By Cecilia Sequeira, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
New Hampshire has a short coast line but a long naval history. With the state motto, “Live Free or Die,” coined by a Revolutionary War hero, it’s no surprise New Hampshire has given rise to some notable naval leaders. Perhaps the most prominent, was astronaut Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., born on Nov. 18, 1923, in Derry, New Hampshire. Shepard was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy in 1944. He served in the Pacific Theater in WWII and during the Korean War. From 1951-57, he flew as a test pilot, a job that required a significant degree of courage, and was subsequently selected by NASA to be part of Project Mercury. He began training to go into space in February 1961. Shepard’s 15-minute space flight on May 5, 1961, made history; he was the first American to accomplish it. He was also the first astronaut to receive flag officer rank. USS Alan Shepard (T-AKE-3) is named in honor of Rear Admiral Alan B. Shepard, Jr.
While few can compare to such a trailblazer, another Granite State Sailor matched the astronaut’s sense of fortitude and bravery in the face of danger during World War II. Roy Stanley Benson was born in Concord, New Hampshire, on Dec. 7, 1906. He served aboard numerous surface ships and submarines during his career in the U.S. Navy. For distinguished WWII service in command of the submarine, USS Trigger, Benson was awarded the Navy Cross, a Gold Star in lieu of a second Navy Cross, a Silver Star Medal and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Silver Star Medal. He also received a ribbon for the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to USS Trigger. Benson retired as a Rear Admiral on Jan 1, 1969.
Another New Hampshire native makes our list from the top of the enlisted ranks. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Duane R. Bushey served as the seventh MCPON, a rank reserved for the senior enlisted advisor of the Navy. Bushey held this prestigious position from Sep. 9, 1988 – Aug. 28, 1992. During his career, he accumulated more than 6,000 flying hours and made more than 400 carrier landings. You can read more about Bushey in an excerpt from Winds of Change: The History of the Office of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, 1967–1992.
Interested in exploring the history of other exemplary leaders from the White Mountain State, historic photos, or ships named after New Hampshire’s people and places? Check out the infographic for more on New Hampshire’s U.S. Navy history.