Wilbur Rice Van Auken

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Captain Wilbur Rice Van Auken (13 Mar 1882 – 15 Aug 1953) served in the United States Navy.

Life & Career

Van Auken was born in New York and was appointed to the Naval Academy from the same state, graduating with the Class of 1903. He enjoyed a normal rotation of sea and shore duty early in his career, and received the usual promotions. Van Auken was commissioned Ensign on 3 February, 1905.[1] He subsequently was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 3 February, 1908[2] and to the rank of Lieutenant Commander on 29 August, 1916.[3]

When the United States entered World War I, Van Auken was serving in the Bureau of Ordnance.[4] By 1918 he had been promoted to the temporary rank of Commander on 1 January, 1918 and served aboard light cruiser Birmingham.[5]

Van Auken received his first command when appointed to command destroyer Stribling from January to September, 1919. In December 1919 he assumed command of destroyer Putnam for a year, being promoted to the permanent rank of Commander on 8 June, 1920.[6][7][8][9]

In 1924 he was appointed to command minelayer Aroostook, which was serving as the flagship for Commander, Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fleet. in this role he helped plan the Navy's 1925 attempt at the first non-stop California to Hawaii flight and coordinated the ultimately successful search for missing aircrew after the flight fell short of its objective. Van Auken was promoted to the rank of Captain on 4 June, 1926, just as he ended his command tour in Aroostook.[10][11][12]

Van Auken held two more commands at sea, repair ship Vestal from 1929 to 1931, and battleship Oklahoma from 1934 to 1935. While in the latter position, he took part in the investigation into the loss of airship Macon in 1935.[13][14][15]

Passed over for promotion, Van Auken was involuntarily placed on the Retired List on 30 June, 1939.[16] A philatelist, he became President of the Washington Philatelic Society in 1940. Recalled to active duty in World War II, Van Auken served in the Bureau of Ordnance before returning to inactive duty after the war.[17][18]

See Also


Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
George C. Logan
Captain of U.S.S. Stribling
2 Jan, 1919 – 18 Sep, 1919[19]
Succeeded by
Allan S. Farquhar
Preceded by
New Command
Captain of U.S.S. Putnam
18 Dec, 1919 – 4 Dec, 1920[20]
Succeeded by
Walter E. Brown
Preceded by
Kenneth G. Castleman
Captain of U.S.S. Vestal
22 Jun, 1929[21] – 26 Jun, 1931[22]
Succeeded by
Harold C. Train
Preceded by
Henry D. Cooke, Jr.
Captain of U.S.S. Oklahoma
1 May, 1934 – 1 Nov, 1935
Succeeded by
William A. Hall


  1. Register of Officers, 1906. pp. 40-41.
  2. Register of Officers, 1909. pp. 34-35.
  3. Register of Officers, 1917. pp. 24-25.
  4. Register of Officers, 1917. p. 24.
  5. Register of Officers, 1919. p. 24-25.
  6. Register of Officers, 1920. pp. 20-21.
  7. Register of Officers, 1921. p. 20.
  8. NavSource
  9. NavSource
  10. Register of Officers, 1925. p. 22.
  11. Register of Officers, 1927. p. 18.
  12. Boston Globe 3 September, 1925 p. 2.
  13. Register of Officers, 1930. pp. 16-17.
  14. Register of Officers, 1935. pp. 18-19.
  15. San Francisco Examiner 15 February, 1935 p. 4.
  16. Register of Officers, 1939. pp. 432-433, 560.
  17. St. Luois Globe-Democrat 30 June, 1940 p. 33.
  18. Lincoln Star (Nebraska) 10 January,1 943 p. 16.
  19. Navsource
  20. [http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/287.htm NavSource
  21. Register of Officers, 1930. pp. 16, 17.
  22. NavSource