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

 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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  First American fencer of international calibre
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Last Updated:
Apr 5, 2011

Generally considered the first American fencer of international calibre, George Calnan began fencing at the U.S. Naval Academy. While there he was captain of the varsity and brigade champion, but never, surprisingly intercollegiate champion. At the 1928 Olympics, Calnan passed through three rounds into the épée final, where he placed third and entered a direct-elimination super-final of four. Calnan lost, 13-11, to Géo Buchard of France, the three-time world champion, but he defeated Léon Tom, of Belgium, to win the bronze medal. At the 1932 Olympics, Calnan anchored two medal winning teams and again reached the final in épée individual, finishing seventh. Calnan also captained the U.S. fencing team in Los Angeles and took the oath of participation on behalf of the athletes of all nations. Calnan won nine AFLA national championships, and was a member of 13 national championship teams for the New York Fencer's Club. In 1925, he was a member of four national championship teams, a yet to be equalled feat. A career naval officer, Calnan perished in the crash of the dirigible Akron. The year after he died, the AFLA established the George C. Calnan Memorial Trophy for the national three-weapon team championship.

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