Hugh Rodman, son of Hugh Rodman (M. D.) and Susan Ann Barbour Rodman, was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, on January 6, 1859. He died on June 7, 1940 in Naval Hospital, Washington, D. C. and is buried in the National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
He was appointed a Cadet Midshipman from the Seventh Congressional District of Kentucky in September, 1875. While at the Naval Academy he was active in all competitive sports, and all through life participated in outdoor sports, particularly shooting, fishing, and golf. Detached from the Naval Academy with the Class of 1880, he was promoted to Midshipman two years later and graduated. In June, 1884 he was commissioned Ensign, and thereafter was promoted in rank at successive intervals until May, 1917 when he attained flag rank of Rear Admiral. While serving the two years as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, July, 1919-1921, he had the rank of Admiral. Transferred to the Retired List of the Navy on January 6, 1923, after a distinguished career of forty-three years in the Naval Service, he later attained the rank of Admiral on the Retired Lists, in accordance with the law enacted June 21, 1930. He saw the transitions in ships from wood to steel, from sail to steam, and the growth of our Navy from a small inferior position to one of recognized world leadership.
As a Junior Officer, he served on the North Atlantic Station aboard the USS Yantic (Screw Gunboat); on the Pacific Station in the USS Wachusett (Screw Sloop-of-war), and the USS Hartford (Farragut’s flagship during the Civil War). In 1883, he was present at the coronation of the King Kalakan at Honolulu. He served on the Asiatic Station attached successively to the USS Monocacy (Sidewheel Gunboat), Palos (Iron Screw Tug), Omaha (Screw Sloop-of-war), and Essex (Wooden Screw Steamer). Shore assignments followed, from 1889 to 1897, at the Naval Academy, Hydrographic Office, Naval Observatory, and U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Office, intermittently ashore and in steamers of the Coast Survey, including USS Endeavor, Bache (Steamer), Patterson, and Matchless.
At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, he was serving the cruiser USS Raleigh (Cruiser No. 8), which had been cruising in the Mediterranean, but was then at Hong Kong, and became a unit of Admiral Dewey’s Fleet. In command of the forward guns on the Raleigh in the battle of Manila Bay, the Raleigh was first to answer the hostile fire from land batteries upon the American Fleet at Manila Bay; she was mainly instrumental in putting out of action and sinking the Castilla, a Spanish cruiser. He was commended by the Captain of the Raleigh for “…eminent and conspicuous conduct in the Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898…and capture of Manila City, August 14, 1898.”
Detached from the Raleigh in June, 1899, he made a cruise for scientific exploration of the Pacific, under the general direction of Professor Alexander Agassiz, in the U. S. Fish Commission vessel USS Albatross (Masted Screw Steamer), serving as her Executive Officer and Navigator. The following year, in the Alaska area, the work of investigation of its commercial fisheries was continued. In 1901 he assumed command of the USS Iroquois (Sloop-of-war) at Honolulu, Hawaii, and remained in that area until relieved of that command in 1904. The next three years, again on the Asiatic Station, he was successively Executive Officer of the USS New Orleans (Protected Cruiser), Cincinnati (Cruiser No. 7), and Wisconsin (Battleship No. 9); Commanding Officer of the USS Elcano; and Aide on the staff of the Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet, in the USS West Virginia, flagship. Returning to the United States in June, 1907, he attended the War College, Newport, Rhode Island, with additional duty as Inspector in Charge, 6th Lighthouse District, with headquarters at Charleston, South Carolina.
After serving six months as Captain of the Yard, Naval Station, Cavite, Philippine Islands, he assumed command of the USS Cleveland (Cruiser No. 19) on June 30, 1909 in which he returned to the West Coast. The following September 26, he assumed duty as Inspection Officer, later as Captain of the Yard, Navy Yard, Mare Island, California, where he served until December 27, 1911. The next month he assumed command of the USS Connecticut (Battleship No. 18), flagship of the Atlantic Fleet, transferred in October, 1912 to command of the USS Delaware (Battleship No. 28). While in the command he convoyed the President of the United States to the Panama Canal, then under construction. He later crossed the Atlantic, made a courtesy visit to France, and while lying at Villa France, he toured the European countries, including France, England, Holland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.
