Joseph Wallace Oman

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Joseph Wallace Oman
Born 15 August 1864
Lightstreet, Pennsylvania
Died 1 Jul 1941
London, England
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch Seal of the United States Department of the Navy.svg United States Navy
Years of service 1886–1921
Rank Rear Admiral
Commands held USS Mariveles
USS Leviathan
Battles/wars Spanish–American War
Philippine–American War
World War I
Awards Navy Cross

Joseph Wallace Oman (1864–1941) was a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy and veteran of the Spanish–American War, the Philippine–American War, and World War I. He is a recipient of the Navy Cross. He was also the Governor of the United States Virgin Islands from 1919 to 1921.


Oman was born in Lightstreet, Pennsylvania, 15 August 1864, the son of Henry Freas Oman and Mary Jane Shannon. In 1908 he married at St. Agnes Chapel in New York City, Virginia Center Morse, daughter of William Henry Morse and Sarah Virginia Center, and granddaughter of Alexander Jenkins Center, Vice President of the Panama Railway. Joseph Wallace and Virginia had four children: Virginia (died in infancy); Joseph Wallace Jr, William Morse Oman, and Virginia Morse Oman. He died 1 July 1941 in London, England. He and his wife are buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA.

He entered the United States Naval Academy in 1882 and graduated 4th in his class of 1886. He was commissioned as an Ensign in 1888 and promoted to Lieutenant, Junior Grade in 1896. During the Philippine–American War, he co.mmanded the gunboat Mariveles. In 1909, he was promoted to Commander. He was promoted to Captain of the Boston Navy Yard in 1914 and served there until 1914.

In July 1917, Captain Oman was given command of the former German ship, the SS Vaterland, now claimed by the United States. The Vaterland was in 1914 the largest passenger ship in the world and by the war it was still one of the largest. Two months later, the ship was re-christened as the USS Leviathan and was used as a troop transport. During the war, Captain Oman successfully avoided submarine patrols, despite the vessel's huge size, and managed to deliver nearly 120,000 American troops before the end of the war. For these efforts, Oman was awarded the Navy Cross and promoted to Rear Admiral in 1918.

From 1919 until his retirement from the Navy in 1921, Oman served as the military Governor of the United States Virgin Islands. He is credited as having one of the most efficiently running of the early colonial governments and the island prospered, largely thanks to exports of rum. Following his retirement, he eventually moved to London, where he died in 1941.

See also[edit]


  • ADMIRAL J. W. OMAN. Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Jul 3, 1941. pg. 19, 1 pgs

External links[edit]

Preceded by
James Harrison Oliver
Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands
Succeeded by
Sumner Ely Wetmore Kittelle