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In Memoriam: Rear Admiral Raymond R. Couture, USN

Nov. 21, 2023 | By Sam Cox (Rear Adm. USN, Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Raymond Roger Couture on 30 October 2023 at age 97. Rear Admiral Couture enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in June 1944 and served as a surface line officer and qualified Judge Advocate General until his retirement in September 1986 as Commander, Military Sealift Command Europe (MOB). His other commands included Naval Reserve (NR) Surface Division 1-19(L), NR Group Command 1-10(S), NR Officers School 1-1(L) Boston, NR Group Command 1-1(L) Boston, NR Naval Sea Systems Command Detachment 901, and NR Readiness Command Region ONE. He was a combat veteran of World War II in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific, and he served in the Korean War theater. After retirement he was national president and director of the Naval Sea Cadets Corps.

Rear Admiral Couture enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 14 June 1944 and served as a signalman aboard destroyer escort George A. Johnson (DE-583) on convoy escort duty across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean (where it faced German air attacks), before the ship transferred to the Pacific for additional escort duty (where it came under Japanese kamikaze air attack while escorting a convoy to Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines). George A. Johnson escorted Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid’s flagship Rocky Mount (AGC-3) following the Japanese surrender, serving as the first U.S. ships to enter the Yangtze River in China since 1941. Couture was discharged on 23 May 1946.

He reenlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 20 August 1947 and served aboard LST-880 (later named Lake County), operating in the Atlantic to Africa and the Mediterranean. During this period, he graduated from the University of Maine in Orono with a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy. Selected for officer training, he then attended Officer Candidate School. He was discharged on 23 July 1952 and commissioned an ensign with date of rank as of 31 March 1952. He then served with Harbor Defense Unit, Navy #3912 in the Korean War theater. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) in October 1953 and left active duty in July 1954.

He remained in the Naval Reserve, and his Inactive Naval Reserve affiliations included the following duty stations:
  • November 1954, NR Surface Division 1-30(M), Worcester, Massachusetts, as technical instructor and personnel officer. He was promoted to lieutenant in June 1956. In 1957, he earned a juris doctorate from the Boston College, New England School of Law. He was subsequently self-employed as an attorney-at-law.
  • July 1958, NR Surface Division 1-17(L), Lawrence, Massachusetts, as instructor, platoon officer, and training officer. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in July 1962.
  • November 1963, NR Surface Division 1-18(M), Lowell, Massachusetts, as executive officer.
  • July 1966, NR Surface Division 1-19(L), Lowell, as executive officer/commanding officer. He was promoted to commander in 1966.
  • August 1967, NR Officer’s School 1-4, Salem, Massachusetts, as a student.
  • July 1969, NR Group Command 1-10(S), Lawrence, as group commander.
  • July 1970, NR Officer’s School 1-9(M), Lawrence, as a student.
  • July 1971, NR Group Command 1-3(M), Salem, as staff program assistant.
  • July 1971, NR Officers School 1-4(M), Salem, as a student.
  • July 1972, NR Reserve Group Command 1-1(L), Boston, Massachusetts, as staff program assistant.
  • July 1972, NR Officers School 1-9(M), Lawrence, as a student. He was promoted to captain in June 1973. (Based on the transcript, it is possible to be in a command and a school at the same time).
During this period, he performed Selected Reserve duty periods with the National War College, Naval War College, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chief of Naval Education and Training, Assistant Inspector General, Naval Sea Systems Command, and Military Sealift Command, as well as being embarked aboard Johnnie Hutchins (DE-360), PCER-856, Northampton (CLC-1), Bigelow (DD-942), Barton (DD-772), Lexington (CVS-16), and Turner (DD-834).

