Flashback — Famous naval words, actions homegrown

By Jerry Reising

The Post-Bulletin

Donald Francis Mason, who made popular history during World War II, was born in northwest Rochester in 1913.

After graduating from Rochester High School in 1931, he eked out a living in the depression. He owned a store that sold Florida oranges, worked as a bellman and was employed at the Conley camera factory, where his father had worked.

Mason enlisted in the Navy in 1935 and became a pilot in 1938.


His claim to fame came in early 1942 as Nazi U boats freely plied the new England coastal waters, sinking merchant ships virtually at will.

He flew a twin-engine land-based Lockheed Hudson bomber on anti-sub patrol from a base in Newfoundland.

In January 1942, he spotted a German submarine periscope leaving a wake as he flew over the Grand Banks. He turned and dived on the sub and dropped two depth-bombs straddling the periscope. The conning tower of the sub bounded clear of the water for a short time and then sank, oil spreading over the water. He was promoted to chief aviation machinist’s mate and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Flying back to base, Mason radioed "Sighted sub, sank same" an understatement that went down in Naval history.

He was credited with a second sinking on April 2, 1942. That earned him a promotion to Ensign, a commissioned officer, and he was given the Silver Star Medal.

On June 20, 1942, he and 13 other American and British war heroes came to Rochester on a war-bond drive. After the heroes landed at the Rochester airport, eight cars carrying them made the short trip to the Olmsted County Fairgrounds, where about 3,500 cheering citizens welcomed them.

"This," he said, "is the biggest thrill of my life. It’s great to be here and see all of you hometown people again."

Mason retired as a commander in 1955 after 20 years service, and moved to Oxnard, Calif.


Can you put names to these famous Navy quotes?

1. "I have not yet begun to fight."

2. "Don’t give up the ship"

3. "Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead."

4. "You may fire when you are ready Gridley."

5. "Sighted sub, sank same."

1. Captain John Paul Jones retorted when asked he had surrendered during the battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis on Sept. 23, 1779.

2. Captain James Lawrence, mortally wounded in the battle between his ship, the U.S. Frigate Chesapeak and HMS Shannon, ordered his chief "Tell the men to fire faster. Don’t give up the ship," as he was carried below.


3. Admiral David Farragut, as his ship entered Mobile Bay on Aug. 5, 1864. He led his fleet through a minefield, capturing Confederate forts.

4. The morning of May 1, 1898, Commodore George Dewey commenced the Battle of Manila Bay with these words.

5. Donald Francis Mason, an enlisted Navy pilot from Rochester, radioed to his base in Newfoundland the alliteration "Sighted sub, sank same," after believing he had sunk a German U-boat while on anti-sub patrol in early 1942.

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