ALBERT H. ROOKS, CAPT, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Albert Rooks '14

Date of birth: December 29, 1891

Date of death: March 1, 1942

Age: 50

Lucky Bag

From the 1914 Lucky Bag:


Loss

Circa 1940-1941.

Albert was lost when USS Houston (CA 30) was sunk on on March 1, 1942 during the Battle of Sunda Strait. He was the ship's commanding officer.

His wife, Edith, was listed as next of kin. He has a memory marker in Washington.

Biography

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From Wikipedia:

Albert Harold Rooks was born in Colville, Washington, on December 29, 1891. He entered the United States Naval Academy as a midshipman July 13, 1910, and was commissioned in the rank of ensign upon graduation on June 6, 1914. During the next seven years, among them the First World War years of 1917–18, he served in several ships, including USS West Virginia (ACR-5), USS St. Louis (C-20). He commanded the submarines USS Pike (SS-6), USS B-2 (SS-11), USS F-2 (SS-21), and USS H-4 (SS-147).

In 1921, Lieutenant Rooks joined the staff of the Twelfth Naval District, at San Francisco, California, remaining there until 1925, the year he was promoted to lieutenant commander. He next spent three years on board the battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40), followed by duty at the U.S. Naval Academy. In 1930, he helped commission the new cruiser USS Northampton (CA-26) and served on her until 1933, when he returned to the Naval Academy for a second tour.

In February 1936 Commander Rooks placed the new destroyer USS Phelps (DD-360) in commission and remained as her commanding officer until 1938. His next assignment was as a student at the Naval War College, and, upon completion of his studies, he served on that institution's staff. He was promoted to the rank of captain on July 1, 1940, while still at the War College. In 1941 Rooks took command of the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30), flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. He took his ship through the painfully difficult first three months of the Pacific War, when the Asiatic Fleet and its British and Dutch counterparts fought desperately against an overwhelming Japanese onslaught into Southeast Asia, the Philippines and the East Indies. Both Houston and her commanding officer were lost in the Battle of Sunda Strait, on March 1, 1942.

Captain Rooks posthumously received the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism, outstanding courage, gallantry in action and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the USS Houston during the period of 4 to February 27, 1942, while in action with superior Japanese enemy aerial and surface forces." During this period Houston survived six air attacks and one major naval engagement, doing considerable damage to the enemy while being heavily damaged herself in one air attack and in the naval engagement. Captain Rooks died on the bridge as a result of enemy-inflicted wounds and went down with his ship after her courageous fight against overwhelming odds.

Medal of Honor

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Captain Albert Harold Rooks (NSN: 0-8625), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism, outstanding courage, gallantry in action and distinguished service in the line of his profession, as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. HOUSTON (CA-30), during the period 4 to 27 February 1942, while in action with superior Japanese enemy aerial and surface forces in the Netherlands East Indies. While proceeding to attack an enemy amphibious expedition, as a unit in a mixed force, HOUSTON was heavily attacked by bombers; after evading four attacks, she was heavily hit in a fifth attack, lost 60 killed and had one turret wholly disabled. Captain Rooks made his ship again seaworthy and sailed within three days to escort an important reinforcing convoy from Darwin to Koepang, Timor, Netherlands East Indies. While so engaged, another powerful air attack developed which by HOUSTON'S marked efficiency was fought off without much damage to the convoy. The commanding general of all forces in the area thereupon canceled the movement and Captain Rooks escorted the convoy back to Darwin. Later, while in a considerable American-British-Dutch force engaged with an overwhelming force of Japanese surface ships, HOUSTON with H.M.S. EXETER carried the brunt of the battle, and her fire alone heavily damaged one and possibly two heavy cruisers. Although heavily damaged in the actions, Captain Rooks succeeded in disengaging his ship when the flag officer commanding broke off the action and got her safely away from the vicinity, whereas one-half of the cruisers were lost.

Service: Navy
Division: U.S.S. Houston (CA-30)

Namesake

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USS Rooks (DD 804) was named for Albert; the ship was sponsored by his widow.

Other

Albert's papers and correspondence is in the archive of the University of Houston Libraries.

Related Articles

Lyman Swenson '16 was also on the staff of the Twelfth Naval District in December 1923.

Twelfth Naval District Headquarters, San Francisco, California Officers of the headquarters staff, December 1923. Those present are (front row, left to right): Captain Stanford E. Moses, USN, Assistant to the Commandant; Rear Edward Simpson, USN, Commandant, 12th Naval District; Captain George H. Barber, USN(MC), and Captain Ammen Farenholt, USN(MC). (rear row, left to right): Chief Pharmacist William T. Gildberg, USN; Lieutenant Errol W. Willet, USN(DC), (possibly); Lieutenant John H. Buchanan, USN; Lieutenant Commander John P. Bowden, USN; Lieutenant Albert H. Rooks, USN; Lieutenant Lyman K. Swenson, USN; Commander Albert S. Rees, USN, and Commander John Irwin, USN(SC). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

January 1915

Ensign, USS West Virginia

January 1916

Ensign, commanding officer, USS A-5

January 1917

Ensign, commanding officer, USS A-5

March 1918

Lieutenant, USS Brooklyn

January 1919

Lieutenant, commanding officer, USS F-2

January 1920

Lieutenant, USS H-4

January 1921

Lieutenant, commanding officer, USS H-4

January 1922

Lieutenant, 12th Naval District

May 1923

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 12th Naval District

Others at this command: LT Lyman Swenson '16.