Couture’s Inactive Reserve affiliations in the grade of captain are as follows:
  • July 1973, NR Officers School 1-1 (L), Boston, as commanding officer.
  • July 1974, NR Group Command 1-1(L), Boston, as group commander.
  • August 1975, NR Support Component FOURTH Naval District, as recruiting district assistance council chairman for Naval Recruiting District Boston.
  • October 1976, “NRSE CRUITCOM ASST RC1,” chairman, Naval Recruiting District Boston
  • October 1977–September 1978, NR Naval Sea Systems Command Detachment 901, Lawrence, as commanding officer.
  • October 1978, Commander, Naval Reserve Readiness Command ONE, Newport, Rhode Island, as inspector general.
Active Duty for Training in grade of captain during 1974–80 included periods at Headquarters, THIRD Naval District, Brooklyn, New York; Chief of Naval Education and Training, Pensacola, Florida; Navy Recruiting District Boston; Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, DC; Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, DC; and Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Norfolk, Virginia.

He was selected for rear admiral in September 1980. His flag service transcript only goes to 1980, so I don’t have dates, or necessarily the correct order, for two flag commands:
  • Commander, Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region ONE, and 
  • Commander, Military Sealift Command Europe (MOB).
He retired from the U.S. Naval Reserve on 1 September 1986.

Rear Admiral Couture’s awards include the Legion of Merit (at least one); Meritorious Unit Commendation (from photo); China Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; European Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (two battle stars); World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Reserve Medal (two awards, the second award replacing an earlier Naval Reserve Medal); Philippine Liberation (one battle star); Philippine Presidential Citation; and United Nations Service Medal.

Then-Captain Couture was chairman of the Recruiting District Assistance Council, Boston, from 1975 to 1981. He was awarded the Navy Recruiting Gold Wreath with a star (second award).

After retiring from the U.S. Naval Reserve, Rear Admiral Couture continued to maintain a general law practice in Reading, Massachusetts, until fairly recently.

From his service transcript dated 1980, he was a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the Middlesex County Bar Association. He was the director of the Greater Boston YMCA. He was a life member of the USS Constitution Museum Foundation, the Reserve Officers Association, the Naval Reserve Association, and the Navy League of the United States. He was also the director of “numerous corporations.”

From his obituary, he was a national vice president, director, life member, and past Massachusetts state president of the Navy League of the United States. He was a past president of the Massachusetts Bay Council of the Navy League and served at national and regional levels of the Naval Reserve Association. He was the national president and director of the Naval Sea Cadet Corps and a trustee of the USS Constitution Museum Foundation. He was a life member of the Surface Navy Association. The U.S. Naval Sea Cadets recently named the Outstanding Sea Cadet-of-the-Year Award after him.

He also served as a Reading town meeting member and chairman, Reading Health Advisory Committee. He was president of the Rotary Club of Reading and president of Eastern Middlesex YMCA.
Funeral services were held 4 November.

Rear Admiral Couture had the quintessential Naval Reserve officer career, juggling his law practice with numerous reserve commitments ashore and afloat. He first volunteered to serve our nation and Navy at the peak of combat during the Second World War, and as a signalmen he probably saw the kamikazes coming in at Lingayen Gulf. Luckily neither his ship nor those being escorted were hit. After the war, he earned a degree and became an officer, serving in the Korean War theater in a Harbor Defense Unit. After that, he earned a law degree and started a practice, but he remained in the Inactive Naval Reserve. “Inactive” is the technical term, but a bit of a misnomer in that there was much activity and sacrifice of family time associated with being in the Naval Reserve, including Selective Reserve duty and Active Duty for Training, in addition to the weekend drills. He advanced very quickly to positions of ever-greater authority and responsibility, with multiple commands of reserve units of increasing size and complexity, with a heavy emphasis on supporting Navy recruiting efforts in the New England region, a challenging area under any circumstance but even more so during the 1970s. His career culminated in command of Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region ONE and Commander, Military Sealift Command Europe (MOB). However, his service to the U.S. Navy did not end with retirement from the Naval Reserve, as he expended prodigious time in leadership positions in the Navy League of the United States, the Naval Reserve Association, the USS Constitution Museum, and especially the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps (so much so that the annual award for the outstanding Sea Cadet is named after him). It is obvious that Rear Admiral Couture cared deeply about the U.S. Navy, and the future of the U.S. Navy, throughout his entire life. He set an extraordinary example for those who serve in the U.S. Navy Reserve today to emulate. 

Rest in Peace, Admiral Couture.