USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides”
USS Constitution’s victories at sea during the War of 1812 inspired a nation and helped mark the emergence of the United States as a world-class maritime power. USS Constitution is crewed by a select group of active-duty U.S. Navy Sailors who share her story with visitors from around the world and continue the U.S. Navy’s tradition of service through community outreach.
The world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was commissioned on 25 November 1961 and completed 25 deployments during 51 years of service.
USS Houston, a Northampton-class light cruiser, was commissioned in June 1930. Originally designated (CL-30), she was reclassified as (CA-30) the following year. Becoming the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet in 1931, she served until November 1933 to depart and to protect U.S. interests in Chinese waters during conflict between China and Japan.
The fourth Missouri (BB-63) was laid down Jan. 6, 1941; launched Jan. 29, 1944; and commissioned June 11, 1944, with Capt. William M. Callaghan in command. The ship's sponsor was Margaret Truman, daughter of then-Senator from Missouri Harry S. Truman.
Born in battle, Missouri steamed to Iwo Jima to support invasion landings, participated in the bombardment of Okinawa and struck hard blows against the Japanese mainland. On Aug. 15, 1945, President Truman announced Japan’s acceptance of unconditional surrender. On Sept. 2, 1945, high ranking military officials of all the Allied Powers, to include Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, came aboard Missouri to meet Japanese representatives for a 23-minute surrender ceremony that was broadcasted around the world.
Although most remember Missouri as the symbolic end of World War II, she was a highly decorated battleship that earned eight battle stars during her service to the nation—three during World War II and five during the Korean War. Missouri was also the first battleship to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraqi targets at the commencement of Operation Desert Storm.
The seventh Enterprise (CV-6) was laid down July 16, 1934; launched Oct. 3, 1936; and commissioned May 12, 1938, with Captain Newton H. White in command. The ship’s sponsor was Lulie H. Swanson, wife of former Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson.
Enterprise was the most decorated warship of World War II earning 20 Battle Stars—three more than any other ship. In addition, Enterprise was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Unit Commendation becoming the only carrier awarded both the PUC and NUC for service in WWII. On Nov. 23, 1945, Enterprise was awarded the British Admiralty Pennant making her the only ship awarded the prestigious decoration outside the Royal Navy. Notable battles include Battle of the Eastern Solomons; Battle of Santa Cruz Islands; Naval Battle of Guadalcanal; Battle of Midway; Battle of Leyte Gulf; and Battle of the Philippine Sea.
Of the more than twenty major actions of the Pacific War, Enterprise engaged in all but two. Her planes and guns downed 911 enemy planes; her bombers sank 71 ships, and damaged or destroyed 192 more. Her presence inspired pride for the Allies and sparked fear into the heart of the enemy.
The New Orleans-class cruiser San Francisco (CA-38), the second U.S. Navy ship named for the city of San Francisco, was laid down on Sept. 9, 1931, at the Mare Island Navy Yard Vallejo, California. She was launched on March 9, 1933, sponsored by Barbara M. Bailly, and commissioned on Feb. 10, 1934, with Capt. Royal E. Ingersoll in command.
San Francisco and her crew would become one of the most decorated warships of World War II earning 17 Battle Stars, Presidential Unit Citation, four Medals of Honor, 21 Silver Stars and 32 Navy Crosses. Notable battles include: Battle of Cape Esperance; Naval Battle of Guadalcanal; Assault and Occupation of Guam; Marshall Islands Operations; and Okinawa Operations Assault and Occupation.
San Francisco’s participation in World War II spanned from beginning to end—from the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, where she remained undamaged, to the facilitation of the surrender of Japanese naval forces in Korea in 1945.
USS Cole (DDG-67) is an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyer homeported in Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. Cole is named in honor of Marine Sergeant Darrell S. Cole, a machine-gunner killed in action on Iwo Jima on 19 February 1945, during World War II. Cole is one of 62 authorized Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, and one of 21 members of the Flight I-class that utilized the 5 in (130 mm)/54 caliber gun mounts found on the earliest of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The ship was built by Ingalls Shipbuilding and was delivered to the Navy on 11 March 1996.
