6 December 1865 – 22 January 1928
Texas Commanding Officer: 14 August 1916 – 31 December 1918
Victor Blue was born in 1865 in North Carolina but grew up in South Carolina. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1887, completing his two-year sea duty training as an engineer in 1889. In fact, before joining the regular “line” of the Navy, he was commissioned an Engineer in the Engineer Corps. It was not until the end of 1892 that he was commissioned Ensign in the Navy. During the early years of his career he served in numerous ships, learning his trade and sailing and steaming around the globe, before returning to the Academy as an instructor.
After two years teaching at the Academy, Blue returned to sea duty and made a name for himself aboard USS Suwanee. Suwanee was a United States Coastguard lighthouse tender—originally named Mayflower—transferred to the Navy for service in the Spanish-American War. Renamed and used as an auxiliary cruiser, Suwanee provided excellent service for the Navy. Serving in Suwanne, Blue proved even more impressive than his ship. Leading two reconnaissance missions on foot, deep into Spanish-held territory in Cuba, Blue provided the United States Army and Navy vital information in the war effort. In fact, the information he gathered led directly to the destruction of Spanish Admiral Corvera’s fleet at the Battle of Santiago. For his work, Blue was promoted and received a Distinguished Service Medal. He also received a special civilian medal in appreciation for his service to the country by the Women of South Carolina.
After his work in Suwanne, Blue was given command of his own ship, USS Alvarado. Alvarado was a little gunboat captured from the Spanish, commissioned into the US Navy and given to Lt Blue to command. Although small (her length was not much more than battleship Texas’ beam) Alvarado fought well under her new CO during the last months of the war.
When the Spanish-American War ended, Blue was transferred
to battleship Massachusetts, BB2, then to the staff of Rear Admiral Louis Kampff,
Southern Squadron Leader on the Asiatic Station, USS Kentucky, BB6, as flagship.
Blue left Kentucky in July, going ashore to serve as Assistant to the Inspector
of Equipment at the Philadelphia and then Wilmington Navy Yards.
In the summer of 1902, Blue returned to the Asiatic Station, this time as Aide and Flag Lieutenant to Rear Admiral Phillip Henry Cooper, Commander of the Northern Squadron. He remained Aide to Cooper when the Admiral was named Commander of the Asiatic Fleet. Blue’s sea duty during this time was in USS Wisconsin, BB9, and USS New Orleans (later, CL22), as Cooper’s flagships. In addition to his duties with Admiral Cooper, he briefly held command of his own ship USS Hist. When Cooper’s health began to decline, he and Lieutenant Blue returned to the States.
Completing his assignment to Admiral Cooper, Blue next served as Navigator in USS Bennington, and then as her Executive Officer. In July 1905, while Bennington sat at anchor in San Diego, one of her boilers exploded and she sank. 66 of the little gunboats crew of 197 were killed and all aboard that night were injured to some extent. The nature of Blue’s injuries are not known, but when he retired in 1919 it was because of “physical disabilities due to naval service,” according to his official Navy biography, perhaps due to the incident little more than a decade before. Bennington was refloated, but after months of work it was decided that she was not repairable so she was decommissioned and Blue was transferred to Virginia as the Inspector of Ordnance at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. While there he participated in the outfitting and commissioning of a new cruiser, USS North Carolina, ACR12, and was plank owner as her first Navigator and in April 1909 he was named her Executive Officer. North Carolina was a busy ship during his time aboard, including carrying the newly-elected President William Howard Taft to inspect the Panama Canal prior to Taft’s inauguration. Later she provided protection for Americans and provided relief and medical assistance to strife-torn Turkey.
Leaving North Carolina in March 1910, Blue assumed command of another gunboat, USS Yorktown, before returning to staff duty. Blue captained Yorktown in the Caribbean and then along the Pacific coasts of South America. When he left Yorktown in November, he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and was made Chief of Staff to the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral Edward B. Barry, serving in the cruiser West Virginia until Admiral Barry’s disgrace and retirement. Blue then served on the staff of the Navy’s General Board in Washington, D.C., where he was promoted to Commander.
In 1913, Commander Blue was given the temporary rank of Rear Admiral to be Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, and then in 1916, given the permanent rank of Captain and given command of battleship USS Texas, BB35. When it came time for the United States to enter World War One, Texas was attached to the British Grand Fleet as part of the Sixth Battle Fleet. Captain Blue was an excellent wartime commander for the ship, but before he had the opportunity to prove it, Texas suffered a terrible calamity.
In September 1917, Texas was in New York Navy Yard for repairs and preparation for departure to the war zone. Leaving New York and heading up Long Island Sound, Captain Blue and his Navigator misjudged their position and Texas ran aground on Block Island. Though he ordered “Reverse Full,” Blue’s ship was solidly grounded. After days of off-loading munitions and stores, shifting weight aft and with passing ships’ crews cheering “Come On Texas!” tugs pulled her off the rocks. While the rest of the fleet steamed to Europe to fight the war, Texas went back into dry dock to repair extensive damage to her keel and hull. Damage to the ship was soon repaired, but the damage to Blue’s reputation was harder to fix. He lost as many promotion points for the Block Island incident as he had gained from his work during the Spanish-American War. Fortunately, under Blue, Texas performed admirably during World War One and she and her CO were heaped with commendations for their performance during the war and for his great skill at handling her while facing danger both from German submarines and North Sea weather.
At the end of 1918, Blue left Texas and returned to shore duty and was promoted to Rear Admiral, again as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. Unfortunately, his health deteriorated quickly and in the summer of 1919 he retired due to physical disability. Admiral Victor Blue died in 1928 and was buried in Marion, South Carolina.
Admiral Blue had a son, Lieutenant Commander John Blue, who was also a distinguished naval officer. He had served as CO of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s yacht, and later was killed in action during World War Two while serving as Navigator in USS Juneau, CL52. Juneau was sunk by the Japanese off Guadalcanal. She was also the ship that cost the lives of the Sullivan brothers. Two ships were named in honor of the two Blues. The first, destroyer USS Blue, DD387, was commissioned in 1937 and like Juneau was sunk off Guadalcanal in 1942. The second ship, also a destroyer, was USS Blue, DD744, commissioned in 1943 and named in honor of both father and son.