MARK H. CROUTER, CDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Mark Crouter '20

Date of birth: October 3, 1897

Date of death: November 13, 1942

Age: 45

Lucky Bag

From the 1920 Lucky Bag:


Loss

1920 Crouter 1.jpg

Mark was lost when USS San Francisco (CA 38) was severely damaged during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on November 13, 1942. He was the executive officer.

His wife was listed as next of kin. He has a memory marker in Oregon.

Remembrances

From Naval History and Heritage Command:

MAtt 1/c Leonard R. Harmon and Commander Mark H. Crouter of San Francisco (CA-38)

Two decades separated their births; half a continent separated their birthplaces. One man graduated from the Naval Academy with the Class of 1919, the other enlisted in 1939. One man was white, the other black. The former had no limitations in his service, the latter, because of his race, could only serve in the messman branch. Yet circumstances drew them together in one ship, in one battle, and saw each give up his “life in the defense of his country.”

Mark Hanna Crouter—born in Baker, Ore., on 3 October 1897—was appointed midshipman on 21 June 1916. Known as someone who could achieve academic success without effort (and who exhibited a “handclasp that will bust a couple of fingers”) he graduated with the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1919. Over the next two decades, “Mard” Crouter, “the very best kind of shipmate,” served in cruisers, gunboats, and battleships, from Siberia to Hampton Roads.

Leonard Roy Harmon—born in Cuero, Texas, on 21 January 1917—enlisted in the U.S. Navy at Houston on 10 June 1939 as a mess attendant third class (MAtt3/c). After receiving training at the Naval Training Station, Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, he traveled in the heavy cruiser Tuscaloosa (CA-37) to join her sister ship San Francisco (CA-38). Harmon reported onboard the San Francisco on 28 October 1939. Advancements in rate followed: to MAtt2/c on 16 August 1940, and to MAtt1/c on 5 November 1941, a little over a month before Pearl Harbor.

On 11 May 1942, Commander Crouter reported onboard the San Francisco as her executive officer. Less than six months later, he distinguished himself in the Battle of Cape Esperance on 11 October 1942, the ship’s “high morale and outstanding skill displayed by the officers and men during the engagement” directly attributed to the “organization and training [that] he did so much to perfect.”

On 12 November 1942, less than a month after Cape Esperance, the San Francisco was covering a force of transports disembarking reinforcements off Guadalcanal when Japanese land attack planes, carrying torpedoes, attacked. During the ensuing engagement, one of the enemy aircraft crashed the San Francisco despite a withering barrage of antiaircraft fire, and caused “considerable damage and intense fires,” demolishing the after control station and burning out Battle II, which put the after antiaircraft director and radar out of commission. One officer and 15 men were either killed outright or died of their injuries soon thereafter. Four officers—including Crouter—and 25 men were wounded, most suffering horrible burns. The San Francisco transferred the wounded men to the transport President Jackson (AP-37)—with one exception.

“Rather than submit to transfer for medical treatment,” Crouter, although in “intense pain and waning strength” from severe burns on both legs, insisted on remaining on board “so that he could be returned to duty in a minimum of time,” exhibiting “sturdy endurance and courageous disregard for his own personal safety.” MAtt1/c Harmon had exhibited “unusual loyalty on behalf of” Crouter. It seems most likely that Harmon attended to the wounded executive officer before the young mess attendant had to proceed to his battle station later, since San Francisco fought again that night, this time in a desperate surface engagement at close quarters in the confined waters off Guadalcanal.

The San Francisco suffered heavy damage from Japanese guns ranging from 14-inch shells to machine gun bullets. During the battle, a projectile plowed into Crouter’s cabin and exploded, inflicting fatal wounds. Harmon, meanwhile, was rendering “invaluable service in caring for the wounded and evacuating them to a dressing station” until, as he was working as a stretcher bearer topside near the cruiser’s secondary battery 5-inch mounts amidships, a 6-inch projectile from the secondary battery of the Japanese battleship Hiei struck in the vicinity and exploded. Shouting “Look out, Doc!” Harmon moved to shield Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Lynford L. Bondsteel from the lethal fragments, pushing him to the deck. Although Bondsteel managed to get his courageous shipmate below, Harmon died of his wounds soon thereafter.

Mark Crouter and Leonard Harmon were each awarded the Navy Cross, posthumously, and the Navy honored each in the naming of a destroyer escort. In Harmon’s case, it proved a double tribute, for he was the first African-American in the U.S. Navy to have a ship named for him. In 1975, a building at NAS North Island was named for him.

“I feel proud always,” AAMM Leonard Roy Harmon, II, his grandson, said in 1982, “I feel he has set us an example to follow.”

