John Henry ("Dick") Turpin, Chief Gunner's Mate, USN. (1876-1962)

John Henry Turpin was born on 20 August 1876. Enlisted in the Navy at New York City on 4 November 1896, he was a member of USS Maine's crew when she was destroyed by an explosion in February 1898. He survived that disaster, and the boiler explosion on USS Bennington in July 1905, as well as serving on several other ships before he left active duty in 1916. Recalled to service when the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, on 1 June of that that year, Turpin became Chief Gunner's Mate on USS Marblehead, one of the Navy's first African-American Chief Petty Officers. He served actively in that rank until transferred to the Fleet Reserve on 8 March 1919. John Henry Turpin retired as a Chief Gunner's Mate on 5 October 1925.

When not serving on active duty, Turpin was employed at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, as a Master Rigger. He also qualified, in his civilian capacity, as a Master Diver. From 1938 through World War II, he voluntarily made inspirational visits to Naval Training Centers and defense plants. John Henry Turpin died on 10 March 1962.

This page features our only images of John Henry Turpin.

Click photograph for a larger image.

Photo #: NH 89471

John Henry ("Dick") Turpin,
Chief Gunner's Mate, USN (retired)

One of the first African-American Chief Petty Officers in the U.S. Navy.
This photograph appears to have been taken during or after World War II.
Turpin enlisted in the Navy in 1896. A survivor of the explosions on USS Maine (1898) and USS Bennington (1905), he became a Chief Gunner's Mate in 1917. Transferred to the Fleet Reserve in 1919, CGM Turpin retired in 1925.
Qualified as a Master Diver, he was also employed as a Master Rigger at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, and, during the World War II era, made inspirational visits to Navy Training Centers and defense plants.

U.S. NHHC Photograph.

Online Image: 47KB; 590 x 765


John Henry Turpin is probably the Sailor seen in the following image:

Photo #: NH 102779-KN (color)

USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4)

Fine-screen halftone reproduction of a photographic montage, published on a postal card by the Special View Company, 326 S. Hill St., Los Angeles, California. It shows the ship after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion, the burial of victims of the disaster, and one of her surviving crew members. This Sailor is almost certainly John Henry ("Dick") Turpin, who had also survived the explosion of USS Maine in February 1898.

Donation of H.E. ("Ed") Coffer.

U.S. NHHC Photograph.

Online Image: 82KB; 740 x 505


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions

About Us | Privacy Policy | Webmaster | FOIA request | | This is a US Navy website