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Osburn, Captain Carl Townsend Papers  

Dates: 1903-1964

Collection Number: COLL/551

Finding aid (Word)

Biographical Note

Born in Ohio on November 5, 1884, Carl Townsend Osburn was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy as a midshipman on August 1, 1903, graduating No. 85 in the Class of 1907. He was assigned for his sea service as a midshipman on board USS Rhode Island (BB-17) from October 12, 1906 to June 1908, participating in the battleship’s shakedown and acceptance trials, gunnery practice and squadron maneuvers in the Caribbean, and the first leg of the voyage of the Great White Fleet from Hampton Roads to San Francisco. While assigned to Rhode Island, Osburn embarked on his long avocation as a competitive rifle marksman, claiming the highest aggregate score on the National Match Team in 1907 and in 1908. Departing Rhode Island at San Francisco, Osburn was subsequently assigned to USS Castine, a gunboat serving as a submarine tender, from October 4, 1908 to May 1909, seeing service along the Atlantic coast. During operations off Cuba in 1908, he earned the right to wear the Cuban Pacification Medal. Osburn was commissioned an Ensign on February 12, 1909. Additionally, in 1909, he received more recognition of his skill as a rifleman in the form of the Class A First Prize on the National Match Team.

Continuing his sea duty, Osburn was assigned on October 2, 1909, to USS Mississippi (BB-23), seeing service off the coast of New England until January 1910, and then participating in exercises out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba until March, returning to the east coast when the battleship embarked elements of the Naval Militia for training. In November 1910, Mississippi sailed to England for a fleet review at Gravesend on November 16, and then returned to the United States to repeat winter exercises off Cuba until March 1911. For the next fourteen months Osburn alternately trained the crew and helped to carry out fleet exercises.

Promoted to Lieutenant (j. g.) on February 12, 1912, Osburn was detailed in April from Mississippi to participate from June to July in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, where he competed in rifle marksmanship. He helped the U.S. team win the Gold Medal in the Military Rifle Team shoots at 200, 400, 500 and 600 meters, took the Silver Medal for the Individual Military Combined shoot at 300 and 600 meters, and further took the Bronze Medals in the .22 Caliber Rifle Individual shoots at 45 and 50 meters.

After returning to the United States with those competitive laurels, Osburn then embarked on another tour of duty at sea, this time in USS Des Moines (C-15), a cruiser, beginning on September 12, 1912, and lasting until June 1913. During this time, Des Moines patrolled the Caribbean, monitored the political and social conditions on the islands there, and periodically sailed to Portsmouth Navy Yard to be overhauled. In the summer of 1913, Osburn returned to competition shooting, taking the Class A Second Prize on the National Match Team. Additionally, in 1913 he received Second Prize in the International Shooting Tournament sponsored by the Pan-American Shooting Union, and took Third Prize at the United Service Match at Camp Perry, Ohio.

From September 22, 1913, until April 1915, Osburn saw shore duty at the U.S. Naval Academy, and then on May 13, 1915, returned to sea duty on board the presidential yacht USS Mayflower (PY-1), being promoted to Lieutenant on July 29, 1915. Osburn remained on board Mayflower until 1920, during that time being promoted to the temporary ranks of Lieutenant Commander in 1917 and Commander on September 21, 1918, before receiving promotion to the permanent rank of Lieutenant Commander on July 1, 1919. During his tour of duty on board Mayflower, Osburn was witness to many diplomatic and social functions, including Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels’s review of the Fleet upon its return to New York from European waters on December 26, 1918. Osburn received the World War I Victory Medal during this time. Subsequently, he was accorded the privilege of wearing the Belgian Order of the Crown. In 1919, moreover, he participated once again on the National Match Team, receiving a prize for his marksmanship in the rifle, pistol and shotgun, and also competed in the Marine Corps Cup Match, the Wimbledon Cup Match, and the United Service Trophy Match, which he won.

In April 1920, Osburn was detailed to participate in the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium, where he again competed in rifle marksmanship, taking the Gold Medals in the Free Rifle at 300 meters, Individual Military Rifle, Standing, at 300 meters, Team Combined, Prone, at 300 and 600 meters, and Military Rifle, Prone, at 300 meters. He further took the Silver Medal in Military Rifle, Standing, at 300 meters, and Bronze Medal in Military Rifle, Running Deer Shoot. While in Europe, Osburn also competed in the International Match sponsored by the Unione Italiana Tiro a Segno in Milan from September 12 to 20.

