From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

William Davidson '95

Date of birth: unknown

Date of death: April 13, 1904

Age: unknown

Lucky Bag

From the 1895 Lucky Bag:


William was lost on April 13, 1904 when the port 12" gun in the aft turret aboard Missouri (Battleship No. 11) flared backwards, ignited three propellant charges, and started a fire. Thirty-five others were also lost.

His funeral was held in Baltimore, Maryland.


From Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum:

William Christopher Davidson was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. A native of Indiana, he was appointed a midshipman from South Dakota in 1891. He graduated from the academy in 1895 and was then given duty with the, then new, cruiser, the U.S.S. Olympia. He served on that ship from 1895-1897.

In 1897 he was given the rank of ensign and assigned to the U.S.S. Concord, where he served during the Spanish American War. He was present on that ship during the historic Battle of Manila Bay, in 1898, which gave the United States control over the Philippine Islands. He was cited specifically in reports made by the commanding officer, Commander Asa Walker and Lieut. Commander G.P. Colvocoresses, for performing his duties well.

He continued his military service in the navy until his untimely death in 1904. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade) on July 1, 1900 and to Lieutenant on June 18, 1902. While serving on the U.S.S. Missouri (BB-11) during target practice the gun turret in which he was working caught on fire and the ammunition stored near the turret caused an explosion that killed Davidson and 35 other officers and crew. This accident caused a review of the arrangements on naval ships of ammunition storage that greatly reduced the number of future accidents of this type. He had also served on the U.S.S. Brooklyn, U.S.S. Monocacy, U.S.S. Alliance, U.S.S. Franklin and the torpedo station at Newport, Rhode Island. He left behind a wife, Juliet L. Davidson.

William's diary is described as such:

It encompasses the impressions made on Davidson as he made his first voyage after his graduation from Annapolis and joined the crew of the U.S.S. Olympia as a part of the Asiatic Squadron. The time he spent on this vessel predates the Spanish-American War and was part of a goodwill effort on the part of the United States toward Asian countries, specifically Russia, Japan, and China.

Memorial Hall Error

William is not included with his classmates in Memorial Hall. This omission was revealed by a mention of his loss in the May 1957 issue of Shipmate.

Related Articles

Ernest Weichert '99, Thomas Ward, Jr. '03, and William Neumann '03 were also lost in this incident.

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 1896

Naval Cadet, Olympia

Others at this command: Naval Cadet John Monaghan '95.

January 1897

Naval Cadet, Olympia

Others at this command: Naval Cadet John Monaghan '95.

January 1898

Ensign, Concord

January 1899

Ensign, Concord

January 1900

Ensign, Concord

January 1901

Lieutenant (j.g.), Navy Yard, Pensacola

January 1902

Lieutenant (j.g.), Alliance

January 1903

Lieutenant, Alliance

January 1904

Lieutenant, Missouri

Others at this command: MIDN Thomas Ward, Jr. '03 and MIDN William Neumann '03.

Class of 1895

William is one of 6 members of the Class of 1895 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

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