Reuben Edwin Bakenhus was born on September 10, 1873, in Illinois. On March 11, 1901, he was appointed a Civil Engineer, with the accompanying rank of Lieutenant (junior grade) in the US Navy. Advancing progressively in the Civil Engineer Corps, he attained the rank of Rear Admiral, to date from November 1, 1932. He was transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy on October 1, 1937.
Upon receiving his appointment in 1901, he was assigned for three year thereafter to the Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Between March 1904 and May 1908 her served at the Naval Training Station, Newport, Rhode Island, after which he was ordered to the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Navy Department, Washington, DC. He remained there until February 1912, interspersed with an assignment, from September 1909 to August 1911, at the Naval Station, Olongapo, Philippine Islands.
Following a tour of duty, which extended to May 1917, at the Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts, he returned to the Bureau of Yards and Docks, and reported as Assistant Chief of the Bureau. “For distinguished service…(in that capacity)…and as Assistant Manager of the Division of Yard Plants of the Emergency Fleet Corps,” he was awarded the Navy Cross.
From July 1923 to May 1924 he attended a course at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and upon completing instruction there, remained fro duty on the staff until June 1927. He then became Public Works Officer of the Third Naval District, New York, New York. In July 1929 he transferred, in a similar capacity, to the Navy Yard, New York, where he continued to serve until September 30, 1937, when he was relieved of all active duty pending his retirement on October 1, of the same year.
During World War II he had duty between the latter part of 1942 and September 30, 1944 as a Consultant in the Bureau of Training, War Manpower Commission, and on January 9, 1945, became Consultant in the Office of the Chairman of that Commission. He also served, during this time, on temporary active duty in the US Navy, on various boards in the Department.
In addition to the Navy Cross, Rear Admiral Bakenhus has the World War I Victory Medal; the American Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.