A monument dedicated to Navy CAPT Walter Wynne Webster, a former commander of the Naval Aircraft Factory at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, was rededicated on September 7, 2018 at the Navy Yard. At the event was CDR Michael Vaas, NSAP/PNYA Officer-in-Charge; CDR Roland DeGuzman, PA PWD Public Works Officer; CAPT William Mock, NAVFAC Foundry Tiger Team Lead; CAPT Francis Spencer, NSWCPD Commanding Officer; and Prema Katari Gupta, PIDC Senior Vice President, Navy Yard Planning, Development & Operations.
Webster, considered a Naval aviation pioneer, was killed in a March 16, 1943, Navy plane crash outside of Philadelphia. In his honor, a street and monument were dedicated on the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Unfortunately, a combination of events including base closure, building demolition and the passage of time led to this memorial being left and nearly forgotten in a warehouse. William Giffear, an eagle-eyed recently retired PWD employee found and rescued the monument. Today, employees and visitors can view the monument at the southwest corner of League Island Blvd & Kitty Hawk Ave near the site of the former Naval Aircraft Factory and Webster Road.
Caption: Unveiling the monument with William Giffear (rescuer of the monument and recently retired PWD employee), CDR Roland DeGuzman (PA PWD Public Works Officer), CDR Michael Vaas (NSAP/PNYA Officer-in-Charge), Prema Katari Gupta, PIDC Senior Vice President, Navy Yard Planning, Development & Operations.
Want to learn more about CAPT Webster? Continue reading below.
CAPT Walter Wynne Webster, USN, was born on July 28, 1888 in Fargo, ND. He was appointed a midshipman on July 6, 1907 and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with the Class of 1911. Webster spent his initial tours of sea duty in the battleship USS NORTH DAKOTA (BB-29) and the destroyer tender USS PANTHER (AD-6) before he began post-graduate studies at the Naval Academy in 1913. He then took a course of instruction in naval architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Later commissioned as an assistant naval constructor (known today as an Engineering Duty Officer), with the rank of LTJG, on May 15, 1914, Webster served in the hull divisions at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, WA, and at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, NY, before he went to Washington, DC, for his first tour of duty in the Bureau of Aeronautics (known today as NAVAIR).
In the years that followed, he became known as one of the pioneers of naval aviation, expending his energies in the development of better naval aircraft for the nation’s fledgling naval air arm. Commissioned as naval constructor (known today as an Aviation Engineering Duty Officer), with the rank of LCDR, on June 6, 1922 and given his naval observer’s wings on July 22 of the same year, Webster was detached from his duty in Washington on September 25, 1925 for “duty involving flying” at the Naval Aircraft Factory in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, PA where he arrived on November 2, 1925.
He subsequently returned to Washington in the summer of 1929 for another tour in the Bureau of Aeronautics. Subsequently taking instruction at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, FL, in heavier-than-air flight from October 30, 1933 to June 20, 1934, Webster went briefly to the Bureau of Aeronautics once more from October 26 to November19, before he became Force Materiel Officer on the staff of RADM H. V. Butler, Commander, Aircraft, Battle Force, on December 21, 1934.
CAPT Webster later became manager of the Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF) at Philadelphia, reporting for duty on June 25, 1936, a post in which he served until his detachment on June 24, 1940.
After another brief Washington tour, Webster resumed his duties as manager of the Naval Aircraft Factory on December 26, 1941, less than a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While serving in that post, CAPT Webster was killed in a plane crash outside of Chester, PA, on March 16, 1943.
The aircraft repair ship USS WEBSTER (ARV-2) was named in his honor.