July 1923

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 12th Naval District

Others at this command: LT Lyman Swenson '16.

September 1923

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 12th Naval District

Others at this command: LT Lyman Swenson '16.

November 1923

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 12th Naval District

Others at this command: LT Lyman Swenson '16.

January 1924

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 12th Naval District

Others at this command: LT Lyman Swenson '16.

March 1924

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 12th Naval District

Others at this command: LT Lyman Swenson '16.

May 1924

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 12th Naval District

Others at this command: LT Lyman Swenson '16.

July 1924

Lieutenant, Aide to Commandant, 12th Naval District

September 1924

Lieutenant, USS New Mexico

Others at this command: ENS Henry Brandenburger '21, ENS Henry Batterton '23, and ENS Willford Hyman '24.

November 1924

Lieutenant, USS New Mexico

Others at this command: ENS Henry Brandenburger '21, ENS Henry Batterton '23, and ENS Willford Hyman '24.

January 1925

Lieutenant, USS New Mexico

Others at this command: ENS Henry Brandenburger '21, ENS Henry Batterton '23, and ENS Willford Hyman '24.

March 1925

Lieutenant, USS New Mexico

Others at this command: LTjg Henry Brandenburger '21 and ENS Willford Hyman '24.

May 1925

Lieutenant, USS New Mexico

Others at this command: LTjg Henry Brandenburger '21.

July 1925

Lieutenant, USS New Mexico

Others at this command: ENS Douglas Smith '25 and ENS Julian Morrison, Jr. '25.

October 1925

Lieutenant Commander, USS New Mexico

Others at this command: ENS Willford Hyman '24, ENS Douglas Smith '25, ENS Jack DeShazo '25, and ENS Julian Morrison, Jr. '25.

January 1926

Lieutenant Commander, USS New Mexico

Others at this command: ENS Douglas Smith '25, ENS Jack DeShazo '25, and ENS Julian Morrison, Jr. '25.

January 1927

Lieutenant Commander, USS New Mexico

Others at this command: LT Festus Foster '19, ENS Douglas Smith '25, ENS Jack DeShazo '25, ENS Julian Morrison, Jr. '25, ENS Henry G'Sell '26, and ENS Louis Shane, Jr. '26.

April 1930

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

October 1930

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

Others at this command: ENS Arthur Spring '30.

January 1931

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

Others at this command: ENS Arthur Spring '30.

April 1931

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

Others at this command: ENS Arthur Spring '30.

July 1931

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

Others at this command: ENS Alfred Grove '30, ENS Arthur Spring '30, ENS Damon Cummings '31, ENS James Kelsey, Jr. '31, and ENS Lion Miles '31.

October 1931

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

Others at this command: ENS Alfred Grove '30, ENS Arthur Spring '30, ENS Damon Cummings '31, ENS James Kelsey, Jr. '31, and ENS Lion Miles '31.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg John Duke '26 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 9S).

January 1932

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

Others at this command: ENS Arthur Spring '30, ENS Damon Cummings '31, ENS James Kelsey, Jr. '31, and ENS Lion Miles '31.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg John Duke '26 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 9S).

April 1932

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

Others at this command: ENS Arthur Spring '30, ENS Damon Cummings '31, ENS James Kelsey, Jr. '31, and ENS Lion Miles '31.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg John Duke '26 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 9S).

October 1932

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

Others at this command: ENS Alfred Grove '30, ENS Arthur Spring '30, ENS Damon Cummings '31, and ENS James Kelsey, Jr. '31.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg John Duke '26 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 9S).

January 1933

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

Others at this command: ENS Alfred Grove '30, ENS Arthur Spring '30, ENS Damon Cummings '31, and ENS James Kelsey, Jr. '31.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg John Duke '26 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 9S).

April 1933

Lieutenant Commander, gunnery officer, USS Northampton

Others at this command: ENS Alfred Grove '30 and ENS Damon Cummings '31.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg John Duke '26 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 9S).

October 1935

Commander, commanding officer, USS Phelps

January 1936

Commander, commanding officer, USS Phelps

April 1936

Commander, commanding officer, USS Phelps

July 1936

Commander, commanding officer, USS Phelps

January 1937

Commander, commanding officer, USS Phelps

April 1937

Commander, commanding officer, USS Phelps

September 1937

Commander, commanding officer, USS Phelps

January 1938

Commander, commanding officer, USS Phelps

July 1938

Commander, under instruction, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island

Others at this command: CAPT Isaac Kidd '06, CDR Francis Maile, Jr. '15, LT Adolph Hede '25, and LT Douglas Smith '25.

January 1939

Commander, under instruction, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island

Others at this command: CDR Francis Maile, Jr. '15 and LT Douglas Smith '25.

October 1939

Commander, staff, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island

June 1940

Commander, staff, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island

Others at this command: LCDR Raymond Tuttle '22.

November 1940

Commander, staff, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island

Others at this command: LCDR Raymond Tuttle '22.

April 1941

Captain, staff, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island

Others at this command: LCDR Raymond Tuttle '22.


Class of 1914

Albert is one of 7 members of the Class of 1914 on Virtual Memorial Hall.