Charles E. Tolman—born on 25 June 1903 at Concord, Massachusetts—entered the United States Naval Academy in the summer of 1921 and was graduated on 4 June 1925. After serving in battleship Utah (BB 31), he was transferred to Worden (DD 288) in 1926. Tolman then completed training courses at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode Island and at the Submarine Base, New London, Conn. He served in submarines O-4 in 1928 and S-22 from 1929 to 1932 when he returned to the Naval Academy for two years. Tolman served in submarine S-46 in 1934 and commanded S-30 from April 1935 to May 1937. He was attached to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations for 17 months before assuming command of Spearfish (SS 190) on 7 October 1939. In January 1941, Tolman joined the staff of Commander, Submarines, Atlantic Fleet.

Comdr. Tolman became the commanding officer of De Haven (DD 469) upon her commissioning on 21 September 1942. The destroyer steamed to the South Pacific in November 1942 and supported operations in the Solomon Islands. On the afternoon of 1 February 1943, while escorting landing craft, De Haven was attacked by six Japanese dive bombers. Fighting off the attackers, the destroyer splashed three enemy planes before a bomb struck her navigating bridge, stopped her, and killed Comdr. Tolman. Two more hits and a near miss doomed De Haven, which sank within two minutes. Comdr. Tolman was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his valiant leadership.