CALNAN, George C., LT

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Last Rank
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1933-1933, USS Akron (ZRS-4)
Service Years
1920 - 1933

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Steven Loomis (SaigonShipyard), IC3 to remember CALNAN, George C., LT.

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Contact Info
Home Town
South Boston, Massachusetts
Last Address
Died April 4, 1933 in the crash
of the USS Akron ZR-3 Barnegat,
New Jersey, United States

Date of Passing
Apr 04, 1933
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

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 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
In the Line of Duty
  1933, In the Line of Duty [Verified]

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

Lieutenant George Charles CALNAN, USN

US Fencing Hall of Fame
Naval Academy Fencing Captain 1919
Killed in the air crash of the USS Akron

Lt. George C. Calnan, (USN) (1900-1933) - AFLA national foil champion six times in seven years (1925, '26, '27, '28, '30, '31), medalist twice; national epee champion (1923); national three-weapon champion (1927). Member of all four national championship teams for the New York Fencers Club: foil, epee, sabre, three-weapon (1926). Member, US. Olympic team (1920, '24, '28, '32) and captain (1932). Olympic bronze medalist in epee individual (1928); member, Olympic bronze medal-winning foil team (1932) and Olympic bronze medal-winning epee team (1932). At the 1932 Olympics, he repeated the Oath of Participation on behalf of all participating athletes. Vice-president of the AFLA (1931-33). Captain of Naval Academy (1919). The national three-weapon team trophy was presented in his memory (1934-64).

George Charles Calnan (January 18, 1900 ?? April 4, 1933) was a United States Navy officer who also competed for the United States as a fencer. Competing in four Summer Olympics, he earned three bronze medals (Indivudual épée: 1928, Team foil: 1932, Team épée: 1932).

A model for behavior, Lieutenant George C. Calnan. 

Lt. Calnan learned to fence at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and became team captain in 1919.  A brilliant fencer, he went to the Olympic Games in 1928 and during the individual epee competition he acknowledged a hit that the judges did not see.  This act of sportsmanship cost him the match and the gold medal.  He finished with a bronze, but ito many, that bronze medal was worth more truly won than the gold would have been under false pretenses.  The International Olympic Committee must have thought so, too, because they invited him to recite the Olympians' Oath at the 1932 Games on behalf of all the athletes, an obviously extraordinary honor.

George Calnan died in 1933 in the loss of the U.S. Navy airship Akron, remaining at his station and trying to maintain the ship's trim and ballast when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off New Jersey. 

His was one of only ten Olympic medals ever won by an American in individual men's fencing. 

The Olympic Oath 1932

The voice of the announcer sounds again. It is introducing Lieutenant George C. Calnan, of the United States Olympic Team, who will take the Olympic Oath.

A tall figure, erect and military, ascends the rostrum on the field as a hush spreads over the audience. He grasps the American flag with his left hand and raises his right to the sky.

All over the field the athletes raise their right hands. Then, in a loud clear voice, come Lieutenant Calnan's words :

"We swear that we will take part in the Olympic Games in loyal competition, respecting the regulations which govern them and desirous of participating in them in the true spirit of sportsmanship for the honor of our country and for the glory of sport."

A native of South Boston, Massachusetts, Calnan did not start fencing until he was a student at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. By the time he was a senior, he was captain of the Navy's fencing team. Two years later, Calnan competed for the US at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris where he finished tied for fifth in the team épée competition. Calnan took the Olympic Oath at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Calnan was among the 73 fatalities of the USS Akron crash in 1933. He had a lieutenant's rank at the time of the crash.

He was posthumously inducted in the US Fencing Hall of Fame in 1963, among the first inductees.
Other Comments:

Only one of the officers of the Akron survived, Lt. Cdr. Herbert V. Wiley, Executive Officer.
Rear Admiral William A. Moffett was also on board and killed.

