By Alura Romero, Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division
Osmond Kelly Ingram was born in Oneonta, Alabama, a small town north of Birmingham, on Aug. 4, 1887. His father, Robert, and his mother, Naomi, were both born in Tennessee but moved to south to Alabama with their growing family. Robert Ingram was a local preacher at a Methodist and Episcopal church, as well as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Growing up, Osmond would attend, and graduate, from public school in Oneonta. On Nov. 24, 1903, after graduating from high school, Osmond enlisted in the U.S. Navy at just 16 years old.
Osmond Ingram began his Navy career as an apprentice seaman assigned to USS Colorado (Armored Cruiser No. 7), serving less than five years before retiring and entering the civilian world on Aug. 3, 1908. Osmond reenlisted in the U.S. Navy on Aug. 6, 1913 and served with USS Cassin (DD 43) during World War I.
During his time on USS Cassin, Ingram would advance to the rank of Gunner’s Mate 1st Class. On Oct. 15, 1917 while Cassin was operating off the Irish coast, she was attacked by the German submarine U-61. Petty Officer Ingram spotted an incoming torpedo shot off by the submarine. Realizing the torpedo would strike close to Cassin’s stern where the explosives were housed, Ingram ran towards the stern in hopes of releasing the explosives to lessen the reaction of the torpedo.
The torpedo struck Cassin before Ingram could achieve his plan of saving the ship. He was blown overboard and killed in the explosion. Ingram would become the first enlisted man killed in action in World War I as he tried to save his ship and shipmates. For his service and his bravery in action, Osmond Ingram posthumously received the Medal of Honor—the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat that can be awarded to members of the armed forces. He would also be the namesake of USS Osmond Ingram (DD 255), the first ship to ever be named for an enlisted person.
USS Osmond Ingram was commissioned in Boston on June 28, 1919, a little over a year and a half after the death of Petty Officer Ingram. The destroyer was sponsored by Osmond Ingram’s mother, Naomi Ingram. After a handful of successful years in Atlantic Service Fleet Operations, the ship was decommissioned on June 24, 1922 and went in to reserve in the Philadelphia Shipyard. After several years in reserve in Philadelphia, she was converted to a seaplane tender and recommissioned on Nov. 22, 1940.
As a seaplane tender, USS Osmond Ingram (ADV 9) tended patrol planes in areas near Trinidad, Antigua and San Juan, Puerto Rico (her homeport). After converting back to a destroyer in 1942, USS Osmond Ingram (DD 255) would sail north to Argentia, Newfoundland in Canada, where she joined the hunter/killer group formed around the escort aircraft carrier USS Bogue (CVE 9). Osmond Ingram (DD 225) sank her first German submarine, U-172, with gunfire on Dec. 13, 1943, after the enemy was forced to surface by depth charge attacks. Similar outstanding performance in the line of duty was conducted by her sister ships in the fleet, which brought the group a Presidential Unit Citation (PUC)—the highest unit award issued to a uniformed service.
In June of 1944 USS Osmond Ingram (DD 225) entered the Charleston Navy Yards for one final conversion to a high-speed transport. USS Osmond Ingram (APD 35) joined other amphibious forces in the Mediterranean, just in time for pre-invasion assaults on islands off the French coast in August 1944. USS Osmond Ingram (APD 35) was decommissioned at Philadelphia Shipyard on Jan. 8, 1946 and struck from the Navy list of ships 13 days later. During her duty, she received 6 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation for her World War II service.