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First Name: William

Last Name: Caperton

Birthplace: Spring Hill, TN, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Banks

Date of Birth: 30 June 1855

Date of Death: 21 December 1941

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1875-1921
William Banks Caperton

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1875

•  Spanish-American War (1898)
•  World War I (1914 - 1918)


William Banks Caperton

Admiral, U.S. Navy

William Banks Caperton was born on 30 June 1855 in Spring Hill, TN. Caperton graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in September 1875. Following graduation from the Academy, Caperton served at sea for five years, with duty aboard USS Powhatan, USS Constellation, and USS Tennessee. He had three years' service with the Coast and Geodetic Survey, after which he joined Ossipee for service on the Asiatic Station. In April 1887, he assumed duty as Inspector of Steel at Pittsburgh, PA, and in November of the following year transferred to Washington, DC, for duty as Secretary of the Steel Inspection Board. He next had brief duty in the summer of 1891 as Recorder of the Examining Board at Norfolk, VA.

Caperton had three years consecutive sea duty aboard USS Miantonomoh (BM-5), USS Vesuvius, and USS Essex. On 21 February 1895, he reported to the Office of Naval Intelligence, Navy Department, Washington, and following three months duty in that office, he had instruction at the Naval War College, Newport, RI, completing the course there on 15 October 1896. Next followed consecutive service aboard USS Brooklyn and during the Spanish-American War period aboard USS Marietta, with service as Executive Officer of that vessel after the peace protocol was signed on 12 August 1898, and until 16 October 1899.

Returning to the U.S., Admiral Caperton reported for duty as Inspector of Ordinance at the Navy Yard, Washington, to serve from December 1899 until July 1901, when he was ordered to duty in connection with the fitting out of USS Prairie. He served as her Executive Officer from her commissioning, 8 August 1901 until May 1904, when he was again ordered to the Naval War College, Newport, RI. Completing the course of instruction in October of that year, he became Inspector of the 15th Light House District at St. Louis, MO, and served in that capacity until 15 April 1907.

He assumed command of USS Denver on 20 April 1907 and transferred his command to USS Maine (BB-10) on 31 July 1908. Detached from that command when the Maine was decommissioned on 31 August 1909, he proceeded to Washington. He thereafter became Secretary of the Light House Board, Department of Commerce and Labor on 11 October 1909, and served in that assignment until 30 June 1910, when he was ordered to duty in attendance upon the summer conference of officers at the Naval War College, Newport. Upon completion of the conference, he returned to Washington where he was assigned duty as member of the Naval Examining and Naval Retiring Boards.

Following duty as Commandant of the Naval Station, Narragansett Bay, RI, from May 1912 until October 1913, during which period he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, Caperton became Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, USS Alabama, flagship, and after a year's service in that command, he assumed command in November 1914 of Cruiser Squadron, Atlantic Fleet, USS Washington, flagship. During the period of this assignment, and transferring his flag to Tennessee and later to Dolphin, he commanded the Naval Forces that intervened at Haiti in 1915-1916; was Commander Naval Forces, Vera Cruz, in 1915; and commanded Naval Forces intervening and suppressing the Santo Domingo Revolution in 1916.

Relieved of command of Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet, he returned to the U.S., reporting to Key West, FL. Upon designation as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, by the President of the U.S. on 22 July 1916, he proceeded to San Diego, CA, to assume his new duties in the rank of Admiral, and hoisted his flag in USS Pittsburgh. He was in charge of the patrol of the East Coast of South America which cleared southern waters of German raiders during World War I and he greatly aided in the development of goodwill between the U.S. and her Allies. For his services as Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet during World War I, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

On 1 November 1918, ten days before the signing of the Armistice which officially closed hostilities between Germany and the U.S., Admiral Caperton was designated by the President of the U.S. as Special Representative with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to attend the ceremonies at Rio de Janeiro on 15 November 1918, incident to the inauguration of His Excellency, Dr. Francisco de Paulo Rodriquez Alves, as President of the Republic of Brazil. He was also Special Naval Delegate at the inauguration of Dr. Brun as President of Uruguay in 1919. Detached from command of the Pacific Fleet in April 1919, he reported for duty in the Office of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington.

On 12 April 1919, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (then Acting SecNav Secretary of the Navy) authorized the following:

In view of the splendid work accomplished by Admiral Caperton, he will be released from present duty on April 30th, and, pending his retirement June 30th, he will be detailed to prepare a complete and detailed memorandum of his duty since being ordered to sea duty in 1915 with special reference to what he has been connected with since war was declared. This memorandum will be turned over to the historical section of the Navy. Admiral Caperton's duty since war was declared, above referred to, has been the commanding officer of the Pacific Fleet which, in conjunction with British and French fleets, cleared the Southern Atlantic of German raiders and patrolled the east coast of South America. On his flagship, USS Pittsburgh, Admiral Caperton made courtesy visits to South American republics during the war and since the Armistice was signed. His visits were of inestimable value, as they strengthened the bonds of friendship between South American republics and the U.S. and promoted solidarity of relations between these countries and the Allies. Admiral Caperton was put in command of the cruiser force of the Atlantic Fleet on 21 November 1914. He has been in command of the Pacific Fleet since 22 May 1917, on which date original orders of 7 June 1916, were amended.

Admiral Caperton was transferred to the Retired List in the rank of Rear Admiral on 30 June 1919, but continued on active duty in connection with the official reception of the President Elect of Brazil, and as Naval Aide to Dr. Pessoa during his visit to the U.S., and return. Upon completion of this temporary duty, he was ordered for further temporary duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and later as witness before Senate Committee on Occupation and Administration of Territories of Haitian Republic by American Forces. Relieved of all active duty, he proceeded home in November 1921. He was commissioned Admiral on the Retired List of the Navy from 21 June 1930 (Act of 21 June 1930).

Dates of Rank

Midshipman - 17 September 1875

Ensign - 3 August 1877

Lieutenant (junior grade) - 13 October 1883

Lieutenant - 24 October 1889

Lieutenant-Commander - unknown

Commander - unknown

Captain - unknown

Rear Admiral - 14 February 1913

Admiral - 28 July 1916

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Medal
Spanish Campaign Medal (1898)
Cuba Pacification Medal
Mexican Service Medal (USS Washington, 1915)
Dominican Campaign Medal (USS Dolphin, 1916)
World War I Victory Medal, Patrol Clasp, (USS Pittsburgh)
Order of the Bust of Bolivar, Third Class (Venezuela)
Grand Official da Ordem do Cruizeiro do Sul (Brazil)


• Admiral Caperton was a founder and honorary member of the Military Order of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (European Commandry, Paris, 1927);

• Honorary life member of the Military Order of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (Commanding General 1914-1917);

• Member of the Military Order of the World Wars Retired Officers Association.

• In 1943, the destroyer USS Caperton (DD-650) was named in his honor.

Death and Burial

Admiral William Banks Caperton died on 21 December 1941 in the Naval Hospital at Newport, RI. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 2.

Honoree ID: 474   Created by: MHOH




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