USS Pueblo (AGER-2) is a Banner-class environmental research ship, attached to Navy intelligence as a spy ship, which was attacked and captured by North Korean forces on 23 January 1968, in what is known today as the "Pueblo incident" or alternatively, as the "Pueblo crisis".
The seizure of the U.S. Navy ship and her 83 crew members, one of whom was killed in the attack, came less than a week after President Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union address to the United States Congress, a week before the start of the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and three days after 31 men of North Korea's KPA Unit 124 had crossed the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and killed 26 South Koreans in an attempt to attack the South Korean Blue House (executive mansion) in the capital Seoul. The taking of Pueblo and the abuse and torture of her crew during the subsequent 11-month prisoner drama became a major Cold War incident, raising tensions between the western democracies, and the Soviet Union and China.
North Korea stated that Pueblo deliberately entered their territorial waters 7.6 nautical miles (14 km) away from Ryo Island, and that the logbook shows that they intruded several times. However, the United States maintains that the vessel was in international waters at the time of the incident and that any purported evidence supplied by North Korea to support its statements was fabricated.
Pueblo, still held by North Korea today, officially remains a commissioned vessel of the United States Navy. Since early 2013, the ship has been moored along the Potong River in Pyongyang, and used there as a museum ship at the Pyongyang Victorious War Museum. Pueblo is the only ship of the U.S. Navy still on the commissioned roster currently being held captive.
The first Texas was laid down on 1 June 1889; launched on 28 June 1892; and commissioned on 15 August 1895, with Capt. Henry Glass in command. The ship’s sponsor was Miss Madge Houston Williams.
Texas was the first ship built in honor of the state of Texas and was constructed in reaction to the acquisition of modern armored warships by several South American countries. Although building Texas was lengthy and she was plagued by several accidents early in her career, Texas, along with her sister ship, Maine I, were considered advancements in American naval design.
In spring 1898, war between the U.S. and Spain had erupted over conditions in Cuba and the destruction of Maine in Havana Harbor. On 21 May 1898, Texas arrived off Cienfuegos, Cuba, to blockade the Cuban coast. She patrolled off Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo Bay until 16 June, when the warship joined Marblehead II for the bombardment of Cayo del Tore in Guantanamo Bay. In about an hour and 15 minutes, the ships reduced the fort to insignificance.
The second Thresher (SSN-593) was laid down on 28 May 1958 by the Portsmouth (NH) Naval Shipyard, launched on 9 July 1960, sponsored by Mrs. Frederick B. Warder, and commissioned on 3 August 1961, Commander Dean W. Axene in command. Following trials, the nuclear attack submarine took part in Nuclear Submarine Exercise (NUSUBEX) 3-61 off the northeastern coast of the United States from 18 to 24 September 1961.
In company with Skylark (ASR-20), Thresher put to sea on 10 April 1963 for deep-diving exercises. In addition to her 16 officers and 96 enlisted men, the submarine carried 17 civilian technicians. Fifteen minutes after reaching her assigned test depth, the submarine communicated with Skylark by underwater telephone, apprizing the submarine rescue ship of difficulties. Listeners in Skylark heard a noise “like air rushing into an air tank”─ then, silence.
Efforts to reestablish contact with Thresher failed, and a search group was formed in an attempt to locate the submarine. Rescue ship Recovery (ASR-43) subsequently recovered bits of debris, including gloves and bits of internal insulation. Photographs taken by Bathyscaph Trieste proved that the submarine had broken up, taking all hands on board to their deaths. Thresher was officially declared lost in April 1963.
S.P. 1128 (Section Patrol, 1917-1920), later AT-54 (Auxiliary Fleet Tug, 1920-1921); displacement 420 (net); length 170'; beam 29'; draft 16'; speed 13 knots; complement 38; armament as built one 3-inch gun mount, war time armament 2 machine guns; class Conestoga
Conestoga was laid down in 1903 by the Maryland Steel Company at Sparrows Point, Maryland. She was officially launched on 12 November 1904 in Baltimore, Maryland. Prior to her naval service, Conestoga towed coal barges for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. She was acquired by the Navy on 14 September 1917 for use as a fleet tender and mine sweeper and assigned the identification number S.P. 1128. Conestoga was commissioned on 10 November 1917 with Lt. (j.g.) Carl Olsen, USNRF, in command.
