Frank O'Beirne, Date Unknown (Source: Web)
Frank O'Beirne landed once at Tucson, Monday, August 19, 1929. He flew an unidentified Boeing F2B. Based at San Diego, CA aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga, he arrived amidst nineteen other naval aviators, each signed into the Register on the middle third of page 112. Other than the first six who signed their own names, the rest were entered by an unknown hand all at once. Please direct your browser to the link and review page 112. There you'll see that signers Chourre through Wick comprise the group of twenty. They all remained overnight at Tucson, departing the morning of the 20th for El Paso, TX.
What were twenty Navy pilots doing at Tucson all at once? They were on a grand cross-country flight headed from San Diego to Cleveland, OH and back to participate in the National Air Races (NAR) held August 24th-September 2nd at Cleveland that year. Lt. Cdr. Homer Wick was commanding officer of Squadron No. 1 based on the Saratoga.
Wick brought his entire squadron through Tucson on behalf of the NAR. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Navy ordered numerous activities by its personnel, ships and airplanes to build confidence in the naval force among the U.S. citizenry, to provide real-life training for personnel, as well as to encourage recruitment.
O'Beirne's job was to participate with the aerobatic team named the "Nine High Hats." Below, O'Beirne is circled and shown with the rest of his section (the two officers immediately in front and to his left) and the entire 9-man team just three days before he landed at Tucson. Please direct your browser to Wick's page to see a tabulation and identification of all the men in his squadron.
The "Nine High Hats," August 16, 1929 (Source: NHH via Woodling)
O'Beirne lived in Illinois from early childhood until entering the U.S. Naval Academy in 1922. He graduated from the Academy in 1926. Below, his biography page from the "Lucky Bag," the Academy's yearbook. After his graduation from the Academy he went to the University of Michigan for a master of science degree in Engineering.
Frank O'Beirne, "Lucky Bag," 1926 (Source: Woodling)
The "Black N(3)" notation (meaning Black N with three stars) near the end of his activities list signifies earning three of the mysterious and unsanctioned Black Ns, which for almost 100 years had been a "scarlet" letter for midshipmen of questionable virtue who have racked up more demerits than most. Direct your browser to the link (PDF, 192Kb) to learn more about the Black N. He received his wings in 1929 at Pensacola, FL.
O'Beirne was born in 1903, and retired in 1963 with the rank of Vice Admiral. His retirement coincided with broad shake-ups in major Pentagon posts (The New York Times, February 18, 1963), and with budget decisions faced by then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
He died at age 94 of multiple organ failure on October 19, 1998. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, November 16, 1998. From the Norfolk, VA Virginian-Pilot of November 3, 1998, the following obituary briefly summarizes O'Beirne's Navy career. The text cited below is almost verbatim that listed on the Arlington National Cemetery Web site. Additional biographical information is at this link.
Frank O'Beirne, Vice Admiral USN (Ret.), 94, whose last post was as Commander Naval Air Forces Atlantic, died on Oct. 19, 1998. Adm. O'Beirne, who lived in McLean, Va., was born in Biloxi, Miss., and raised in Elgin, Ill. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1926 and received a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan.
He flew with Col. Charles Lindbergh as part of the Navy's early aviation stunt team. He later commanded at Patrol Plan Squadron in Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack in 1941. He served as assistant Naval Attache in London from 1948-1950, and shortly thereafter as commanding officer of the carrier Midway. Upon selection to flag rank, Adm. O'Beirne commanded several carrier divisions, served with the joint chiefs of staff, and as commander of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project at Sandia Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
After retirement from COMNAVAIRLANT in 1963, he served as a consultant for North American Aviation and ARINC Research Corp. and enjoyed his various hobbies including photography, ham radio, golf and genealogy.
He leaves his wife of 71 years, Grace Thomas O'Beirne; and his two children, Karen O'Beirne Taylor of Virginia Beach and retired Navy Captain Frank O'Beirne Jr. of Connecticut; seven grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and his sister, Mildred Kuettner of Oshkosh, Wis.
Services with full military honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery in December.
He had another daughter, Anne Dale, born in 1930 and died in 1949. His wife Grace, since passed, is buried beside Frank and their daughter, Anne, at Arlington National Cemetery.
O'Beirne commanded the carrier U.S.S. Midway from April 2, 1952-April 4, 1953. He was Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMNAVAIRLANT) from 1960–1963, assuming that role upon his promotion to Vice Admiral on the nomination of President Eisenhower. As commander of a Patrol Squadron, his presence at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 resulted in a report to his superiors about the results of the attack on his organization, VP-22. He held ham radio license N4RJR.
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