Returning to the United States in September, Osburn took command of USS Schenck (DD-159), a recently commissioned vessel of wartime construction, and conducted patrols in the Caribbean until September 1921, when he was assigned to USS Relief (AH-1). Until this time, in keeping with an Executive Order issued by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, the ship’s officers of Relief had been drawn from the Medical Corps, but they were replaced by line officers in September 1921, per the review decision of the Judge Advocate General, dated June 6, 1921. Osburn remained in this billet until July 12, 1922, when he was promoted to Commander and released for eventual shore duty. In the summer of 1921, Osburn again demonstrated his prowess with firearms at the U.S. National Match, taking the National Trophy in team marksmanship and a prize for pistol marksmanship. Going abroad to Lyon, France, in 1921 he further participated in the matches sponsored by the Union Internationale de Tir, taking Second Prize.

On December 18, 1922, Osburn was assigned as the Naval Inspector of Ordnance at the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company in Rochester, New York, remaining there until March 1925. This assignment afforded him ample opportunity to pursue his avocation as a competitive rifle marksman, and the Navy viewed the venues in which he competed as excellent public relations opportunities. In 1922, he traveled to Milan, Italy, to compete in the International Match sponsored by the Unione Italiana Tiro a Segno. In 1923, Osburn traveled to Camp Perry, Ohio, to participate in the International Service Rifle Match sponsored by the International Shooting Union. At Camp Perry, he took First Prize in the Individual Military Rifle, Standing, at 300 meters, and further assisted the American team in taking the Second Prize in the Team Military Rifle, Standing, at 300 meters, First Prize in the Team Military Rifle, Prone, at 300 meters, First Prize in the Team Military Rifle, Prone, at 600 meters, First Prize in the Team Military Rifle Combined, at 300 and 600 meters, and First Prize in the Team Free Rifle. In the spring of 1924, he participated in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, where he scored 95 points in the Individual Free Rifle Shoot at 300 meters, taking the Silver Medal. While in France in 1924, Osburn also traveled to Rheims to participate in the International Service Rifle Match sponsored by the International Shooting Union. There he took Third Prize.

On April 14, 1925, Osburn took command of the newly re-commissioned USS Dallas (DD-199). During Osburn’s tenure, which lasted until June 1927, Dallas cruised along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean, conducted gunnery exercises and torpedo practice, and participated in fleet maneuvers and joint Army-Navy exercises.

On June 30, 1927, Osburn reported as a student at the Naval War College in Providence, Rhode Island, graduating in August 1928. He then reported on September 1, 1928, as a student to the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, graduating in July 1929.

After these two years of service education, Osburn was assigned to shore duty with the 5th Naval District in Hampton Roads from August 3, 1929 to April 1930, after which he returned to sea duty as the Executive Officer of USS Concord (CL-10) from May 8, 1930, to January 1932.

Returning to shore duty on January 20, 1932, with the Bureau of Navigation, Osburn received his promotion to Captain on October 1, 1933. He then returned to sea on July 27, 1934, in command of USS Henderson (AP-1), a billet which he held until June 1936. During his tenure, Osburn carried out the duty of ferrying replacements for the Fleet and the 4th Marines in China.

On June 30, 1936, Osburn returned to shore duty with the 12th Naval District in San Francisco. In 1937 he was made the Director, Naval Reserves, for the 12th Naval District. On July 1, 1939, he retired and settled with his wife, Mary, in the Napa Valley, at St. Helena, California, where he passed away on December 28, 1966.

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains documents primarily related to Captain Carl T. Osburn’s career as a competitive marksman, along with some material from his education as a Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy and from his naval career. The collection is organized into four series, the fourth being composed of oversized material.

Series I, Correspondence (Personal), consisted of three items related to the presenting of a sword and belt to Captain Osburn by the Filipino sailors of USS Henderson (AP-1) in 1936.

Series II, Competitive Shooting, contains periodicals and articles related to competitive marksmanship, a firing manual, and range score cards and competition results. This series provides a good overview of Osburn’s experiences in competition, especially in international circles, and also provides information on his American teammates.

Series III, Newspaper Clippings, is mainly comprised of articles denoting Osburn’s marksmanship, but there is some material related to his naval service, including a biographical article published in November 1964, two years before his death.

Series IV, Appointments, Certificates, Drawings, Pass, Chart, Commissions (Oversized), consists of various documents Osburn received in formal recognition of his marksmanship abilities and of his naval education and service. Due to the oversized nature of these materials, they have been grouped together, rather than being distributed in other series.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Papers of Carl T. Osburn, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.


For associated photographic materials, please visit the photo archive donated collections related to Carl T. Osburn

Published: Tue Aug 10 14:48:31 EDT 2021