JAMES G. PROUT, III, RADM, USN
James Prout, III '66
Date of birth: January 21, 1944
Date of death: May 17, 1995
From the 1966 Lucky Bag:
James was lost on May 17, 1995 when the F/A-18 he was riding in as a passenger crashed in New Mexico.
I’d like to take the opportunity to honor my father, RADM James G. Prout III, who was the first naval flag officer to lose his life in the line of duty since WWII, when his F/A-18 crashed on 17 May 1995 in the mountains north of Taos, New Mexico.
My father graduated from Exeter in 1961 and US Naval Academy in 1966, and operated with a SEAL team in Operation Gamewarden on the Nha Tran river until he took shrapnel from an RPG, and was re-deployed to surface line after his recovery. He commanded USS Fearless, served as chief engineer of USS Steinacher, XO of USS Oldendorf, CO of USS Obrien, Chief of Staff CINCPACFLT, CO COMCRUDESGRU7, and CO COMCRUDESGRU 3 – his dream job in command of the Carl Vinson battle group. He also served as military assistant to SECDEF and CO OP-06 at the Pentagon. He received his Master’s degree in International Relations from Harvard University in 1983.
He was distinguished as the first flag officer from the USNA class of ’66, and was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Citation. On a more personal note, he didn’t operate long with the SEALs, but he never gave up the physical exercise regimen and personal discipline of being a teams guy. To the night before he was killed, he ran 10 miles a day and worked out daily as well. At 53 the man was still a rock, still tougher than nails, and able to humble anyone who stood up to him – and that was usually before he threw in the “oh by the way, I’m a two star admiral” line. He always inspired me to do my best by his example and he was by far my biggest supporter and encourager; he wasn’t perfect, but he was a helluva dad, a passionate leader, and the most impressive naval officer I’ve yet to meet, future career of certain current SEALs notwithstanding. He loved the Navy, loved his country, loved his family, and loved to serve. It’s due to his example that I’m planning to commission in the USN upon commencement from my Master’s degree program. He taught me the meaning of self discipline, service, responsibility, honor, duty, and integrity – and he taught me how to be a dad to my own children, who will unfortunately never have the chance to know their grand-dad like I knew him.
Hoo-yah, dad. Slainte to you and all who serve on sea, air and land.
From the June 1995 issue of Shipmate:
RAdm. Jay Prout was flying in the two seat version of the F-18 on 17 May 1995 when his aircraft impacted a mountain in New Mexico. He and the pilot were both lost. At the time of the accident, Jay was serving as Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group THREE, based in San Diego, Califomia with CARL VINSON as his flagship. He had flown with nearly all the squadrons of his airwing as they prepared for deployment: this flight was part of those preparations.
RAdm. Prout's death represents a stunning loss for his family, the Navy, and the nation. Operationally experienced, a gifted speaker and a talented administrator, RAdm. Prout was first and foremost a leader in the finest sense. He led from the front, with style and professionalism. He took care of his sailors, and whenever he was involved, no matter how difficult the circumstances, he righted the ship.
From the very beginning of his career, as a midshipman at Annapolis, his distinctive Andover edge made him a standout. Somehow, despite duty around the world, he never lost it. Commissioned in the line, he embarked as First Lieutenant and Main Propulsions Assistant in RENSHAW(DD-499). Next he rolled into Nha Be, as Officer in charge of a Seal Team Support Detachment and it was while conducting opera- tions in that maze of waterways that he eamed his Bronze Stars. The citations read, in part:
"For heroic achievement in the Rung Sat Special Zone of the Republic of Vietnam. Light SEAL Support Craft 6, with Lt. Prout as officer in charge and with a SEAL unit on board, was continuing its patrol when it suddenly came under enemy automatic weapons and rocket fire from enemy positions on both banks of a narrow stream. The initial rocket blast wounded five personnel in the boat and knocked everyone to the deck. Lt. Prout, although painfully wounded in the throat, reacted immediately and directed the SEAL unit to return and suppress the enemy fire. He quickly aided the coxswain in regaining control of the swerving craft, further exposing himself to sporadic fire to direct an evasive course to clear the hill zone. Refusing treatment himself he made rapid contact with the tactical operations center to advise them of the engagement and to call for fire support and medical evacuation helicopters. When helicopters arrived, Lt. Prout directed them to the contact area where they made firing runs on the enemy positions. He then directed the coxswain to proceed to a nearby secure position where the more seriously wounded personnel were evacuated. Lt. Prout's calm professionalism, exemplary leadership and courage under fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
"He participated in seventy-two combat missions carried out mainly at night in the enemy controlled waters of the Rung Sat Special Zone. When a SEAL Patrol became pinned down by enemy fire, Lt. Prout requested, directed and coordinated gunships, slicks and a medical evacuation, enabling the SEAL patrol to extract successfully."