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Commander Mark Hanna Crouter (NSN: 0-55937), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Executive Officer of the Heavy Cruiser U.S.S. SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38), during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands Area on the night of 12 and 13 November 1942. Although suffering from severe wounds received at the outset of the engagement, Commander Crouter, with sturdy endurance and courageous disregard for his own personal safety, remained aboard his ship rather than submit to transfer for medical treatment. Determined to render further assistance in the conduct of the SAN FRANCISCO, despite intense pain and waning strength, he carried on with grim perseverance until he was killed during the course of night action against the enemy. His unyielding devotion to duty was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

General Orders: Commander South Pacific Area and Force: Serial 066 (November 24, 1942)
Service: Navy
Company: Executive Officer
Division: U.S.S. San Francisco (CA-38)

Silver Star

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Commander Mark Hanna Crouter (NSN: 0-55937), United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a duty of great responsibility as Executive Officer of the U.S.S. SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38), during operations against the enemy in the South Pacific Area culminating in a highly successful night action against an equal or superior force on the night of 11 - 12 October 1942. In a large measure, the heavy damage inflicted by the SAN FRANCISCO was due to his splendid leadership in operation and administration. The high morale, coolness, skill and teamwork displayed by officers and crew in night battle is attributable to a great extent to the organization and training which he did so much to perfect. His gallant actions and dedicated devotion to duty, without regard for his own life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander in Chief Pacific: Serial 030517 (June 29, 1945)
Action Date: October 11 - 12, 1942
Service: Navy
Company: Executive Officer
Division: U.S.S. San Francisco (CA-38)

Namesake

USS Crouter (DE 11) was named for Mark.

Related Articles

James Haselden, Jr. '20 was Mark's roommate; they are also on the same page of the 1920 Lucky Bag.

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 1921

Ensign, USS Elcano

January 1922

Ensign, USS Smith Thompson

July 1923

Lieutenant (j.g.), for assignment, Destroyer Squadrons

September 1923

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

November 1923

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

January 1924

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

March 1924

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

May 1924

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

July 1924

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

September 1924

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

November 1924

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

January 1925

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

March 1925

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

May 1925

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

July 1925

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Percival

October 1925

Lieutenant (j.g.), Navy Receiving Station, Seattle, Washington

January 1926

Lieutenant (j.g.), Navy Receiving Station, Seattle, Washington

October 1926

Lieutenant, Navy Receiving Station, Seattle, Washington

January 1927

Lieutenant, Navy Receiving Station, Seattle, Washington

April 1927

Lieutenant, Navy Receiving Station, Seattle, Washington

October 1927

Lieutenant, Navy Receiving Station, Seattle, Washington

January 1928

Lieutenant, 16th Naval District

Others at this command: LTjg Everett Abdill '24 and LTjg Richard Moss '24.

April 1928

Lieutenant, USS Elcano

July 1928

Lieutenant, USS Elcano

October 1928

Lieutenant, USS Elcano

January 1929

Lieutenant, executive officer, USS Luzon

April 1929

Lieutenant, executive officer, USS Luzon

July 1929

Lieutenant, Destroyer Squadron Staff, USS Paul Jones

October 1929

Lieutenant, USS Black Hawk

January 1930

Lieutenant, USS Black Hawk

April 1930

Lieutenant, USS Bullmer

October 1930

Lieutenant, Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia

January 1931

Lieutenant, Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia

Others at this command: LCDR Archer King, Jr. '15.

April 1931

Lieutenant, Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia

Others at this command: LCDR Archer King, Jr. '15 and LTjg Burton Doggett '24.

July 1931

Lieutenant, Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia

Others at this command: LCDR Archer King, Jr. '15, LTjg Burton Doggett '24, and LTjg Joseph Johnson '24.

October 1931

Lieutenant, Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia

Others at this command: LCDR Archer King, Jr. '15, LTjg Burton Doggett '24, and LTjg Joseph Johnson '24.

January 1932

Lieutenant, Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia

Others at this command: LCDR Archer King, Jr. '15, LTjg Burton Doggett '24, and LTjg Joseph Johnson '24.

April 1932

Lieutenant, Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia

Others at this command: LCDR Archer King, Jr. '15, LTjg Burton Doggett '24, and LTjg Joseph Johnson '24.

October 1932

Lieutenant, commanding officer, USS Keywadin

January 1933

Lieutenant, commanding officer, USS Keywadin

April 1933

Lieutenant, commanding officer, USS Keywadin

July 1933

Lieutenant, commanding officer, USS Keywadin

October 1933

Lieutenant, commanding officer, USS Keywadin

April 1934

Lieutenant, commanding officer, USS Keywadin

July 1934

Lieutenant, commanding officer, USS Keywadin

April 1935

Lieutenant, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT John Hollowell, Jr. '22.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Elmer Kiehl '20 (Naval Gun Factory, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.), LTjg Howard Gilmore '26 (Naval Gun Factory, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.), and LTjg Sidney Smith '26 (Naval Gun Factory, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.).

