February 23rd marks the anniversary of the launching of USS Osmond Ingram (DD 225). Launched in 1919, it was the first Navy ship named for an enlisted man.
Its namesake, Osmond Kelly Ingram, entered the Navy in 1903. Rising to the rank of Gunner’s Mate First Class, Ingram served on USS Cassin (DD 43) when the destroyer was attacked by a German U-boat off Ireland on 16 October 1917. While cleaning the muzzle of a gun after morning target practice, Ingram spotted a torpedo, which, in the words of Cassin’s commander, was “running on the surface, and on a direct course to strike us amidships.” Desperate evasive maneuvers seemed to have succeeded when suddenly the torpedo “porpoised,” or jumped completely out of the water, turned left, and struck Cassin near the stern above the waterline. From his vantage point, Ingram realized that the “fish” would hit close to the depth charge rack, detonating those explosives and greatly increasing damage to Cassin and the threat to its crew. With no regard for his own safety, Ingram sprinted aft to release the depth charges. Before he could jettison all the charges, however, the torpedo struck, detonating the remaining depth charges, killing Ingram, and nearly ripping the stern off Cassin.
Though heavily damaged, the American destroyer was able to fire at the U-boat once it surfaced, forcing it to abandon its attack. The crippled warship was later towed to the naval base at Queenstown, Ireland, where she was repaired and returned to service.
For his selfless action, Ingram, the first enlisted man killed in action in World War I, was awarded the Medal of Honor. The destroyer named for him continued his legacy of honored service, receiving six battle stars and a Presidential Unit citation during World War II.
With the launching of Osmond Ingram, the Navy continued and furthered a program of greater appreciation of and increased opportunities for its enlisted personnel, which continues to this day.