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Reno I (DD-303)


The first Reno (DD-303) honored the late Lt. Cmdr. Walter Elsworth Reno, who received the Navy Cross (posthumously) during the World War. The second Reno (CL-96) was named for the city in Nevada. 

Walter Elsworth Reno -- born in Floris, Davis County, Iowa, on 3 October 1881 -- received an appointment as a naval cadet from Missouri on 7 September 1901. Graduating on 30 January 1905 with the Naval Academy Class of 1905, he reported to Brooklyn (Armored Cruiser No.3) on 1 March. When that ship was placed in reserve on 16 May 1906, he reported to Wabash six days later. He received promotion to ensign to rank from 31 January 1907. Detached from Wabash on 7 April 1907, he joined Virginia (Battleship No.13) the next day. Reporting on board Truxtun (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 14) on 18 January 1908, he served in that ship until 1 December, when he reported to Solace (Hospital Ship), remaining in her until she went out of commission at Charleston, S.C., on 14 April 1909.

Reno reported to Vicksburg (Gunboat No.11) on 24 May 1909, a week after that vessel was recommissioned at Mare Island, Calif., and saw service in Asiatic waters, the ship visiting the Yangtze ports of Hankow and I’chang before moving to the Pacific coast of Central America, visiting a succession of places: Panama, Corinto, La Union, La Libertad, Acajutla, Salina Cruz, and Acapulco, Mexico. Reno, having received promotion to lieutenant (j.g.) to rank from 31 January 1910, then traveled to Newport News, Va., where he assisted in fitting out Terry (Destroyer No.25) on 18 October 1910. He served in that vessel as she operated with the Atlantic Fleet until detached on 8 November, after which time he reported on board New Jersey (Battleship No. 16) on 12 November.

Detached from New Jersey on 26 June 1911, he reported to Wisconsin (Battleship No.9) three days later, and served in that warship until detached on 4 February 1914 to travel to Chicago, Ill., to take charge of the Navy Recruiting Station and Branch Hydrographic Office there. Relieved of that duty on 9 October, he received assignment on 4 November as Inspector-Instructor of the Illinois Naval Militia in Chicago, and served in that duty, receiving additional responsibilities on 26 January 1916 in Chicago “in connection with the enforcement of the President’s Neutrality Proclamation concerning radio installations,” until detached on 1 March 1916.

Reno returned to sea duty, traveling to the Asiatic station, where he relieved Lt. George H. Bowdey in command of Chauncey (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 3) on 4 May 1916. He assumed command of the Torpedo Flotilla, U.S. Asiatic Fleet, on 1 March 1917, with additional duty as Commander, First Destroyer Division, with his broad pennant in Chauncey. While Reno was serving in the Philippines, the U.S. entered World War I on the side of the Allies on 6 April. Commissioned lieutenant commander to rank from 23 May, he was detached from command of the Asiatic Fleet’s Torpedo Flotilla on 7 June and ordered to take command of Chauncey and the First Destroyer Division, Asiatic Torpedo Flotilla.

Chauncey departed the Philippines on 1 August 1917 in company with Dale (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 4), Bainbridge (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 1), Barry (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 2) and Decatur (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 5), bound, ultimately, for Gibraltar. The ships undertook the passage through inhospitable waters, the monsoon season being at its height, and proceeded via Borneo, Singapore -- where they fell in with collier Caesar and Camilla Rickmers (later Ticonderoga) -- Arabia, and the Suez Canal, steaming 11,217 miles during the passage before arriving at their destination on 20 October 1917. Nine days later, Reno was ordered to assume command of Destroyer Division “C” in addition to his commanding Chauncey.

During the mid watch on 19 November 1917, Chauncey was escorting a convoy through the danger zone, observing the essential war precautions of running darkened, when British steamer Rose rammed her. The merchantman’s bow penetrated Chauncey’s port side, abreast her fourth funnel, at 1:47 a.m., severing the after portion of the ship, which sank immediately, taking with it Lt. Cmdr. Reno and the two other officers, Lt. (j.g.) Charles F. Wedderburn and Ens. Harry G. Skinner, USNRF, and 18 men.

Reno was later awarded the Navy Cross, posthumously, for “exceptionally distinguished service in the line of his profession” in taking Chauncey from Manila to Gibraltar and “arriving in the Mediterranean with his vessel in readiness for immediate participation in the operation against enemy submarines…”


(DD-303: displacement 1,308; length 314'4"; beam 30'11"; draft 9'10"; speed 33 knots; complement 122; armament 4 4-inch, 1 3-inch, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Clemson)

The first Reno (Destroyer No. 303) was laid down on Independence Day, 4 July 1918 at San Francisco, Calif., by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp.; launched 22 January 1919; sponsored by Miss Kathryn Baldwin Anderson; reclassified from Destroyer No. 303 to DD-303 on 17 July 1920 and commissioned on 23 July 1920.

Attached to the Pacific Fleet, Reno operated along the west coast until January 1921 when she joined other fleet units in a cruise to Valparaiso, Chile. Resuming west coast operations on her return, she ranged between Washington and Lower California, with occasional runs to Hawaii or the Canal Zone In April 1927 she came as far east as Guantanamo, Cuba, and in July of that year she was at Prince Rupert, British Columbia, to participate in the celebrations of the Canadian Diamond Jubilee.

Decommissioned at San Diego on 18 January 1930, Reno was stricken from the Naval Register on 8 July 1930. She was scrapped in 1931, in accordance with the terms of the London Treaty limiting naval armament.

23 September 2005

Biography rewritten, Robert J. Cressman

21 April 2017 

Published: Fri Apr 21 19:18:36 EDT 2017