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Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29)

Stephen W. Groves, his face reflecting his determination to serve his country. (U.S. Navy Photograph NH 93015, Ship Name and Sponsor Files, History & Archives Division, Naval History & Heritage Command)

Stephen William Groves -- born on 29 January 1917 in Millinocket, Maine -- graduated from Schenck High School in East Millinocket, and received a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Maine in 1939. Groves enlisted in the Naval Reserve as a seaman second class at Boston, Mass., on 11 December 1940, and five days later reported for elimination flight training at Squantum, Mass. He transferred to Jacksonville, Fla., on 13 February 1941, and was issued a Good Discharge to accept an appointment as an Aviation Cadet on 19 February. He detached on 11 July, and on 14 July reported to Miami for further active duty under training.

Ships crest

The Shield
Blue and gold are the colors traditionally associated with the Navy. The wings allude to Ensign Groves as a naval aviator, and, when combined with the while and blue rondel, suggest the battle for the Pacific during World War II in which the aircraft carrier proved itself as an effective weapon. The eight gold stars simulate planes in formation and the number eight is symbolic of Fighting Squadron Eight, with which Groves flew nine missions against the Japanese during the Battle of Midway before being shot down; eight stars further allude to Groves’ service on board Hornet (CV 8) at the time of his death.

The Crest
The four red pheons (spear points) allude to the overwhelming number of enemy fighter planes that Groves faced while defending the U.S. ships against Japanese attack. The gold cross refers to the Navy Cross awarded to him for his heroic action during the battle.

Dirigo, Latin for “I direct,” is the motto of Maine, Ensign Groves’ home state.

U.S. Navy Photograph 030805-N-0000X-001, Navy News Stand
Stephen W. Groves sails down the Kennebec River, Maine, for her sea trials, 12 January 1982. (U.S. Navy Photograph DN-SC-85-04345, Defense Visual Information Center)
U.S. Navy Photograph 090807-N-6516T-077, Navy News Stand
The ship is silhouetted against a beautiful sunset as she operates with South African submarine Charlotte Maxeke (S.102) off the South African coast, 10 February 2011. (Mass Communication Specialist 3d Class William Jamieson, U.S. Navy Photograph 110210-N-5085J-517, Navy News Stand)

He was designated Naval Aviator No. 8487 (heavier-than-air) on 18 August 1941. Groves was commissioned ensign and assigned to Advanced Carrier Training Group, Atlantic Fleet, on 3 September. The young pilot detached on 8 December 1941, and the following day reported to Fighting Squadron Eight (VF-8) at Norfolk, Va. Groves made his first landings on board an aircraft carrier when VF-8 practiced with Hornet (CV 8) during the succeeding days. He then (23 December) embarked with the squadron on board Hornet, and two days later sailed with the ship during her shakedown cruise to the Gulf of Mexico.

Groves witnessed the Halsey-Doolittle Raid while serving on board Hornet -- with Enterprise (CV 6) -- when, as part of Task Force (TF) 16, Vice Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr., in command, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, USAAF, led 16 North American B-25B Mitchells of the Army’s 17th Bombardment Group off Hornet’s flight deck to bomb the Japanese home islands (18 April 1942). The raiders inflicted infinitesimal material damage, but the psychological impact of an aerial threat to Japan and to the Emperor ended debate within the Japanese high command concerning a decisive thrust against the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and thus helped set the stage for the Battle of Midway.

During the Battle of Midway, Japanese planes flying from aircraft carrier Hiryū attacked Yorktown (CV 5) of TF 17, Rear Adm. Frank J. Fletcher in command, on 4 June 1942. Planes flying from Hornet, which sailed in TF 16, joined Yorktown’s planes in the fight to protect Yorktown. Groves flew F-17, a Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, and with a second Wildcat, piloted by Ens. George Formanek, Jr., A-V(N), “fearlessly plunged into aerial combat against large formations of enemy aircraft threatening the American carriers in the Battle of Midway. Contributing decisively to the disruption of the enemy, he continued determined counterattacks against desperate odds…”

Groves and Formanek attacked a flight of at least five Japanese Aichi D3A1 Type 99 carrier bombers. Sailors on board Yorktown watched the two Wildcats shoot down an enemy plane, which fell out of control and splashed astern of the carrier and within her screen. F-17 then burst afire and crashed into the sea, apparently a victim of U.S. antiaircraft fire. Formanek also splashed a Type 99. Groves was declared missing and presumed dead on 5 June 1942, and subsequently received the Navy Cross posthumously, gallantly giving “…his life to the fulfillment of a mission important to the great victory at Midway.”

Escort ship Groves (DE 543) was named in his memory, but her construction at Boston Navy Yard, Mass., was cancelled on 5 September 1944 before she was launched, and the ship was subsequently scrapped. In addition, the American Legion’s Feeney-Groves Post in East Millinocket is named partially in his honor.

(FFG 29: displacement 4,094; length 445'; beam 47'; draft 26'; speed 28+ knots; complement 215; armament Mk 13 Guided Missile Launcher with RGM-84 Harpoon surface to surface missiles and RIM-66 Standard SM-1MR surface to air missiles, 1 76 millimeter Mk 75, 1 Mk 15 Phalanx Close-in Weapon System, and 6 Mk 46 torpedoes; aircraft 2 Kaman SH-2F Seasprite Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System Mk III helicopters; class Oliver Hazard Perry)

Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29) was laid down on 16 September 1980 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works Corp.; launched on 4 April 1981; sponsored by Mrs. Evelyn K. Groves, Ensign Groves’ mother (Mrs. Mariam Groves Landry, her granddaughter, served as her proxy during the launching and commissioning); and commissioned on 17 April 1982, Cmdr. Philip A. Bozzelli in command.

Stephen W. Groves was assigned to the Naval Reserve Force at Pascagoula, Miss., on 1 April 1997, and shifted her home port to Mayport, Fla., on 30 September 1997. She was decommissioned at Mayport on 24 April 2012. The ship was then towed to the Naval Sea Systems Command (NavSea) Inactive Ships On-site Maintenance Office, Philadelphia, Pa., pending disposal.

Detailed history under construction.

Last Reviewed: 12/11/13
Mark L. Evans