Returning to the United States, he was ordered to the Canal Zone, remained in that area from January, 1914 to October 1915, first in advisory capacity to General Goethals, the Army engineer-builder. As Superintendent of Transportation, Panama Canal, later redesignated Marine Superintendent, he wrote the rules and regulations applicable to vessels which to use the Canal, and organized and operated it when the Canal was first opened under General Goethals’ authority.
When detached in October, 1915, he commanded the USS New York on the East Coast. After one year, he was relieved, and in October, 1916 he reported to the Navy Department, Washington, D. C., to serve as a Member of the General Board, later that year he was given additional duty on the Board of Directors of the Panama Railroad Company.
When the United States entered the first World War in April, 1917, he commanded Division THREE, Atlantic Fleet, and successively during the war he served as Squadron or Division Commander in the flagships Rhode Island (Battleship No. 17), Missouri, and Connecticut, until assuming command of the Battleship Division NINE, USS New York (Battleship No. 34), flagship. This division became the Sixth Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet, under Admiral Sir David Beatty, R.N., operating in the North Sea until the Armistice, based at Scapa Flow and Edinburgh. The Grand Fleet when in column was 76 miles in length. He was present at the surrender of the German Fleet, and shortly after, convoyed President Wilson from Portland, England to Brest, France, for the Peace Conferences. The Distinguished Service Medal was awarded him, “For exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility as Commander, Division NINE, United States Atlantic Fleet, which served with the British Grand Fleet, as the Sixth Battle Squadron.”
Returning his division to New York, he was relieve of that command, and ordered as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, with additional duty in command of Squadron 4, Division 8, Pacific Fleet, in the USS New Mexico (Battleship No. 40), flagship. He served for two years from July 1, 1919, followed by two years as Commandant, Fifth Naval District, Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads, Virginia. While in that duty, he made an official visit to South American as a member of a special diplomatic mission, with the title Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary.
On January 6, 1923 he transferred to the Retired List of the Navy, having reached the statutory age. During 1922-23, he was Senior Member of the Board to Formulate a Policy for the Administration of all Naval Shore Station. In the years since the war ended, in personal friendship and in his official capacity, he welcomed the royal family of Belgium, and Admiral of the Fleet, Earl Beatty, Royal Navy.
In June, 1923, he accompanied President of the United States Warren G. Harding to a general inspection trip to Alaska, with ended in the death of the President the following August. Admiral Rodman was also sent to Marion, Ohio, to attend the funeral of the late President.
He had active duty in April, 1937 to attend the coronation ceremonies of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in London, England, as guest of the King and Representative of the Navy of the United States. He was authorized by the Secretary of the Navy to hoist his flag in the old New York, his former flagship, for the King’s Fleet Review on May 20.
Always a Champion of Men of the Navy, he was instrumental in the suppression of an oil painting in 1934 which was to give an untrue concept of their character, and showed even the subversive influences at work to depreciate the Service. He wrote to the Secretary of the Navy, “…today I know of no finer body of men than our enlisted personnel, both in the Navy and Marine Corps.”
In addition to the Distinguished Service Medal, Admiral Rodman had received the following decorations: Spanish Campaign Medal; Dewey Medal; Victory Medal, Grand Fleet Clasp; and the following foreign decorations: Knight Commander of the Bath, presented in person by King George V of Great Britain; Grand Cordon of the Leopold, presented in person by King Albert of the Belgians; Order of the Rising Sun of Japan, presented by the Empire of Japan; Commander of the Legion of Honor, presented by the Republic of France; Grand Official of the Order of El Sol Del Peru, presented by the President of the Republic of Peru; Premero Order de Merito, presented by the President of the Republic of Chile; LaSolidaridad, presented in person by the President of the Republic of Panama; and the Coronation Medal (May 12, 1937).
Married in 1889 to Miss Elizabeth Ruffin Sayre of Frankfort, Kentucky, who survived him for two years, they made their home in Washington following his retirement.
He was author of a book, “Yarns of a Kentucky Admiral.” The USS Rodman was named in his honor. The destroyer, DD-456, was built at Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Kearny, New Jersey, launched September 26, 1941, and sponsored by his grandniece, Mrs. Albert K. Stebbins, Jr., Southern Pines, North Carolina.