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FFG 29 Stephen W. Groves

USS STEPHEN W GROVES is one of four ships in the Atlantic Fleet that have the distinction of serving as training platforms for Naval Reservists. This means she has a smaller crew than other frigates. An active duty frigate has a complement of approximately 18 Officers and 210 Enlisted crewmembers. GROVES, conversely, has a complement of approximately 16 Officers and 160 Enlisted crewmembers. Approximately 40 Selected Reservist come aboard one weekend a month for proficiency training and spend two consecutive weeks aboard per year to supplement the crew.

Frigates are known as the "work horses of the fleet". Frigates are multi-mission capable war-fighting platforms designed to fulfill escort duties for both battle groups and merchant shipping. Undersea warfare is the primary mission area by design; however, frigates are also highly capable air and surface warfare platforms.

USS STEPHEN W GROVES was built at Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine and was commissioned 17 April 1982 in Portland, Maine. She is the twenty-third of fifty-two Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigates. She is currently homeported in Pascagoula, MS.

In 1996 she departed for the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf as part of a Middle East Force deployment.

After departing Pascagoula Sept. 25, 2003 for a six-month deployment in support of counter drug operations, Groves patrolled nearly 4 million square nautical miles of water in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean, and logged 14,000 nautical miles. While deployed, Groves was a key asset in the ongoing joint effort with the U.S. Coast Guard to combat the flow of illicit drugs into the United States.

Highlights of Groves' deployment included 12 enlisted Sailors earning their Enlisted Surface Warfare (ESWS) pins, six officers earning their Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) pins, two who qualified as Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) and nine who qualified as Officer of the Deck (OOD). The ship made 15 port visits, and conducted community relations projects in Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Panama, and Manta, Ecuador, refurbishing schoolhouses and medical clinics. The ship transited the Panama Canal four times, and made several crossings of the Equator, both highlights in any Sailor's career.

Groves, with Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42 Det. 10 out of Mayport, Fla., embarked, chased down two "go fast" drug-running vessels, captured their crews and seized approximately 2.2 metric tons of cocaine. With the assistance of several Coast Guard detachments, the crew boarded 13 vessels suspected of narcotics trafficking.

During this most recent deployment, the ship's crew worked with Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 201 and other assets from Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South to track, intercept and search vessels suspected of transporting illegal drugs. The crew seized 740 kilos of illegal drugs. They also rescued 104 Ecuadorian migrants in the Eastern Pacific.

The Stephen W. Groves will return to its homeport at Naval Station Pascagoula, March 22, 2004.

Crest and Shield

The blue and gold of the shield on the seal 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 four red pheons (spear points) on the crest 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.

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 1942.

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 (FFG 29) 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.



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