The Man of the Month
are introducing in this issue this new feature which we hope
will meet with the approval of our readers and serve to them
Our “Man of this Month,” to start our feature off
to a good start is, appropriately, our Director, Admiral Leo
Otis Colbert, one of the Coast Survey’s most interesting
Admiral Colbert was born in Cambridge, Mass., and from early
childhood showed evidences of becoming quite an athlete and
a leader among men.
As a small boy and during his college days at Tufts, he indulged
in many sports and excelled in all in which he participated.
His athletic desires continued to obsess him even after his
marriage and it is related that after becoming a father his
life was such a busy one he could not find the time to any longer
indulge in competitive sports to his liking, so after completing
the usual chores of the family man when he returned home after
his daily work, he would limber up his muscles by jumping over
the furniture in his home, much to the discomfiture of Mrs.
During his active participation in competitive sports he accumulated
so many cups, vases, and various other trophies that it became
a burden for the Missus to move them while house cleaning and
they soon found their way to the attic.
However, with all his prowess as an athlete, there was one sport
at which he was not so good – horseback riding. He had
never ridden until he first went to the Philippines, when at
the persuasion of Mrs. Colbert, he was induced to mount a horse,
but it seems he had considerable trouble in getting Dobbin to
start, stop and steer.
On his first trick of duty in Seattle he amused the natives
very much with his broad pronunciation of his “a’s”
and people would ask if he was an American or from Boston.
As busy as he usually is, now that the Survey has grown to a
major-sized organization under his direction, he manages to
find time to shoot an occasional game of his favorite sport
–golf – and indulge his pet hobby of collecting
Since the beginning of the war, the Admiral has been such a
busy man with his constant contacts with the Army, Navy and
many other high officials, that it seems excusable if he has
at times forgotten to put on his necktie or failed to have his
car refueled - much to his embarrassment on discovering the
“The Buzzard,” Vol. IX, No. 23, pp. 1-2. June 4,
Rear Admiral Leo Otis Colbert,
entire professional career of over 42 years has been with the
U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, retired as Director effective
Friday, April 7, 1950.
in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Admiral received his early
education in the primary schools of Boston. He graduated from
Tufts College in 1907, with a degree in civil engineering
and in 1939 was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science
by that institution.
the service of the Coast Survey on July 1, 1907. Since then
his field assignments have included those of navigator, executive
officer, and commanding officer of the various Survey ships
operating in the coastal waters of the United States, Alaska,
and the Philippines, where he had received his first command
World War I, he was transferred to duty under the Navy Department
and served as Lieutenant Commander on the troop transport
USS NORTHERN PACIFIC, making nine voyages transporting troops
through the submarine zone between New York and Brest, France.
a certificate as Master of Steam Vessels, Unlimited Tonnage,
Any Ocean, issued by the U.S. Steamboat Inspection Service
in April 1920.
Director of Coast Surveys of the Philippine Islands at Manila
from 1928 to 1930.
his service as Chief of the Division of Charts in the Washington
office from 1933 to 1938 the Coast Survey completed 87 aeronautical
charts and started other series of special charts for long
has passed through a most important period of its existence
during the 12 years that he has served as Director. He directed
with energy and imagination the activities of the Bureau during
its greatly expanded war program.
Colbert is a member of many professional and scientific organizations,
including the advisory council of the Department of Civil
Engineering, Princeton University, American Society of Civil
Engineers, and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine
Engineers. He is a director of the Society of Military Engineers,
a trustee of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a life
trustee of the National Geographic Society.
Colbert's last day in his office was marked by a constant
stream of friends entering to wish him a long and happy retirement.
A delegation from the Chart Division presented him with a
coffee table made from an original copper plate engraving
of a nautical chart which was current about the middle of
the nineteenth century, and a plastic bas-relief made from
one of his pictures by the method developed to make scale
Adams presided at the testimonial gathering held in the Auditorium
at 4:00 p.m. on Friday. The occasion was highlighted by the
presentation to Admiral Colbert of the Department of Commerce's
Distinguished Service Ribbon and Citation by Secretary Admiral
Colbert was also presented with a book of signatures of Coast
Survey employees by Admiral Adams, a watch by Mr. Barnette,
from the Washington Office of the Coast Survey, and a silver
service by Commander Rittenburg, from the Association of Field
Engineers. Admiral Colbert's host of friends are unanimous
in their wish for continuing happiness, good health, and prosperity
during his retirement.
Buzzard Vol. 18, No. 15, 4/11/1950
Admiral Leo Otis Colbert,
Director of the Coast and Geodetic Survey from
1938 to 1950, died December 24, 1968, at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
He would have been 85 on December 31, 1968.
Colbert served with the Coast and Geodetic Survey for nearly
43 years. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1883,
and entered the Coast Survey in 1907, soon after receiving his
degree in civil engineering from Tufts College. He was awarded
the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by Tufts in 1938. He
served on several Survey ships in waters of the U.S. and Philippines,
and in 1917 was one of the original 119 officers commissioned
in the Coast and Geodetic Survey. He was transferred to the
Navy for the next 2 years and saw duty on a troop transport.
After a tour in Coast and Geodetic Survey headquarters, he was
Director of Coast Surveys in the Philippines from 1928 to 1930.
He was Chief of the Charts Division in Washington for 4 years
prior to his appointment as Director in 1938.
Colbert was a member of many professional societies, including
the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Geophysical
Union, American Society of Photogrammetry, Society of American
Military Engineers, Institute of Navigation, and the American
Shore and Beach Preservation Society. He was a Fellow of the
Arctic Institute of North America, a life trustee of the National
Geographic Society and an honorary trustee of Woods Hole Oceanographic
Colbert was buried on December 27, 1968, at Baltimore National
Cemetery. Survivors include Mrs. Colbert; and two daughters,
Mrs. Raphael A. Neal, of Newhall, California, and Mrs. William
L. Doonan, of Kensington, Maryland.
ESSA Corps Bulletin, 1/1/1969