned on 13 February 1943, Lt. Comdr. H. G. Claudius, USNR, in command. The destroyer escort was apparently commissioned as simply DE-15 for the name Austin was not assigned to her until 19 February 1943, six days after she went into commission.

 

Assigned to Escort Division (CortDiv) 14, the ship conducted shakedown training out of San Diego between 23 March and 23 April. On the latter day, she put to sea to escort a convoy to Cold Bay, Alaska. She returned to San Diego on 11 May and began convoy escort missions between the west coast and the Hawaiian Islands. Between mid-May and early September, Austin made two round-trip voyages between San Diego and Oahu and then a single, one-way run from the west coast back to Pearl Harbor. On 2 September, she stood out of that base; shaped a course for the Aleutian Islands; and, on 14 September, joined the Alaskan Sea Frontier. For just over one year, Austin plied the cold waters of the north Pacific escorting ships between Alaskan ports, conducting patrols, performing weather ship duties, and serving as a homing point for aircraft.

 

The warship departed Alaska on 23 September; arrived in San Francisco, Calif., a week later, and received a regular overhaul which lasted until 17 November. On 3 December, she once more weighed anchor for Hawaii. Austin operated out of Pearl Harbor as a training vessel with the Pacific Fleet Submarine Training Command until 20 March, when she set out for the Central Pacific. On 1 April, the destroyer escort reported for duty with forces assigned to the Commander, Forward Areas, and, for a little more than two months, conducted antisubmarine patrols and air/sea rescue missions out of Ulithi Atoll in the Western Caroline Islands. She finished that assignment on 10 June when she shaped a course for the Mariana Islands. For the next four months, Austin operated out of Guam and Saipan. In addition to antisubmarine patrols and air/sea rescue missions, she escorted convoys to such places as Iwo Jima, Eniwetok, and Okinawa. Following the cessation of hostilities in mid-August, she conducted search missions in the northern Marianas for enemy holdouts and for survivors of downed B-29's. The warship also patrolled Truk Atoll briefly before occupation forces arrived there in strength.

 

On 12 October, she departed Guam in company with the other ships of CortDiv 14, bound for San Pedro, Calif., and inactivation. On 17 November, she reported to the Commander, Western Sea Frontier, to prepare for decommissioning and, on 21 December 1945, was placed out of commission at Terminal Island Naval Shipyard. Austin was berthed with the Pacific Reserve Fleet until scrapped. On 8 January 1946, her name was struck from the Navy list. The Terminal Island Naval Shipyard completed scrapping her on 9 January 1947.