Dudley Allen Payton was born July 24, 1895 in Middlesex, VA to Albert Payton and Juillie Burrell. He was raised as a Baptist. Mr. Payton’s highest level education completed was finishing school. He was a registered voter but he did not vote. He was an unemployed student before he joined the war effort. He joined Navy as a Mess Attendant on Oct. 20, 1913 on Norfolk, Va. Mr. Payton was single when he joined the military.
His first duty station was on the USS Mississippi in 1913. The Mississippi was built in 1913 and decommissioned in August 1956. The ship’s main purpose, during World War I, was training. The Navy used the training exercises to help work up the troops. The training was only held in North American waters. By the beginning of 1914, Mr. Payton was stationed on the USS Franklin. The Franklin was also a training ship built in 1867 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia and it was decommissioned in 1916. After not even a year on board ship, he was transferred to the USS North Carolina in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The North Carolina was built in 1905 and decommissioned in 1922. On 5 November 1915, it became the first ship in US Naval history to launch an aircraft by catapult while underway. This experimental launch led to the use of catapults on battleships and cruisers through War World I and to the steam catapults on present-day aircraft carriers. After his transfer to Plymouth, Mr. Payton would move around Europe quite a bit. From Plymouth, his ship sailed to Cherbourg, France. During his time in France, he would learn how to read and write French. He left France and headed to Brindisi, Italy. There is no record of his duties while in Italy. He would later travel to Alexandria, Egypt to receive more training. After Egypt, Mr. Payton moved to Constantinople, Turkey on the USS Scorpion, a gunboat.
While in Turkey, Mr. Payton, along with fifty-five other enlisted and three officers, were captured and taken prisoner in April 1917. They were taken prisoner because they did not clear Turkish waters in the time they were allotted. After his release, he received a ribbon for Prisoner of War from General Hamilton in 1918. In 1919, he wrote a short letter detailing some of his experience while being a prisoner of war. He felt like they were treated pretty well for POWs. Three of the crew members were allowed to go to ashore every four days. As a group, they were allowed to go ashore once every ten weeks, with three guards and an interpreter. The crew was also allowed to have football games and took visits to the dentist. They were also allowed to have daily newspapers and books. After his release, Mr. Payton transfered to the AM 38 Auk.
The Auk was a mine sweeping vessel. The Auk, along with several other mine sweepers, had the task of sweeping the coast of Scotland to Norway. There were an estimated 55,000 mines in the waters they patrolled. During his tour on the Auk, he received a ribbon from Captain G. C. Cullen. Ironically, in 1937, the Auk struck a mine in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, where it sunk. On November 18, 1919, the AM 38 Auk arrived in the New York harbor.
Just under a month later, Mr. Payton was discharged from the Navy in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on December 6, 1919. He was discharged from the Navy with the rank and rate of a 1st Class Wardroom Steward. He returned to military service and continued to serve for thirty-two years. He eventually moved to U’rbanna, Virginia, which is close to his place of birth, where he died at the age of 87 on September 17, 1982. He is buried in Hermitage Memorial Park. He was married to Mrs. Geneva Payton and they had no children.
Bauer, Jack K. and Roberts, Stephens S.. Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy 1775-1990: Major Combatants. New York: Greenwood Press. 1991.
Breyer, Siegfried . Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905-1970. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1973.
Davis, Noel. Sweeping the North Sea Mine Barrage. United States Navy, 1919.
“Dudley Allen Payton,” World War I History Commission Questionnaires, Library of Virginia.
“Obituaries,” Virginia Chronicle. September 23, 1982.
Terrell Floyd is a history major at Norfolk State University.