Ensign Stephen W. Groves
"About 4:40 p.m. the enemy was coming in fast, and the carrier sent up
its few remaining planes, some of them already battle-scarred. They
headed straight for the enemy. The fight ended at sunset, when the last
remaining Japanese plane was shot from the sky. Some of our boys did
not return, but they left a memory that time can never dim."
Thus read an official account of one of the great air engagements of
the Battle of Midway during World War II. Stephen W. Groves, a 25-
year-old Navy Ensign from East Millinocket, Maine, was one of the
American flyers who did not return after the day-long battle on 4 June
Other historical accounts of the battle show that Ensign Groves took
off nine times from his carrier on that fateful day, and that his was
one of six American planes that fought off a vastly superior Japanese
force that was trying to finish off the damaged carrier USS YORKTOWN.
The small group was credited with shooting down 14 enemy planes and
causing six others to retreat.
For his deeds in the crucial battle, the young Maine flyer was
posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism.
The commissioning of the guided missile frigate USS STEPHEN W. GROVES
demonstrates that time did not dim the memory of this American hero
and, in effect, fulfills a promise the Navy made to the Groves family
shortly after the ensign was declared missing-in-action. A destroyer,
being constructed in Boston, was to have been named for Groves, but it
was scrapped when the war ended.
Ensign Groves was a 1934 graduate of Schenck High School in East
Millinocket, and received a Mechanical Engineering Degree from the
University of Maine in 1939. He joined the Navy in December of 1940,
and was commissioned in August of 1941. He boarded the carrier HORNET
in December of that year. The HORNET began to transport Doolittle's
Bombers to Japanese waters in April of 1942, setting the stage for the
Battle of Midway, considered one of the most crucial Allied victories
of the war.
Ensign Groves was the first East Millinocket serviceman to be killed in
World War II. Today the American Legion Post in the town is named the
Feeney-Groves Post, partially in his memory.
USS STEPHEN W GROVES (FFG 29) is a member of the Oliver Hazard Perry
class of Guided Missile Frigates. She was designed to provide local
area protection to battle groups, underway replenishment groups,
amphibious forces, military and merchant shipping, and to conduct
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) operations. However, with the removal of
her guided missile system, STEPHEN W GROVES has shifted roles and now
primarily conducts Enhanced-Maritime Interception Operations (E-MIO)
and Counter Narco-Terrorism (CNT) operations.
STEPHEN W GROVES and her sister ships of the class represent a break
with tradition in many ways: a gas turbine powered propulsion plant
with variable pitch propeller, austere manning accompanied by a high
degree of computerized automation, a fully integrated combat system,
two helicopter hangars, auxiliary propulsion units placed to maximize
maneuverability, and a ship control console that provides steering and
speed control from the bridge by a single helmsman.
The assets that STEPHEN W GROVES has to call upon to accomplish her
mission include the rapid fire, dual purpose 76mm gun; a
Close-in-Weapons System gatling gun (capable of firing 4,500 rounds per
minute at incoming air targets); anti-submarine torpedo tubes; two
Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) MK III helicopters; and an
array of small arms weapons including 25mm guns and .50 caliber machine
Blue and gold are the colors
traditionally associated with the Navy. The wings allude to Ensign
Groves as a naval aviator and, when combined with the white and blue
roundel, suggest the Battle for the Pacific during World War II in
which the aircraft carrier was to prove itself as an effective tactical
weapon. The eight gold stars simulate aircraft in formation, and the
number eight is symbolic of Fighter Squadron EIGHT with which Groves
flew nine missions during the Battle of Midway before being shot down;
eight stars further allude to the fact that Ensign Groves was serving
aboard USS HORNET (CV 8) at the time of his death.
The Crest: The four red pheons
allude to the overwhelming number of enemy fighter planes Ensign Groves
faced while defending the U.S. Task Force against enemy attack. The
gold cross refers to the Navy Cross awarded to him for heroic action
during the first and last battle of his short Navy career.
Motto: DIRIGO, Latin for "I Direct",
is the motto of the State of Maine, Ensign Groves's home state.