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First Name: Osborn

Last Name: Deignan

Birthplace: Stuart, IA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: IA
Middle Name: Warren

Date of Birth: 24 February 1873

Date of Death: 16 April 1916

Rank or Rate: Warrant Officer

Years Served: 1894-1906
Osborn Warren Deignan

•  Spanish-American War (1898)


Osborn Warren Deignan

Boatswain, U.S. Navy

Medal of Honor Recipient

Spanish-American War

Boatswain Osborn Warren Deignan (24 February 1873 - 16 April 1916) was an enlisted sailor and later a Warrant Officer in the U.S. Navy, who received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during the Spanish-American War.

Early Years

Osborn Warren Deignan was born on 24 February 1873 near Stuart, IA, to John Deignan and his wife. His father had also been a sailor, serving in the Navy during the American Civil War, and afterwards went to work for the Rock Island Railway as a conductor. When Osborn was five years old, a tornado struck his father's train in Grinnell, IA, killing him and leaving Osborn, his mother and his brother to survive on their own. His mother remarried and the family, along with two additional children from his new stepfather, moved to North Tremont Street in Stuart. In 1887 he left school and went to sea, serving on ships in the Atlantic Ocean, the Arctic and the Caribbean.

Military Career

Deignan enlisted in the U.S. Navy from his home state of Iowa, on 7 December 1894 (as per first Navy enlistment record). He served on numerous U.S. Navy vessels between 1894 and 1896 and, having deserted from the USS Newark on 6 May 1896 (as per naval records maintained by the Military Record Center) then re-enlistment in 1898 (as per naval records maintained by the Military Record Center). He was assigned as a Coxswain to the USS Merrimac (1898) during the Spanish-American War. The Merrimac had frequent problems with the steering and engines, and Deignan referred to it as "cranky." After a short time on the ship, he garnered a reputation as an able helmsman and was preferred when delivering coal to the other ships in the fleet, a task that could be difficult in a ship that was already hard to control.

When Rear Admiral William T. Sampson requested volunteers for an extremely dangerous mission, there were more than enough volunteers, but he chose Osborn as the helmsman. The mission was to sink Merrimac at the entrance to Santiago Harbor, Cuba, in an effort to block it and trap the Spanish Navy in the harbor. Seven other members of the crew were also chosen for the assignment. While the crew was attempting to fulfill its mission, Spanish forces fired on the ship and, in the process, disabled the Merrimac's steering controls before the crew could complete their task. The ship sank without obstructing navigation, but the crew was able to escape the ship before she went under. They were rescued by the Spanish and were taken as prisoners of war. A month later the Spanish fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba and the crewman were released. For his actions during the operation, Deignan was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Coxswain, U.S. Navy

Citation: In connection with the sinking of the U.S.S. Merrimac at the entrance to the harbor of Santiago de Cuba, 2 June 1898. Despite heavy fire from the Spanish batteries, Deignan displayed extraordinary heroism throughout this operation.

On 9 April 1900, Deignan was promoted to the Warrant Officer rank of Boatswain. As an officer, his initial assignments were in the Philippines, first at Manila, then at the Naval Station, Cavite. After meeting Maud Huntoon at a party in 1898, he married her on 14 May 1902 and together they had a daughter. In June 1902, he reported for duty on the USS Oregon (BB-3) and later that year transferred to the receiving ship USS Independence (1814), at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, CA. He was stationed at Navy Yard, Pensacola, FL, from 1903 through 1904, and then was assigned to the receiving ship USS Franklin (1864), at Norfolk, VA. He remained there for less than a year before reporting for his last tour of duty on the monitor USS Amphitrite (BM-2) in April 1905. He retired on 21 April 1906 and moved to the Los Angeles, CA, area.


Post #1842 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was named in his honor.

Death and Burial

Boatswain Osborn Warren Deignan died on 16 April 1916 in Canon City, CO. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA. His grave can be found in the Whispering Pines Section L-1165.

Honoree ID: 1873   Created by: MHOH




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