Born in Athens, Ohio, on Jan. 31, 1877, John Rudolph Slattery graduated fifth in the West Point Class of 1900. After graduation, Slattery was assigned to the Philippines to work on bridges and roads – a typical beginning for an engineer officer. Honolulu District's first District Engineer, Lt. Slattery, arrived in Honolulu in November 1904 because Hawaii had been found "woefully deficient" in lighthouses.
Within 12 months, Slattery was unofficially designated the Honolulu District Engineer.
On April 15, 1905, Slattery opened the first Honolulu Engineer District office on Bishop Street. His duties had grown to include acquiring land for military fortifications, improving Hawaii’s harbors and expanding the Corps’ service to other Pacific islands.