Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54)


Curtis Dwight Wilbur, born in Boonesboro, Iowa, on 10 May 1867, was appointed to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1884. Wilbur excelled in leadership, sports, and academics at the Naval Academy, graduating third in his class, and achieving additional athletic fame as the academy hitch-kick champion. Shortly after graduating, he resigned his commission, a common practice at the time because of the limited number of available positions. He relocated to Riverside, California, where he taught school for two years while studying law at night. Admitted to the Bar in 1890, Wilbur served as Los Angeles Deputy Assistant District Attorney. He moved to the Superior Court in 1903, and in 1918 to the California Supreme Court, serving as Chief Justice. He married Olive Doolittle, and their union produced three children: Edna, Paul, and Lyman D.

Wilbur was sworn in as the Secretary of the Navy on 19 March 1924. He confronted multiple problems during his tenure, including the “Teapot Dome Scandal” (a bribery scandal that included leasing production rights to Navy petroleum reserves), the Washington Naval Treaty, which limited the service’s strength, and Congressional reductions in Naval Academy appointments and cut-backs that failed to provide adequate funds for the upkeep of the fleet. Wilbur battled Congress for proper funding for an operational Navy, argued for new cruisers, emphasized the importance of education, instituted aviation courses at the Naval Academy, and backed the development of the air-cooled engine. In addition, he spoke out about the threat posed by rising Japanese imperialism, as well as international communism. President Herbert C. Hoover appointed Wilbur to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California, in 1929, where he served with distinction as the presiding judge until he retired in 1945. Wilbur died in San Francisco on 8 September 1954. The first ship named Curtis Wilbur.

Curtis Wilbur.
Curtis Wilbur.

The first U.S. Navy ship named Curtis Wilbur.

(DDG-54: displacement 8,960; length 505'; beam 66'; draft 31'; speed 30+ knots; complement 356; armament 1 5-inch, 2 Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-156 SM-2MR Standards, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 8 RGM-84 Harpoons (2 Mk 141 launchers), 2 Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), 4 .50 caliber machine guns, and 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, aircraft operate (but not embark) 1 Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawk; class Arleigh Burke)

Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) was laid down on 12 March 1991 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works; launched on 16 May 1992; sponsored by Mrs. Margon Edney, wife of Adm. Leon A. Edney, Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic and Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Command; and commissioned on 19 March 1994 at Long Beach, Calif., Cmdr. Robert S. Riche in command.

Curtis Wilbur heels sharply to port as she patrols the Arabian Gulf with the Constellation (CV-64) Carrier Battle Group, 9 July 1999. (Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John Sullivan, U.S. Navy Photograph 990709-N-4697S-002, Navy NewsStand)

Aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk (CV-63), Curtis Wilbur, and guided missile frigate Gary (FFG-51) rescued five Indonesian fishermen from their sinking 40-foot fishing vessel on 7 October 2001, as the U.S. ships passed through the Strait of Malacca en route to the Indian Ocean for Operation Enduring Freedom I.

Days of continuous rain and flooding, together with a minor earthquake, triggered a massive mudslide on 17 February 2006 that smashed into the area surrounding Saint Bernard on southern Leyte, Philippines. The mudslide destroyed the village of Guinsaugon, wiping out a school filled with children, and claiming at least 1,126 lives. Expeditionary Strike Group 7, comprising amphibious assault ship Essex (LHD-2) and dock landing ship Harpers Ferry (LSD-49), with elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked, and Curtis Wilbur sailed as the Forward Deployed Amphibious Ready Group as part of Joint Task Force Balikatan 2006 and trained with Filipino forces. The ships had just entered Subic Bay, Luzon, when they received news of the disaster, and immediately stood out of that port and made for southern Leyte to assist the victims, reaching the area two days later. A variety of aircraft including USMC Lockheed KC-130 Hercules, Boeing Vertol CH-46E Sea Knights, Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallions, and Bell UH-1N Iroquois; USA Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks; and USAF C-130 Hercules and Boeing C-17A Globemaster IIIs, operating principally in support of the 36th Contingency Response Group, also searched for survivors, delivered relief supplies to victims, and provided immediate, life-sustaining support. Essex returned to Sasebo, Japan, on 14 March.

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

Published: Mon Jul 06 10:18:04 EDT 2015