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:

1909 Alford LB.jpg

Thalbert Nelson Alford

Wills Point, Texas

"Sal"

A "polished" gentleman from the "wild and woolly" Empire State, who came into the Navy principally to make a living, though some say it was because of brass buttons and gold lace. A steady consumer of Woodbury's cosmetics—to such an extent that he knows more about dandruff cures than navigation.

His good comradeship and his constant willingness to "ketch one" with you—even in his own room—has always kept him near the limit. But Sal accepts all things, from a gold brick to a 1.5, with a true optimistic spirit—is never known to rhino.

Is a talented raconteur of new (?) stories. His ability as a story-teller was early appreciated; consequently all Plebe year a new story was demanded of him at each meal. The experience thus gained made him famous as a youngster, but of late he has allowed this accomplishment but little attention, all his energies being devoted to his unique style of brushing his hair.

"Say, have you ever heard the story about—?"

Buzzard. Class Baseball (4, 3, 2, 1). Choir (2, 1). Masqueraders. Sharpshooter.

1909 Alford LB.jpg

Thalbert Nelson Alford

Wills Point, Texas

"Sal"

A "polished" gentleman from the "wild and woolly" Empire State, who came into the Navy principally to make a living, though some say it was because of brass buttons and gold lace. A steady consumer of Woodbury's cosmetics—to such an extent that he knows more about dandruff cures than navigation.

His good comradeship and his constant willingness to "ketch one" with you—even in his own room—has always kept him near the limit. But Sal accepts all things, from a gold brick to a 1.5, with a true optimistic spirit—is never known to rhino.

Is a talented raconteur of new (?) stories. His ability as a story-teller was early appreciated; consequently all Plebe year a new story was demanded of him at each meal. The experience thus gained made him famous as a youngster, but of late he has allowed this accomplishment but little attention, all his energies being devoted to his unique style of brushing his hair.

"Say, have you ever heard the story about—?"

Buzzard. Class Baseball (4, 3, 2, 1). Choir (2, 1). Masqueraders. Sharpshooter.

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:
January 1911
Midshipman, Colorado
January 1912
Ensign, Ammen
January 1913
Ensign, Ohio

Others at this command:
January 1914
Ensign, Ohio

Others at this command:
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.

July 1923
Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

September 1923
Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

November 1923
Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

January 1924
Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command:
March 1924
Lieutenant Commander, Communications Office, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

May 1924
Lieutenant Commander, Navy Department; Washington, D.C.

Others at this command:
July 1924
Lieutenant Commander, Navy Department; Washington, D.C.

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:
April 1928
Commander, staff, Aircraft Squadrons, Scouting Fleet, USS Wright

Others at or embarked at USS Wright:
July 1928
Commander, staff, Aircraft Squadrons, Scouting Fleet, USS Wright

Others at or embarked at USS Wright:

Related Articles

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


Class of 1909

Thalbert is one of 10 members of the Class of 1909 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of alumni in Memorial Hall.