Assigned to the Submarine Force and fitted out for distant service at Philadelphia, Conestoga carried out towing duties along the Atlantic coast, transported supplies and guns, escorted convoys to Bermuda and the Azores, and operated with the American Patrol Detachment in the vicinity of the Azores. At the end of the war, she was attached to Naval Base No. 13 (Azores), from which she towed disabled ships and escorted convoys until her arrival at New York on 26 September 1919. Assigned to harbor tug duty in the Fifth Naval District at Norfolk, Virginia, she was formally classified as a fleet tug, AT-54, on 17 July 1920 during the fleet-wide assignment of alphanumeric identification numbers.
Ordered to duty as a station ship at Tutuila, American Samoa, Conestoga underwent alterations and fitting out at Norfolk, and cleared Hampton Roads on 18 November 1920. She departed Norfolk with U.S. Navy Coal Barge YC 468 under tow. Reaching San Diego, California on 7 January 1921, she continued on to Mare Island, California on 17 February for voyage repairs, including work on her faulty bilge system. Conestoga, with Lt. Ernest L. Jones in command, three officers, and a crew of 52 men, then departed Mare Island on 25 March 1921 at 0900, bound for American Samoa by way of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She never arrived to her destination.
On 26 April 1921, it became evident that Conestoga was overdue in her arrival to Pearl Harbor despite miscommunication on April 6 that she had arrived safely. She was expected to arrive sometime near April 5, therefore officials presumed she had wrecked. A thorough search by ships and aircraft, utilizing the fleet at Pearl Harbor, off the Hawaiian Islands failed to locate either men or wreckage from Conestoga, leading the Commandant of the Fourteenth Naval District to conclude in a dispatch: "No trace of tug. Loss probable."
The steamship Senator came across a derelict lifeboat with a brass letter “C” on its bow on 17 May 1921 at 18º15' N, 115º42' W, some 650 miles west of Manzanillo, Mexico, and about 30 miles off Clarion Island. Although the lifeboat was found hundreds of miles away from the actual wreck location, currents could have pushed wreckage debris south. The identification number obtained from derelict vessel, M5535 B, did not match Navy Department records. The wreckage of the small boat was not recovered.
After her loss, reports came in that a garbled radio transmission from Conestoga was received on 8 April 1921. The transmission suggested that Conestoga was battling a severe storm and heavy seas, and that the tow she was possibly carrying was lost. If this story is true, it is likely that the transmission was replayed on 8 April but actually sent out sometime during her loss on 25 or 26 March.
Despite extensive search efforts, Conestoga was never found. Due to the delay in the report of her loss, officials looked over two thousand miles away from her actual sinking location. Navy officials retroactively declared Conestoga ’s loss on 30 June 1921, with all 56 souls aboard lost.
The Confederate submersible H. L. Hunley has the distinction of being the first submarine to sink an enemy warship in wartime. Although the boat and its crew were lost as a result of this endeavor, the success of their mission proved that this new style of naval warfare would be an inevitable course of future development.
Privately built in 1863 by Park and Lyons of Mobile, Alabama, with the financial backing of Horace Lawson Hunley, the submarine was constructed from rolled iron boiler plate with custom cast iron fittings. It was powered by a hand crank operated by a crew of seven, with an eighth member to pilot the boat. Each end was equipped with water ballast tanks that could be flooded by valves or pumped dry by hand pumps. With many of the features that would become standard in later submarines, including diving planes and raised conning towers, the boat is a prime example of the American technological ingenuity that characterized the Civil War period.
