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Captain Walter J. Chovan (February 22, 1900 - February 10, 1985)was born February 22, 1900, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering on May 13, 1925. After his graduation, he was appointed as a Deck Officer on July 27, 1925, and was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey on August 11, 1926.

During Captain Chovan's 34-year career, he was assigned aboard the LYDONIA, EXPLORER, DISCOVERER, SURVEYOR, PIONEER, and PATHFINDER as Executive Officer; PARKER as Commanding Officer; the HYDROGRAPHER as Executive Officer; and at the time of his retirement (March 1, 1959) as Commanding Officer. His other assignments included wire drag party, air photo compilation, triangulation and the Southern District Headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana as supervisor.

On February 24, 1942, Captain Chovan was transferred to the service and jurisdiction of the Navy Department. While serving with the Navy he was given a temporary promotion to Lieutenant Commander and later to Commander. On February 17, 1945, he returned to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. While with the Navy, Captain Chovan was aboard the PATHFINDER, which served in the South Pacific. The ship was commended for its assistance on April 7, 1943, when a heavy air attack was made by the Japanese on U.S. ships in the Solomon Island area. The PATHFINDER was in the area at the time. In commenting on this action the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet stated:

"The performance of PATHFINDER on April 7 is noteworthy. Preceding the attack, this vessel was conducting survey operations off Berande Point, Guadalcanal. Despite warning of approaching planes and the departure of most of our large ships from the area, her personnel continued hydrography until enemy planes were near. Leaving her ships's boats with one quarter of the crew at their assigned survey duties, the commanding officer then went to maximum speed and maneuvered close aboard AARON WARD. Two planes dived her and were shot down. Her boats brought off wounded from AARON WARD who were cared for on board during the night. Early next morning these men were disembarked by hospitalization and at 0700, April 8 local time 'the ship resumed its survey operations.' It is a pleasure to report on the efficient business-like conduct of duty under fire of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey ship operating under my command."

He was awarded the American Defense Service Medal, the American Area Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the Victory Medal for the period of December 7, 1941 to February 23, 1942. Captain Chovan is survived by his wife of 57 years, Almeda K. and one daughter, Janet C. Davis.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.
Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:27 AM

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