HUGH K. AIKEN, ENS, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Hugh Aiken '06

Date of birth: September 13, 1884

Date of death: July 11, 1909

Age: 24

Lucky Bag

From the 1906 Lucky Bag:


Loss

From Find A Grave:

FROM THE USNA CLASS OF 1906 45TH REUNION BOOK:

Born October [sic], 1884, New Orleans, Louisiana. Appointed from Louisiana. "Padre" was a man of great charm and dignity. He had a firm but very tolerant disposition and was among the most popular men in the Class. His fine physique made him a natural athlete. He came very near to death after being kicked in the head during an intercollegiate football game. After graduation he was attached to the USS North Carolina, and was promoted to the rank of Ensign. It is a coincidence that another accident cost him his life. He was killed by an explosion of fire damp, in a coal bunker of the North Carolina, while coaling ship on 11 July, 1909 [Aiken went under deck ahead of his men to investigate an accumulation of fumes generated by the stored coal]. He is buried in his home town of New Orleans (Metairie Cemetery). The Aiken School, well known in New Orleans, is directed by Padre's sister Edith.

Remembrances

From US War Archives:

On the occasion of Pres. Taft's visit to New Orleans, he referred to Lieut. Aiken in the following words: "But as I stand in the presence of a New Orleans audience, as I stand in an academic atmosphere, I cannot refrain from allusion to the heroic death recently met by a young, bright, able man of your community, Lieut. Aiken of the navy. He saw his dangerous duty, and, with his men under him, thoughtful of their safety, he led them into the place of danger, fell and was overcome, and the only thought he had as he was about to meet his death was, as he asked his commanding officer: 'Have I made good?' It is such standards of living and of dying that I think are inculcated not only at West Point and at Annapolis, but in all academic institutions, of which this Tulane is one of the best examples. And I am glad, in the presence of his neighbors--the neighbors of his father and of his mother, as commander-in-chief of the navy, to pay this tribute to his memory."

The following beautiful tribute to this young officer was published: "There are sorrows of such wide significance, that when they come into our midst, the minor chords are struck as by a master musician, and the penetrating pathos of the notes find response in every heart.

We would not draw aside the veil to whom the right belongs to mourn, but we, too, who stand without, are dim-visioned from the mists of sympathy.

We, too, would add a wreath of laurel to the wreaths already there--the 'honor wreaths' for the 'gallant officer and gentleman,' who walked in honor's path, and in his youth, ere life's sun had reached meridional glow, saluted, at last command--received his passport to eternity--and entered into new fields of action, 'where winged souls fly beyond all change, in the eternal distance to perfected life.'

For him, 'all's well.' For those who mourn, 'all's well,' for his life, like a broken column, gleams in unsullied whiteness, unmarred by stains of sin, or rude chisel of dishonor. The honors of country and foreign power have been paid him. The flag at half-mast--the wreath of honor--the pall of the flowers, bedewed by sweet affection. And from the bugle's silver-throat, the long, last, farewell note-the call to rest-for 'all's well'-when 'He giveth His Beloved sleep.'

A wreath of laurel, to the memory, of Ensign Hugh K. Aiken, U. S. N., 'gallant officer and gentleman', who died in his youth." The classmates of Lieut. Aiken have placed a tablet to his memory at Annapolis Naval academy, upon which is inscribed: "In memory of Ensign Hugh Kerr Aiken, U. S. N., who was killed in the performance of duty on board the United States cruiser, North Carolina, in the Bay of Naples, July 11, 1909. 'And so this man died, leaving his death an example of courage, his life a memorial of virtue.' Erected by his class mates of 1906.

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.

July 1907

Midshipman, St. Louis

January 1908

Midshipman, St. Louis

January 1909

Ensign, North Carolina


Class of 1906

Hugh is one of 8 members of the Class of 1906 on Virtual Memorial Hall.