October 1935

Lieutenant Commander, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT John Hollowell, Jr. '22.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Elmer Kiehl '20 (Naval Gun Factory, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.).

January 1936

Lieutenant Commander, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT John Hollowell, Jr. '22.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Elmer Kiehl '20 (Naval Gun Factory, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.).

April 1936

Lieutenant Commander, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT John Hollowell, Jr. '22.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Elmer Kiehl '20 (Naval Gun Factory, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.) and LT Julian Jordan '25 (Receiving Station, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.).

July 1936

Lieutenant Commander, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT John Hollowell, Jr. '22, LT Henry Batterton '23, and LTjg Warren Graf '27.

Others at or embarked at this command: LCDR Elmer Kiehl '20 (Naval Gun Factory, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.), LT William France '24 (Naval Gun Factory, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.), and LT Julian Jordan '25 (Receiving Station, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.).

January 1937

Lieutenant Commander, engineering officer, USS Enterprise

April 1937

Lieutenant Commander, engineering officer, USS Enterprise

September 1937

Lieutenant Commander, engineering officer, USS Enterprise

Others at this command: LTjg Gilbert Carpenter '30.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Bruce Van Voorhis '29 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6) and LTjg James Tyler '34 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6).

January 1938

Lieutenant Commander, engineering officer, USS Enterprise

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Bruce Van Voorhis '29 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6) and LTjg James Tyler '34 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6).

July 1938

Lieutenant Commander, engineering officer, USS Enterprise

Others at this command: LT Gilbert Carpenter '30, ENS Webster Johnson '36, ENS Bruce Skidmore '37, and ENS Ernest Wood, Jr. '38.

Others at or embarked at this command: LCDR William Ault '22 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LT Bruce Van Voorhis '29 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6), LTjg Alfred Tucker, III '31 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg John Phillips, Jr. '33 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Walker Ethridge '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), LTjg Philip Torrey, Jr. '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), LTjg James Tyler '34 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6), and LTjg Frank Whitaker '34 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6).

January 1939

Lieutenant Commander, engineering officer, USS Enterprise

Others at this command: LT Gilbert Carpenter '30, ENS Webster Johnson '36, ENS Bruce Skidmore '37, and ENS Ernest Wood, Jr. '38.

Others at or embarked at this command: LCDR William Ault '22 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LT Bruce Van Voorhis '29 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6), LTjg Alfred Tucker, III '31 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg John Phillips, Jr. '33 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Walker Ethridge '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), LTjg Philip Torrey, Jr. '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), and LTjg Frank Whitaker '34 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6).

October 1939

Lieutenant Commander, engineering officer, USS Enterprise

Others at this command: LT Alfred Tucker, III '31, ENS Bruce Skidmore '37, ENS Ernest Wood, Jr. '38, and ENS Lester Wall, Jr. '39.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Gilbert Carpenter '30 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg John Phillips, Jr. '33 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Walker Ethridge '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), LTjg Philip Torrey, Jr. '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), LTjg Frank Whitaker '34 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Arthur Ely '35 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), and LTjg Hubert Harden '35 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6).

June 1940

Lieutenant Commander, engineering officer, USS Enterprise

Others at this command: LT Alfred Tucker, III '31, ENS Ernest Wood, Jr. '38, and ENS Edward Degarmo '40.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Ralph Smith '26 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6), LT Eugene Lindsey '27 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LT Edward Allen '31 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6), LTjg John Phillips, Jr. '33 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Walker Ethridge '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), LTjg Philip Torrey, Jr. '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), LTjg Frank Whitaker '34 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Arthur Ely '35 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), and LTjg Hubert Harden '35 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6).

November 1940

Lieutenant Commander, engineering officer, USS Enterprise

Others at this command: LT Alfred Tucker, III '31, LTjg Hubert Harden '35, ENS Ernest Wood, Jr. '38, and ENS Edward Degarmo '40.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Ralph Smith '26 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6), LT Eugene Lindsey '27 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LT Edward Allen '31 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6), LTjg Arthur Ely '35 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), and LTjg Paul Riley '37 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6).

April 1941

Lieutenant Commander, engineering officer, USS Enterprise

Others at this command: LT Alfred Tucker, III '31, LTjg Hubert Harden '35, ENS Ernest Wood, Jr. '38, ENS Edward Degarmo '40, and ENS William Williamson, Jr. '41.

Others at or embarked at this command: LT Ralph Smith '26 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6), LT Eugene Lindsey '27 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LT Edward Allen '31 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 6), LTjg Arthur Ely '35 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Paul Riley '37 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), ENS John Eversole '38 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), ENS John Kelley '38 (Fighting Squadron (VF) 6), and ENS Frank Quady '38 (Fighting Squadron (VF) 6).


Class of 1920

Mark is one of 27 members of the Class of 1920 on Virtual Memorial Hall.