Midway’s 3 Lorton Brothers

Hello everyone! Welcome back to “Karl’s Korner”, a historical segment written by myself, Karl Zingheim – Ship Historian of the USS Midway Museum!

We love staying connected to all of the sailors who served aboard Midway during her active time. We often are the location to reunions, welcoming Midway Sailors back to their ship – and take all opportunities to stay connected through tools such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

We were recently contacted by a Midway Veteran with a very unique story about his time onboard…

Early 1960s

Back in the 1960s Midway was home to three officer brothers, Bob, Jack, and Bill Lorton. Hailing from the Bay Area, they were close enough in age they were able to attend Stanford together when Bill entered as a freshman. In fact, all three brothers played on the university’s water polo team with future Midway docent Pete Pettigrew! Bob decided to delay his graduation by a year so that Bill could play on the team as a sophomore. In the meantime, their older brother Paul, who had been drafted into the Army, advised them that military service would be better with a commission, so Bob and Jack, who were now in the same graduating class, signed on for Navy Officer Candidate School (OCS) “to see the world” in 1962.

Seeking duty in the Bay area, Bob and Jack requested duty on a carrier out of Alameda. The Navy accepted their requests and ordered Bob to the Oriskany at North Island and Jack to the Fleet Operations Control Center in Hawaii. As the brothers were getting accustomed to how the Bureau of Personnel (BuPers) worked, Bob learned that his OCS roommate also had orders to the Midway in Alameda. Since he was from the East Coast, one West Coast carrier was as good as another, so Bob swapped orders. The Navy permitted siblings to serve on the same ship, but Jack wanted to see how things worked out in Oahu before committing to join his brother on the Midway.

Bob reported aboard in the summer of 1963 and discovered the Executive Officer, Commander D. H. Stinemates, had a daughter in a swim class coached by Bob. The XO gave him his choice of assignment, and Bob chose the Deck Department. The Midway was visiting Hawaii when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and became the senior ship in Pearl Harbor rendering honors during the President’s funeral. Bob caught up with Jack and learned that they had his younger brother read the news on the Command’s television station Monday through Friday, and then he taught himself to surf on weekends. Before the Midway completed the deployment, Bob detached temporarily to join San Francisco’s Olympic Club Water Polo team to compete in the 1964 Olympic tryouts. He rejoined Jack who was now assigned to Treasure Island, and also teamed up with Bill who was about to enter OCS himself. Bob and Jack arranged to swear Bill in. Their team was eliminated in the tryouts, and the day after, Jack received a call from Bu Pers asking if he was still interested in reporting to the Midway with his brother. New orders soon followed and there were two Lorton brothers on the Midway.

Jack was initially assigned to the XO’s office as the Assistant Public Information Officer, but after six months, he asked Commander Robert Gallatin for a more substantive assignment, and he became the new Electrical Division Officer in Engineering. The next cruise was the Midway’s first combat deployment since her commissioning twenty years before, to Vietnam. Before long, brother Bill, having completed OCS, reported aboard and drew an assignment in the Weapons Department. The three Lorton brothers saw through the ship’s sole combat cruise of the 1960s when the Midway returned to Alameda just in time for Thanksgiving. The ship was due to start her reconstruction at Hunter’s Point after the holidays, and the three brothers needed to move on. Bob and Jack were nearing the end of their service obligations, so they drew temporary assignments in San Franscisco. Bill, now married, received orders to the National Laboratories in Sandia, New Mexico. The three brothers eventually returned to civilian life, Bob entered education, Jack became a stockbroker, and Bill worked for IBM. On a cold Mid-watch on the Midway’s Quarterdeck on New Year’s Eve, Ensign Bill Lorton penned a traditional log entry in verse. Speaking as the ship, he ended his poem with these stanzas:

Sixty five was the year
I fought the long war,
Rest in sixty six
Is mine by the shore.
Now to rest and to sleep
With dreams that I hoard,
Nineteen sixty six
I welcome aboard.

It is with great pleasure that I share this story with all of you. Like, share & leave a comment below if you served on the USS Midway – or know anyone who has!

Thank you for reading, look out for more next month!

Launch em’… until next time,