His fierce dedication to duty and personal courage carried him from one seagoing assignment to another, interspersed with equally demanding stints in the Washington arena. He served aboard STEINAKER, LA MOURE COUNTY and OLDENDORF and commanded FEARLESS and O'BRIEN, he was commended for "superb response to contingency tasking during the Philippine Presidential crisis and high visibility operations in the Sea of Japan while deployed to the Westem Pacific." He could navigate, shoot and run with the best, and what is more, could train others to do the same. He will not be forgotten.
RAdm. Prout was a highly skilled decision maker. He started early to gain his unique and highly effective education. Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1944, he graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, Destroyer School and the Uruguayan Naval War College, Montevideo. Along the way, he made it to language school at Monterey, a series of mine warfare courses and Harvard University, where he earaed a Master's Degree in International Security Affairs and Strategic Planning.
His tours in Washington were always on the front line. He served in OP-61 as Plans and Policy Officer for Latin America, in the Strategic Concepts Group (OP-603) and as Administrative Assistant and Aide to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations. He also served as Assistant Director for Long Range Planning on the CNO's Executive Panel and as Military Assistant to the Deputy Secretary o f Defense. He commanded Naval Station San Diego and, on selection for flag rank, served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Resources, Requirements and Assessments for the Commander in Chief U.S. Pacific Fleet. In that capacity, he was praised as the officer singularly responsible for: "guiding and shaping the Navy through this extraordinary period of downsizing. His operational expertise coupled with a total grasp of warfare requirements enabled him to chart the course to maintain readiness while developing the balanced and affordable force. The expanded role of the Fleet in the Navy programming process is directly attributable to his innovative concepts and untiring efforts. His outstanding contributions to quality of life, environmental awareness, and facility maintenance are a tribute to his resourcefulness and dedication."
RAdm. Prout proudly wore the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with two gold stars, the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device and gold star, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, the Navy Commendation and Achievement Medals, the Combat Ribbon and the Presidential Unit Citation in addition to several Humanitarian Service Awards and the Battle Efficiency Award.
His interests were as varied as his education. He played golf with zest and enthusiasm and occasional accuracy, and carried on his varsity track career well beyond graduation. Famous for his love for old cars, he followed a frugal New England philosophy in their regard, preferring to keep them running until they dropped.
RAdm. Prout is mourned by his immediate family, his wife, Kathy, son Brendan, daughter Heather and son Gregory, of Coronado, Califoraia; his brothers and sisters in Massachusetts, and his extended Navy family, fellow officers and enlisted personnel, as well as many dear and close friends throughout the world who will miss a great leader and dear friend. Funeral services were conducted at the NTC San Diego chapel on 25 May 1995, with interment in Fort Rosecrans Cemetery, overlooking the men and women of North Island Naval Air Station, the broad blue Pacific, and his home. The sailor has come home from the sea.
Thomas F.Marfiak '66
From Coronado News:
On May 17, 1995, two F/A-18 Hornet supersonic combat jets left Miramar Naval Air Station for St. Louis, Mo, to meet with McDonnell Douglas, combining official on-duty business with required training. Seated in the back seat of one of those jets was Rear Admiral (RADM) James G. Prout III, USN.
While over remote New Mexico, the two planes flew at low altitude expecting to scale-up the mountains to level off at 12,000 feet when Prout’s F/A18, piloted by Commander (CDR) Joseph G. Kleefisch, USN, disappeared from radar without a trace. Tragically, the pilot experienced vertigo. The altimeter remained set at low altitude and no alarm sounded. The crash happened in an instant.
Heartbreakingly for his wife and children, bad weather delayed search and rescue efforts. The wreckage was eventually located in the isolated mountains north of Taos with no survivors.
Rear Admiral Prout was the first Navy flag officer to lose his life in the line of duty since 1972. (A flag officer is highly ranked and entitled to fly a flag to mark the position of their command). He was in command of Cruiser Destroyer Group 3 with USS Carl Vinson at the time.
To those who knew him, Prout was extremely caring, putting the Navy and his sailors before himself. His ‘Jack’ Kennedy accent, wonderful sense of humor, loud laugh and a huge smile are remembered fondly by family and many friends.
A New Englander, born in 1944, the Admiral had a fine education, graduating high school in 1962 from prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy, NH, and then the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland—distinguished as First Flag Officer, Class of ‘66. He earned a Masters degree in International Relations from the Harvard University-Kennedy School of Government.