Cdr. Frank C. McCord, Commanding
Lt. Cdr. Herbert V. Wiley, Executive Officer
Lt. Cdr. Harold E. MacLellan
Lt. George Calnan
Lt. Herbert M. Wescoat
Lt. Richard F. Cross, Jr.
Lt. (jg) Hammond J. Dugan
Lt. (jg) Charles F. Miller
Lt. (jg) Morgan Redfield
Lt. (jg) Wilfred Bushnell
Lt. (jg) Cyrus Clendening
Chief Machinist George C. Walsh

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World War I
From Month/Year
April / 1917
To Month/Year
November / 1918

The United States of America declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917. The U.S. was an independent power and did not officially join the Allies. It closely cooperated with them militarily but acted alone in diplomacy. The U.S. made its major contributions in terms of supplies, raw material and money, starting in 1917. American soldiers under General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), arrived in large numbers on the Western Front in the summer of 1918. They played a major role until victory was achieved on November 11, 1918. Before entering the war, the U.S had remained neutral, though it had been an important supplier to Great Britain and the other Allied powers. During the war, the U.S mobilized over 4 million military personnel and suffered 110,000 deaths, including 43,000 due to the influenza pandemic. The war saw a dramatic expansion of the United States government in an effort to harness the war effort and a significant increase in the size of the U.S. military. After a slow start in mobilising the economy and labour force, by spring 1918 the nation was poised to play a role in the conflict. Under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, the war represented the climax of the Progressive Era as it sought to bring reform and democracy to the world, although there was substantial public opposition to United States entry into the war.

Although the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, it did not initially declare war on the other Central Powers, a state of affairs that Woodrow Wilson described as an "embarrassing obstacle" in his State of the Union speech. Congress declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on December 17, 1917, but never made declarations of war against the other Central Powers, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire or the various Co-belligerents allied with the central powers, thus the United States remained uninvolved in the military campaigns in central, eastern and southern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

The United States as late as 1917 maintained only a small army, smaller than thirteen of the nations and empires already active in the war. After the passage of the Selective Service Act in 1917, it drafted 2.8 million men into military service. By the summer of 1918 about a million U.S. soldiers had arrived in France, about half of whom eventually saw front-line service; by the Armistice of November 11 approximately 10,000 fresh soldiers were arriving in France daily. In 1917 Congress gave U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans when they were drafted to participate in World War I, as part of the Jones Act. In the end Germany miscalculated the United States' influence on the outcome of the conflict, believing it would be many more months before U.S. troops would arrive and overestimating the effectiveness of U-boats in slowing the American buildup.

The United States Navy sent a battleship group to Scapa Flow to join with the British Grand Fleet, destroyers to Queenstown, Ireland and submarines to help guard convoys. Several regiments of Marines were also dispatched to France. The British and French wanted U.S. units used to reinforce their troops already on the battle lines and not to waste scarce shipping on bringing over supplies. The U.S. rejected the first proposition and accepted the second. General John J. Pershing, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commander, refused to break up U.S. units to serve as mere reinforcements for British Empire and French units. As an exception, he did allow African-American combat regiments to fight in French divisions. The Harlem Hellfighters fought as part of the French 16th Division, earning a unit Croix de Guerre for their actions at Château-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and Séchault.

Impact of US forces on the war
On the battlefields of France in spring 1918, the war-weary Allied armies enthusiastically welcomed the fresh American troops. They arrived at the rate of 10,000 a day, at a time when the Germans were unable to replace their losses. After British Empire, French and Portuguese forces had defeated and turned back the powerful final German offensive (Spring Offensive of March to July, 1918), the Americans played a role in the Allied final offensive (Hundred Days Offensive of August to November). However, many American commanders used the same flawed tactics which the British, French, Germans and others had abandoned early in the war, and so many American offensives were not particularly effective. Pershing continued to commit troops to these full- frontal attacks, resulting in high casualties against experienced veteran German and Austrian-Hungarian units. Nevertheless, the infusion of new and fresh U.S. troops greatly strengthened the Allies' strategic position and boosted morale. The Allies achieved victory over Germany on November 11, 1918 after German morale had collapsed both at home and on the battlefield.
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
From Month/Year
April / 1917
To Month/Year
November / 1918
Last Updated:
Mar 16, 2020
Personal Memories

USNA Graduating class of 1920.

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