On 17 February 1864, after months of practice runs and weather delays, the Confederate submarine, under cover of darkness, silently approached USS Housatonic, a 16-gun, 1,240-ton sloop-of-war, on blockade duty four miles off the entrance to Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Carrying a torpedo packed with explosive black powder bolted to a 16-foot spar, H. L. Hunley rammed Housatonic below the water line, detonating the torpedo, tearing a hole in the Union ship’s hull and sending her to the bottom along with five of her crew. Hunley was not seen again for over a century.
The search for Hunley ended 131 years later when best-selling author Clive Cussler and his team from the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) discovered the submarine after a 14-year search. At the time of discovery, Cussler and NUMA were conducting this research in partnership with the South Carolina Institute of Anthropology and Archaeology (SCIAA). The team realized that they had found Hunley after exposing the forward hatch and the distinctive ventilator or snorkel box, used for refreshing the air inside. The submarine rested on its starboard side at about a 45-degree angle and was covered in an encrustation of ferrous oxide bonded with sand and shell particles. Probing revealed an approximate length of 34 feet with most, if not all, of the vessel preserved under the sediment.
The Pennsylvania-class battleship Arizona (BB-39) was launched 19 June 1915 at the New York Naval Shipyard, and commissioned to the United States Atlantic Fleet under the command of Captain J. D. McDonald on 17 October 1916. Arizona spent World War I patrolling the waters of the Northeast as part of Battleship Division 8 out of Norfolk, Virginia, where her fuel oil requirements would not tax the short supply in Britain. On 18 November 1918 Arizona made her first trip across the Atlantic Ocean from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to England. From there, she supported the escorting operations of George Washington who carried President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference. Arizona departed the Atlantic Fleet in 1921, and was transferred to the Pacific fleet where she found her new homeport in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During her time in the Pacific fleet, Arizona carried President Herbert Hoover to the West Indies and performed routine missions and training.
Arizona, as well as much of the Pacific Fleet, was in port when Pearl Harbor suffered a surprize attack by the Japanese on 7 December 1941, propelling the U.S. into World War II. During this raid, Arizona was hit by one torpedo and eight bombs, one of which passed through a magazine and lit cordite, causing an expansion of gases followed by a massive explosion. The ship quickly sank to the bottom of the harbor along with 1,177 of the 1,512 personnel on board, representing about half the total number of Americans killed that day. Click here for more images of Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
On November 2, 1820, the newly completed hull of the United States SchoonerAlligator slipped down the ways at Charlestown Navy Yard near Boston, Massachusetts. Alligator was one of five schooners built for the suppression of slavery and piracy during the presidency of James Monroe, and was based on a hull design developed by American naval architect William Doughty. Its hull had a steep deadrise, which, combined with the forward rake, made the vessel sharper and sleeker in the water and effectively eliminated the need for a centerboard. Despite its fine lines and relatively small size, Alligator was heavily built: frames were constructed of live oak; white oak comprised the hull planking and structural knees; and the treenails were carved from locust wood. The vessel's hull below the waterline was sheathed with copper. Shortly after its launch, Alligator was ballasted with approximately 19 tons of kentledge (iron ballast blocks or pigs). The newly constructed warship mounted a single 18-pounder high pivot gun and between ten and twelve 6-pounder carronades.
Alligator served a brief but remarkable naval career. Shortly after being commissioned in March 1821, the schooner sailed on its first assignment to the west coast of Africa. Alligator's commander, Lieutenant Robert F. Stockton, was tasked to suppress the African slave trade and select and acquire territory to resettle former slaves in their native continent
USS Cumberland was a full ship-rigged sailing sloop built at the Boston Navy Yard and launched in 1842. Cumberland began its career with the Mediterranean squadron serving as its flagship from 1843-1845. Captain S.L. Breese was its first commander and John A. Dahlgren served as an officer. It was during this cruise that Dahlgren studied and tested new shell guns and later designed a series of naval guns that were the most powerful and reliable of the period.
On 8 March 1862, Cumberland was on station in the James River. Its captain, William Radford was not on board and Lt. George U. Morris was in command. That afternoon, Virginia steamed into Hampton Roads to attack the Union blockade. