Mason’s namesake history:
USS MASON (DDG 87) is the third ship to bear
the name and is the 37th ship of the Arleigh Burke Class of AEGIS Guided
The First ship to bear the name MASON was named for John Young Mason, who was
Secretary of the Navy for Presidents John Tyler and James K. Polk. The first
MASON (DD 191) was a Clemson-class destroyer and was laid down by Newport
News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia on 10 July 1918
DD 191 was launched 8 March 1919. The ship was commissioned at Norfolk Navy
Yard on 28 February 1920. The First Commanding Officer was Lieutenant
Commander Carl F. Holden.
As a result of the Washington Treaty of 6 February 1922 limiting Naval
Armament, DD 191 was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard 3 July
1922. After World War II broke out in Europe, MASON was re-commissioned 4
December 1939. Under terms of the “Destroyers for Bases” executive agreement
between the Unites States and Great Britain, the MASON became one of 50 ships
turned over in exchange for 99-year leases on bases in the Western
Hemisphere. DD 191 was transferred to the British Royal Navy in Halifax, Nova
Scotia on 8 October 1940 and renamed the HMS BROADWATER H-81 the next day.
Assigned to the Newfoundland Escort Force in July 1941 the ship patrolled the
North Atlantic and guarded convoys against the German Submarine “wolfpacks”
into the fall of that year. Early in the morning17 October 1941 she attacked
a U-boat, one of a pack assaulting an American convoy SC-48 south of Iceland.
Twenty-four hours later she herself fell victim to torpedoes of U-101 and
sank the same day.
The second ship to bear the name MASON was named for Ensign Newton Henry
Mason, born on 24 December 1918 in New York City. He enlisted as a seaman in
the Naval Reserve on 7 November 1940 and was appointed an aviation cadet on
10 February 1941. He was assigned to Fighting Squadron Three in September
1941 and died following aerial combat against the Japanese forces in the
Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 and 9 May 1942. Ensign Mason was posthumously
awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his skill and courage in the
The second Mason (DE-529) was laid down by the Boston Navy Yard, Boston,
Massachusetts, in 14 October 1943 and launched 17 November 1943. The ship was
commissioned 20 March 1944. Lieutenant William Blackford was the Commanding
Officer. Mason served as convoy escort in the Atlantic through the remainder
of World War II.
MASON (DE-529), an Evarts-class destroyer, has the distinction of being the
only U.S. Navy destroyer to be manned with a predominantly black enlisted
crew. This was the first time black Americans were permitted to be trained
and serve in ratings other than cooks and stewards. In late 1943, the Navy
announced its plan to place an all-black crew with white officers aboard
MASON. One hundred and sixty black Sailors were enrolled in all fields of
operational and technical training and manned the ship at commissioning.
Although known as “Eleanor’s Folly” for Eleanor Roosevelt’s introduction of
the idea for an all-black crew, the MASON served with distinction during
World War II. During the worst North Atlantic storm of the Century, MASON was
serving as an escort to a convoy of merchant ships bound for England. During
the storm, the convoy was forced the break up and MASON was chosen to escort
a section of ships to their destiny. With land in sight, MASON’s deck split
under the strain of heavy sea, threatening the structural integrity of the
ship. Emergency repairs were conducted and MASON returned immediately to assist
the remainder of the convoy.
The MASON crew was recommended for commendation from their Captain,
Lieutenant Commander Bill Blackford, and the Convoy Commander, Commander
Alfred Lind. The commendations were never rewarded. At the end of the war
MASON was assigned as a training ship operating from Miami, Florida until
being decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1947. On July 26, 1947 President
Truman signed Executive Order 9981, officially desegregating the Armed
Through the efforts of the Mason veterans and the author Mary Pat Kelly, the
MASON story has been chronicled in the book “Proudly We Served.” Their
persistence in telling the MASON story paid off in 1994 when President
Clinton awarded the long-overdue commendation to sixty-seven surviving
crewmembers. In 1998, the Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton made official
his decision to name an Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer the USS MASON (DDG-87)
in order to mark the contributions of USS MASON DE 529 Sailors equality and
desegregation in today’s Navy.
USS Mason (DE-529):
USS Mason (DE-529), an Evarts-class destroyer
escort, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named Mason,
though DE-529 was the only one specifically named for Ensign Newton Henry Mason.
The USS Mason was one of two US Navy ships with largely African-American
crews in World War II. The other was the USS PC-1264, a submarine chaser.
These two ships were manned with African Americans as the result of a letter
sent to President Roosevelt by the NAACP in mid-December 1941.
The USS Mason was commanded by Carlton Skinner. Her keel was laid down in the
Boston Navy Yard, on 14 October 1943. She was launched on 17 November 1943,
sponsored by Mrs. David Mason, the mother of Ensign Mason, and commissioned
on 20 March 1944, with Lt. Commander William M. Blackford, USNR, in command.
Following a shakedown cruise off Bermuda, the Mason departed from Charleston,
South Carolina, on 14 June, escorting a convoy bound for Europe, arriving at
Horta Harbor, Azores, on 6 July. She got underway from Belfast, Northern
Ireland, headed for the East Coast on 26 July, arriving at Boston Harbor on 2
August for convoy duty off the harbor through August.
On 2 September, she arrived at New York City to steam on 19 September in the
screen for convoy NY.119. The Mason reached Falmouth, Cornwall, with part of
the convoy 18 October, and she returned to New York from Plymouth, England,
and the Azores on 22 November. Mason joined TF 64 at Norfolk, Virginia, on 17
December. Two days later she sailed in convoy for Europe, passing by
Gibraltar on 4 January 1945 to be relieved of escort duties. Continuing to
Algeria, she entered Oran on 5 January for the formation of TG 60.11.
The escort ship cleared Oran 7 January. Four days later the Mason made radar
contact with a surface target. She rang up full speed with all battle
stations manned to attack the presumptive submarine, rammed, and dropped
depth charges. Unable to regain contact, the ship returned to the contact
point, where searchlight revealed the target - a wooden derelict about 100 by
50 feet. The Mason then steamed to Bermuda for repairs, entering St. George's
Harbor on 19 January. Five days later she reached the New York Navy Yard.
On 12 February Mason departed Norfolk in convoy for the Mediterranean Sea,
arriving off Gibraltar on 28 February. She cleared Oran 8 March to guard a
convoy to Bermuda and Chesapeake Bay before returning to New York 24 March.
After sonar exercises off New London, Connecticut, and fighter-director
training with naval aircraft from Quonset Point, Rhode Island, she steamed
from Norfolk 10 April with another convoy to Europe, leaving the convoy at
Gibraltar 28 April. The Mason was two days out of Oran en route to the East
Coast when the end of World War II in Europe was announced on the eighth of
The Mason arrived at New York on 23 May for operations along the East Coast
into July. From 28 July to 18 August she served as a school ship for the
Naval Training Center, Miami, Florida. On 20 August she arrived at New London
to be outfitted for long-range underwater signal testing in the Bermuda area
into September. The Mason departed from Bermuda on 8 September for
Charleston, S.C., arriving there two days later.
The Mason was decommissioned on 12 October, was struck from the Naval Vessel
Register on 1 November 1945, and was sold and delivered to New Jersey, on 18
March 1947 for scrapping.
The USS Mason (DDG-87) was named in honor of the African Americans on
DE-529's crew, and the 2004 film Proud dramatizes their story.
Young Mason (April 18, 1799 – October 3, 1859):
Secretary of the Navy (March 26, 1844 – March 10, 1845) and
18th Secretary of the Navy (September 10, 1846 – March 7, 1849):
Young Mason was born in Greensville County, Virginia, on 18 April 1799. After
graduation from the University of North Carolina, he studied law and practiced
that profession in Virginia from 1819. He married the daughter of a prominent
land-owner in 1821 and became a planter himself, as well as continuing as a
lawyer. Active in Government affairs, Young served in the Virginia
legislature from 1823 to 1827 and was a delegate to the state constitutional
convention in 1829-30. Elected to the United States Congress 1830, he served
three terms, was an active supporter of most elements of Andrew Jackson's
presidency, but was also a staunch advocate of states' rights. He left
Congress in 1837 to become a judge on the General Court of Virginia and
became a federal judge in 1841.
was nominated as Secretary of the Navy by President John Tyler in March 1844,
serving to near the end of Tyler's term a year later. This period was marked
by intense Congressional pressure for economy, requiring the decommissioning
of the Navy's ships of the line and making it difficult to maintain a
continuous naval presence on foreign stations. The construction of floating
drydocks for several Navy Yards, the simplification of the Navy's ordnance
system, an expansion of the Navy's scientific endeavors and the formalization
of status of the naval engineers also marked Mason's first term as Secretary.
serving as Attorney General in the new administration of President James K.
Polk, Mason returned to the Navy Department in September 1846, thus providing
experienced leadership during the Mexican War. His second term was marked by
efforts to sustain the Navy's combat forces in the Gulf of Mexico and along
the far-distant Pacific coast, the beginning of construction of new steamers
and an effort to obtain potential warships thorough the subsidization of
civilian mail steamships. The latter was an early, and ultimately unsuccessful,
experiment in public-private partnership.
Y. Mason left office at the end of the Polk Presidency and returned to
Virginia, where he remained active in public affairs. He became Ambassador to
France in 1854 and served in that post until his death in Paris on 3 October
Mason (DD-191), 1920-1940, was named in honor of Secretary of the Navy John