Named after John Lester Hubbard Chafee

John Lester Hubbard Chafee


Though the current USS Chafee was named for John Lester Hubbard Chafee, the first USS Chafee (DE 230) was named after ENS Davis Elliott Chafee.

The USS Chafee is named after John Lester Hubbard Chafee. John Chafee was born Oct. 22, 1922 in Providence, Rhode Island to a politically active family. His great-grandfather, Henry Lippitt, was a Rhode Island governor and among his great-uncles were a Rhode Island governor, Charles Lippitt, and United States senator, Henry F. Lippitt.

In 1940, he graduated from Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. He received degrees from Yale University in 1947 and Harvard University law school in 1950. Chafee served in the Marines during World War II, spending his 20th birthday on Guadalcanal. In 1951, he was recalled to active service as a Marine rifle company commander during the Korean War.

Mr. Chafee became active in behind-the-scenes Rhode Island politics by helping elect a mayor of Providence in the early 1950s. He successfully ran for a seat on the Rhode Island House of Representatives in 1956 and later became the minority leader. He was reelected in 1958 and 1960, the latter a year when many Republicans were swept from office in his state.

Mr. Chafee was elected governor in 1962, helping create the state's public transportation administration as well as what was known as the Green Acres program, a conservation effort. Mr. Chafee was head of the Republican Governors' Association in the late 1960s.

He was appointed as Secretary of the Navy in 1969. His tenure as Secretary was marked by a willingness to make bold decisions and stand by them. Emblematic of this was his decision to elevate Adm. Elmo Zumwalt as Chief of Naval Operations over 33 more senior officers, and his judicious handling of the USS PUEBLO situation. He served as Secretary of the Navy until 1972.

Mr. Chafee, elected to the Senate in 1976, served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He first joined the committee in 1977 and made environmental matters a chief concern, often breaking with his party to the delight of conservation groups.

"His fingerprints are over all the major environmental legislation passed in the last 20 years," said Darrell West, a professor of political science at Brown University who studied Rhode Island politics and interviewed Mr. Chafee last year.

Among the bills Mr. Chafee fostered while in the minority was the Clean Water Act of 1986, the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. He also was an architect of the Superfund program in 1980 to clean up hazardous waste sites as well as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

Frequently following a moderate path, Mr. Chafee was pro-choice on abortion and supported the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"John Chafee proved that politics can be an honorable profession," President Bill Clinton said in a statement to the Associated Press. "He embodied the decent center which has carried America from triumph to triumph for over 200 years."

Mr. Chafee sat on the Select Committee on Intelligence and was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee's Subcommittee on Health Care, but his biggest imprint was on environmental concerns.

"He was a pillar of strength defending environmental protections against the erosion being called for by the leaders in his own party, for example, protecting wetlands, defending the Clean Water Act," said Brent Blackwelder, the president of Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group.

"Whenever you needed a defender and you looked to the Republican Party in the Senate, he was the No. 1 Republican leader," Blackwelder added. "This prevented a world of damage from being done, so the American public owes him debt of gratitude." Blackwelder also was a squash partner of Mr. Chafee's until the senator stopped playing about seven years ago. "He was a vigorous man," Blackwelder said.

Chafee family

Current USS Chafee

USS Chafee (DDG-90) was commissioned on 18 October 2003. Chafee is an active unit of the Pacific Fleet and is home ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Since her maiden voyage in May 2005, the USS Chafee has been active in the Global War on Terrorism, engaged in operations, exercises and deployments in the Mediterranean and Western Pacific. She also won the highly coveted Spokane Naval Trophy, the award given to the Surface Ship with the highest proficiency in overall combat systems readiness and warfare operations.

1st USS Chafee

Though the current USS Chafee was named for John Lester Hubbard Chafee, the first USS Chafee (DE 230) was named after ENS Davis Elliott Chaffee. Davis Elliott Chaffee enlisted in the Navy 4 January 1941, was appointed Ensign 6 September 1941 and naval aviator 1 October 1941. During his deployment on the USS Yorktown (CV-5) in Bomber Squadron 5, he was killed in action during the Battle of the Coral Sea 8 May 1942. He was posthumously awarded a Navy Cross for his courage in participating in an attack in which an enemy carrier was sunk.

Chaffee (DE-230) was launched 27 November 1943 by Charleston Navy Yard; sponsored by Mrs. L. C. Chaffee; and commissioned 9 May 1944 with LCDR A. C. Jones, USNR, as the first commanding officer.

USS Chafee arrived at Hollandia 21 November 1944 for operations in the New Guinea area screening LSTs, in gunnery and antitorpedo exercises, and on patrol at the entrance to Aitape. She then participated in the liberation of the Philippines, supported the San Fabian Attack Force at Lingayen, where she arrived 21 January. While patrolling Lingayen Gulf, USS Chaffee underwent a unique experience in 23 January 1945. A Japanese aerial torpedo passed through her bow without exploding, or causing any injuries to her crew. After receiving repairs, Chaffee returned to patrol duties, providing support for escort convoys in the Philippines, support of the Mindanao operation and supporting the landing of reinforcements at Davao.

Chaffee arrived at Morotai from the Philippines 19 June 1945 to train for the Borneo operation, and cleared on 28 June to escort reinforcements which landed at Balikpapan 3 July. For the remainder of the war, Chaffee escorted convoys between Morotai and Hollandia and the Philippines. USS Chafee was decommissioned 15 April 1946. She received two battle stars for World War II service.

For more detailed history on the first USS Chafee visit the Navy Archive page at

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