Contemporary Press Report: September 20, 2001
As director of the current operations and plans branch of the Navy Command Center, Captain Gerald F. DeConto, 44, was organizing the Navy's response to the World Trade Center attack when he died in the crash at the Pentagon.
The weekend before he died, DeConto drove his green Ford Explorer — with the license tag “FISH79,” for his nickname at the U.S. Naval Academy — to a family reunion at his brother's home in East Lyme, Connecticut. The family ate clam chowder, sausage and flank steaks and played badminton and basketball.
DeConto accompanied his mother back to Sandwich, Massachusetts, the seaside town on Cape Cod where he was a high school soccer star, and left for Alexandria Monday afternoon. That night, he sent an e-mail to his mother telling her he had arrived safely. She had just opened an e-mail account, and it was the first — and last — message she would receive from her son.
“We're so lucky we had that weekend all together,” Patricia DeConto said.
Gerald DeConto, who was divorced and had no children, stayed in close touch with his mother, two brothers and two sisters. He enjoyed sailing, running with his two dogs, and giving his brothers pointers about coaching soccer.
The son of a schoolteacher and town building inspector, DeConto received a physics degree from the Naval Academy, where he played rugby, in 1979. He reported to the USS Excel as a damage control assistant, later serving as engineering officer and executive officer. He became operations officer on the USS Fresno in 1982.
He attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, from 1984 to 1986, receiving a master's degree in mechanical engineering. He was chief engineer on the USS Hewitt from 1986 to 1989 and was then an aide to the assistant chief of naval operations for surface warfare. He was named executive officer on the USS Lake Erie in 1991.
DeConto was assistant operations officer for Carrier Group 7 from 1994 to 1997. He then received a master's degree in national security and strategic studies at the Naval War College. He was commanding officer of the USS Simpson from 1998 to 2000 and chief of staff for the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean from April 2000 until May.
He had been named recently to his new post. But what he really wanted was to lead his own ship again, his mother said: “Once they're captain, they're never satisfied with another job. That's what he was waiting for.”
Gerald F. Deconto
A funeral mass has been scheduled for Friday, 2 Nov 2001 at 1000 in the USNA chapel. Interment at Arlington will follow the same day at 1300. After the interment, there will be a reception at Ft Myer (not sure where yet) from 1400-1600.
There will be a parking plan for both services. As soon as we know it, we'll pass it on. For now, expect to park in Annapolis in the stadium parking lot and shuttles will take us into the yard. The buses are supposed to begin running at 9AM. There will be similar arrangements made to get everyone into Ft Myer/Arlington. When we know what and where that plan is, we'll pass it on too.
One thing I need is a head count for the reception. If you think you can attend, let me know. If you think you can but aren't sure yet, that's okay. We just need a ballpark number. I need to do this fairly soon, so let me know as soon as you can. You can respond via e-mail or call me if that's easier.
If you are coming in from out of town and need help with hotels, we may also be able to help. Lieutenant Kelly Ward, the Deconto's CACO during this ordeal, has made arrangements with an Annapolis hotel (Comfort Inn, I think) to give anyone with the Deconto party a $128 rate room for $68. Let me know if you want in on that. Also, there are many classmates in the area and some classmates in the yard who may also have floor space.
Also, please remember that memorial donations for Fish's Honor Chair in Alumni Hall can be made on the Alumni association web site at www.usna.com. Just click on the memorial section. If you make a donation, make sure you specify that it is for the Capt Gerald F. Deconto USN, Class of 1979 Honor Chair.
Gerald F. DeConto As Midshipman
United States Naval Academy
Gerald F. Deconto
Home of Record: Sandwich, Massachusetts
Commissioned: United States Naval Academy, May 30, 1979
Date of Rank: September 1, 2000
Designator: Surface Warfare Officer
USS Excel (MSO 439) — 07/79 – 07/79
Surface Warfare Officer Schools Command, Detachment, Coronado, California — 07/79 – 11/79
USS Excel (MSO 439) — 11/79 – 02/82
USS Fresno (LST 1182) — 02/82 – 01/84
Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif. — 01/84 – 04/86
Surface Warfare Officer Schools Command, Newport, R.I. — 04/86 – 12/86
USS Hewitt (DD 966) — 12/86 – 07/89
Chief of Naval Operations — 07/89 – 08/91
USS Lake Erie (CG 70) — 11/91 – 02/94
Commander Carrier Group SEVEN — 02/94 – 03/97
Naval War College, Newport, R.I. — 03/97 – 03/98
USS Simpson (FFG 56) — 08/98 – 04/00
Standing Naval Force Mediterranean — 04/00 – 05/01v
Chief of Naval Operations — 06/01 –
Awards and Decorations:
Meritorious Service Medal (3),
Navy and Marine Corps CommendationMedal (2),
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (1),
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation,
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Navy “E” Ribbon, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon,
National Defense Service Medal
NOTE: Captain DeConto was laid to rest in Section 64 of Arlington National Cemetery, in the shadows of the Pentagon.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard