- Captain, USN
James E. Connerton Jr. was born in Newport, Rhode Island. Jim graduated from Rogers High School in Newport, where he participated in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Program (JROTC) and was a member of Rogers High School undefeated Rifle Team. Jim was an outstanding student and entered the University of Rhode Island with the class of 1958 majoring in Engineering. He was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity and participated in the Army ROTC Program during his freshman and sophomore years.
In June 1958, Jim graduated from URI with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Mathematics. Shortly after graduation, he entered the U.S. Navy through the Aviation Officer Candidate Program at Pensacola, Florida. Aviation Cadet Connerton completed pre-flight training and was commissioned an Ensign and assigned to the U.S. Navy Air Station, Saufley, Florida, for primary flight training. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Gold Naval Flight Officer Wings.
Ensign Connerton was assigned to Glynco, Georgia, to attend the Combat Information Center Course with a follow-on assignment in Argentia, Newfoundland with the Airborne Early Warning Squadron 11 (VAW-11), nicknamed the “Early Elevens.” The mission of this unit was two-fold. First, as an airborne early warning squadron, its mission was to provide services to fleet forces and shore warning networks under all weather conditions. Secondly, the squadron was responsible for combat air patrol and anti-submarine warfare missions.
Lieutenant Commander Connerton then attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering Electronics. As a Lieutenant Commander and Commander, Connerton served at various staff levels within the United States and Southeast Asia. He served as the Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance project officer at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, Virginia. Upon completion of that assignment, he deployed to Southeast Asia, the first of two combat tours, aboard the USS Constellation CV-64 as a member of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Wing 11 in April 1967.
Lieutenant Commander Connerton and Wing 11 had the mission to detect aircraft and ships at long range and perform command and control of the battle space, direct fighters toward unidentified or hostel targets, provide vectors for bombing strikes and serve as a command platform for search and rescue missions. The USS Constellation operated off the North Vietnam coast. Reflecting the intensive nature of air operations, four MIGs were short down in aerial combat. The eight-month deployment ended in December, having totaled losses of 16 aircraft and 20 personnel, including 7 KIAs and 8 POWs.
Lieutenant Commander Connerton began his next deployment aboard the USS Constellation to the western Pacific and Vietnam on 29 May 1968. The USS Constellation returned to homeport in January 1969, after flying more than 11,000 combat and support missions and dropping almost 20,000 tons of ordnance.
His next assignment was as aide and flag secretary to Commander, Antisubmarine Warfare Group FOUR aboard the USS Intrepid CV-11. This assignment was followed by an assignment as instructor of electrical engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. Captain Connerton subsequently served in various senior level command and staff positions: Commanding the Airborne Early Warning Squadron-125 aboard USS John F. Kennedy. He was the Executive Assistant to the Commander, Naval Electronics System Command and served as Commander, Airborne Early Warning Wing 12. He directed the Atlantic Fleet Command Center and served his final tour at the Naval Air Systems Command in Washington, DC.
Captain Connerton retired from the United States Navy on 1 September 1998 after thirty years of honorable service to our country. He was awarded the Joint Meritorious Service Medal by Admiral T. B. Hayward, Chief of Naval Operations which stated: “Captain Connerton’s sound leadership, astute guidance and exemplary devotion to duty reflect great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Captain James E. Connerton died from cancer on 6 November 2006. His awards include the Joint Meritorious Service Medal, two Meritorious Service Medals, seven Strike/Flight Air Medals, the Navy Achievement Medal and the Navy Unit Commendation as well as theater medals and ribbons for Vietnam service.
Captain James Connerton was a long-standing member of the URI Foundation and URI Alumni Association and one of the strongest supporters of the University of Rhode Island Washington, DC, Alumni Chapter, serving as Vice President for over 10 years. James was selected to represent URI President Robert L. Carothers at the inauguration of the President of American University. He was an outstanding leader who set the example and took the time to develop many young officers. Captain James E. Connerton was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.