Joseph Mason “Bull” Reeves

Photo added by Jane Brown

Joseph Mason “Bull” Reeves

Tampico, Whiteside County, Illinois, USA
Death 25 Mar 1948 (aged 75)
Bethesda, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA
Burial Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, USA
Plot Section 7, Lot 1584-C
Memorial ID 6624371 · View Source
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United States Navy Admiral. Nicknamed "Bull," he became known as the "Father of Carrier Aviation" for his role in integrating aircraft carriers into the US Navy Fleet as a major part of the Navy's attack capabilities. Born Joseph Mason Reeves in Tampico, Illinois, he received an appointment in 1890 to attend the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, where he became a football hero. While there, he is credited by some sources with the invention of the modern football helmet, in which he had a shoemaker create for him after he was told by a Navy doctor that a kick to his head could result in death. After graduating from the Naval Academy with an officer's commission, he was assigned to the cruiser USS San Francisco. He served in the battleship USS Oregon during the Spanish-American War, taking part in the action against the Spanish Navy at Santiago, Cuba in July 1898. After the Spanish-American War, he served in San Francisco, California and on the battleships USS Wisconsin and USS Ohio, in addition to shore duty at Newport, Rhode Island and Annapolis, Maryland, where he was an instructor in the Naval Academy's Department of Physics and Chemistry from 1906 until 1908. In 1907 he served as the Academy's Head Football Coach, guiding the team to a 9-2-1 record and a 6-0 victory over Army. After serving as an ordnance officer on board the battleship USS New Hampshire, he served as ordnance officer in the staff of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. He followed this with assignment to the Board of Inspection and Survey and a tour as Commanding Officer, Naval Coal Depot, Tiburon, California. In April 1913, at the rank of commander, he assumed command of the collier USS Jupiter, the US Navy's first electrically propelled vessel. Detached from Jupiter in April 1914, he commanded the cruiser USS St. Louis and various other ships until June 1915 when he was assigned to the battleship USS Oregon as its Commanding Officer. In June 1916 he commanded the battleship USS Maine and held that position throughout World War I. After the war, he served as Naval Attaché at Rome, Italy and in April 1921 he assumed command of USS Pittsburgh. He was promoted to the rank of captain at the Mare Island Navy Yard at the end of that year, and from 1922 to 1923 he commanded the battleship USS North Dakota. From there he attended the US Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island and spent a year as a member of its staff. After graduating from the Naval War College, he decided to enter the new world of Naval Aviation and in 1925 he qualified as a Naval Aviation Observer as opposed to a Naval Aviator (i.e., a pilot). He then assumed the post of Commander, Aircraft Squadron, Battle Fleet. Though a captain by rank, his position as squadron commander permitted him to fly a commodore's pennant. His flagship was the experimental carrier USS Langley (his former ship, USS Jupiter), modified for aviation operations. The wooden flight-deck was installed over the Langley's existing deck structures, giving the vessel the nickname of "Covered Wagon." From June 1929 until June 1930 he served on the Navy's General Board and fifteen months later he became Senior Member of the Board of Inspection and Survey, Pacific Coast Section. Another tour at Mare Island followed and in June 1933 he became Commander, Battleships, Battle Force, with the rank of vice admiral. The following July, he was assigned as Commander, Battle Force, US Fleet, with the rank of admiral. On February 26, 1934 he was designated Commander-in-Chief, US Fleet. He held this command until June 1936, when he was ordered to Washington, DC to serve on the General Board, and remained in that position until November 23, 1936, and retired seven days later. On May 13, 1940 he was recalled to active duty and advanced to vice admiral on the retired list, and served in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy in Washington DC from May 21, 1940 until December 23, 1946. He then retired a second time with a combined total of 48 years in the US Navy. Among his military decorations and awards include the Navy Cross, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Sampson Medal, the Navy Spanish Campaign Medal, the World War I Victory Medal with Atlantic Fleet clasp, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Commander of the Order of the Crown of Italy, and the Commander of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (Italy). He died in Bethesda, Maryland at the age of 75. The guided missile frigate USS Reeves, commissioned in May 1964, was named in his honor and it won three battle stars for service during the Vietnam War. It was reclassified in June 1975 as a guided missile cruiser. In November 1993 it was decommissioned and stricken from the Navy Register at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and sunk at sea in May 2001 off the coast of Australia.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bill Heneage
  • Added: 20 Jul 2002
  • Find a Grave Memorial 6624371
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Joseph Mason “Bull” Reeves (20 Nov 1872–25 Mar 1948), Find a Grave Memorial no. 6624371, citing United States Naval Academy Cemetery, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .