THALBERT N. ALFORD, CDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Thalbert Alford '09

Date of birth: October 25, 1887

Date of death: July 2, 1928

Age: 40

Lucky Bag

From the 1909 Lucky Bag:


Loss

From Providence Journal “Navy Fliers Fall To Death In Bay”, July 3, 1928, Page 1, via New England Aviation History:

On July 2, 1928, Commander Thalbert N. Alford, USN, was piloting a Vought O2U Corsair over Newport Harbor. Lieutenant Commander William Butler Jr. was aboard as an observer.

Commander Alford was doing some stunt flying, going through a series of loops and rolls 5000 feet over Newport, to the delight of onlookers on the ground. After the plane made three successive loops, it suddenly went into a spinning dive and slammed nose first into the water. Butler managed to free himself and floated to the surface, but Commander Alford went down with the aircraft.

Crewmen from several nearby naval vessels immediately launched boats and raced towards the scene. The first to arrive was a boat from the U.S.S. Antares with the ship’s doctor aboard.

Lieutenant Commander Butler was plucked from the water and rushed to Newport Naval Hospital where he died shortly afterwards. His injuries were severe, but he reportedly maintained consciousness up until about five minutes before his death. At his bedside were his wife Adelle, and three officers from the U.S.S. Wright who would later make up the board of inquest. At one point he told the men, “They should not allow such planes to be used for stunting.”

Meanwhile recovery efforts for the aircraft and the body of Commander Alford were taking place. A navy tug successfully hauled the plane to the surface. Commander Alford was found still strapped in the cockpit, dead from the crushing force of the impact and not from drowning.

Commander Alford was born in Wills Point, Texas, October 26, 1888, and entered the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1905, shortly before his 17th birthday.

During World War I he earned the Navy Cross while serving overseas as commanding officer of the destroyer U.S.S. Nicholson. After the war he served in Washington, D.C. with the Bureau of Engineering, later transferring to the Naval Communications Office.

He earned his wings as a navy pilot in August of 1927, less than one year before the accident.

Lieutenant Commander Butler was born October 2, 1896 in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and was 31-years-old at the time of his death. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1920, and earned his pilots wings December 21, 1926.

The Corsair involved in the accident was assigned to Lieutenant Commander Butler, who at the time was serving aboard the cruiser U.S.S. Concord. On the day of the crash, the Concord was away at sea, and both the plane and Lieutenant Commander Butler had been detailed to Gould Island.

Thalbert was survived by his wife, Adele Taylor; daughter Adele Nelson; and son William Taylor '39. (Information from November 1966 issue of Shipmate.) Their first son, Thalbert, Jr., died before his 4th birthday.

Thalbert and his wife are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Commander Thalbert Nelson Alford, United States Navy, for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. NICHOLSON, engaged in the important, exacting, and hazardous duty of patrolling the waters infested by enemy submarines and mines, in escorting and protecting vitally important convoys of troops, and supplies through these waters and in offensive and defensive action, vigorously and unremittingly against all forms of enemy naval activity during World War I.

Service: Navy
Division: U.S.S. Nicholson

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 1910

Midshipman, Colorado

Others at this command: MIDN Fred Berry '08.

January 1911

Midshipman, Colorado

January 1912

Ensign, Ammen

January 1913

Ensign, Ohio

Others at this command: ENS William Callaway '11.

January 1914

Ensign, Ohio

Others at this command: ENS William Callaway '11.

January 1915

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Salem

January 1916

Lieutenant (j.g.), radio censor, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

January 1917

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Ranger

March 1918

Lieutenant, USS Louisiana

January 1919

Lieutenant Commander, USS Nicholson

January 1920

Lieutenant Commander, Naval Station Cavite, Philippines

January 1921

Lieutenant Commander, Naval Station Cavite, Philippines

January 1922

Lieutenant Commander, Naval Station Cavite, Philippines

May 1923

Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR Donald Godwin '11 and LT Cassin Young '16.

July 1923

Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR Donald Godwin '11, LT Cassin Young '16, and ENS Raymond Tuttle '22.

September 1923

Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR Donald Godwin '11, LT Cassin Young '16, and ENS Raymond Tuttle '22.

November 1923

Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR Donald Godwin '11, LT Cassin Young '16, and ENS Raymond Tuttle '22.

January 1924

Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT Cassin Young '16.

March 1924

Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT Cassin Young '16 and ENS Howard Healy '22.

May 1924

Lieutenant Commander, Navy Department; Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR Robert English '11.

July 1924

Lieutenant Commander, Navy Department; Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LCDR James Logan '10 and LCDR Robert English '11.

September 1924

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS McCormick

November 1924

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS McCormick

January 1925

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Kennedy

March 1925

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Kennedy

May 1925

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Kennedy

July 1925

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Kennedy

October 1925

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Kennedy

January 1926

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Kennedy

October 1926

Lieutenant Commander, commanding officer, USS Kennedy

January 1928

Commander, staff, Aircraft Squadrons, Scouting Fleet, USS Wright

Others at or embarked at USS Wright: LCDR Henry Cecil '10 (USS Wright).

April 1928

Commander, staff, Aircraft Squadrons, Scouting Fleet, USS Wright

Others at or embarked at USS Wright: LCDR Henry Cecil '10 (USS Wright).

July 1928

Commander, staff, Aircraft Squadrons, Scouting Fleet, USS Wright

Others at or embarked at USS Wright: LCDR Henry Cecil '10 (USS Wright).

Related Articles

William Butler, Jr. '20 was also lost in this crash.


Class of 1909

Thalbert is one of 9 members of the Class of 1909 on Virtual Memorial Hall.