The Viet Nam Conflict was in full fury when Prout began his military career in 1967. He served alongside Navy SEALs, engaged in “Operation Game-Warden” on the Nha Tran River, when he was seriously wounded by RPG shrapnel, receiving the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with “V” for Valor.
One SEAL wrote about Prout’s injuries in ‘Never Fight Fair: Inside the Legendary SEALs, Their Own True Stories.’ “He was the boat officer, in charge of the boat support unit. He was hit in the throat. Just barely missed his trachea and the big arteries there. Of course the boat had a couple of dozen holes blowed into it. We limped to a South Vietnamese outpost.” He carried shrapnel with him for the rest of his life, along with the memories of his fallen comrades, of whom he often spoke.
SEALs also forecasted that Prout would “be an admiral one day.”
Once recovered, he attended Destroyer School in RI, then to USS Steinaker and USS La Moure County, before minesweeper service. He re-deployed to Command USS Fearless as a Lieutenant when the Navy assigned him as part of an experiment known as the “Kiddie Fleet,” where the best and brightest young people were assigned commands that would usually go to commanders.
Prout served as Executive Officer of USS Oldendorf; Commanding Officer of USS O’Brien; Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief, US Pacific Fleet; Commander of the Cruiser-Destroyer Groups 7; three tours of duty in the Pentagon, the last as the Military Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. From 1989 to 1991, he was Commanding Officer of the 32nd Street Naval Station, San Diego, followed by Command of DESRON 7.
He advanced to Rear Admiral in 1993, serving as Deputy Chief of Staff in Hawaii. According to his son, Prout’s final command of Cruiser Destroyer Group 3 Carl Vinson Battle Group “was his dream job.”
In Coronado, RADM Prout showed the same devotion to his family and community that he did his country. He met his wife Kathy while she was attending college at Salve Regina University, in her hometown of Newport, RI. Jay, as she calls him, was a naval officer attending Surface Warfare School. Together they have three children, two of which are Coronado High graduates, along with a growing number of grandchildren.
Son Brendan Prout wrote, although James Prout “didn’t operate long with the SEALs … he never gave up the physical exercise regimen and personal discipline of being a teams guy. The night before he was killed he ran five miles and worked out as well...He loved the Navy, loved his country, loved his family, and loved to serve...He taught me the meaning of self-discipline, service, responsibility, honor, duty, and integrity – and he taught me how to be a dad to my own children.”
Kathy Prout continues to live in Coronado, devoting her time to this community and the military community. She served on the Board of Directors of the Coronado Schools Foundation, serves as current chair of Surviving Spouses Advisory Committee, is representative for California Council and Coronado (Silver Strand) Chapter of MOAA, as well as Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. on the government relations committee. Kathy Prout is a peer mentor for the military support initiative Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
She spends much of her time walking the Halls of Congress, working tirelessly to remedy injustices in survivor benefits for active duty and service caused military deaths that forces them to live near poverty level.
Even in his passing, the Admiral still serves Coronado and beyond as well. Rear Admiral Jay Prout Memorial Golf Tournament has continued for 20-years, awarding eligible San Diego youth $5000 for college. In 2004, that scholarship was awarded to his own son, James Prout IV, who was only a third grader at Coronado Village Elementary School when he lost his father.
In 1996, the Rear Admiral James G. Prout III USN Field House, a recreation facility, was dedicated at Naval Station San Diego. San Diego Surface Navy Association (SNA) commissioned one of the stained glass chapel windows at Coronado Naval Amphibious Base (NAB) in his honor. The flag at Sacred Heart is dedicated to Prout.
A classmate from Prout’s youth at Philips Exeter Academy endowed a “full scholarship” at the prestigious school in Prout’s name. The criteria are first to be from Massachusetts, and then it is open to any military dependent, and then to any deserving applicant.
Prout was heavily decorated and received many awards during his 29-year career. Among those were several Meritorious Service citations and the Distinguished Service Citation. Prout had been selected for his second star as Admiral but did not live to receive it. President Clinton presented it to Kathy Prout at Jay Prout’s funeral.
The final resting place of Admiral James G. Prout III is at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery, overlooking Coronado, and wife Kathy. It is certain that he watches ships sail in and out of the bay, wishing them, as his son hailed to him, “Hoo-yah, Slainte to you and all who serve on sea, air, and land.” Fair Winds and Following Seas!
Rear Admiral Prout’s banner is at Fourth and J. It was the first banner displayed on the Avenue of Heroes, Memorial Day 2015.
The San Diego Surface Navy Association holds an annual RADM James G. Prout, USN Memorial Golf Tournament; proceeds are used to fund the RADM James G. Prout Scholar award.
Joseph Kleefisch '76 was also also lost in this crash.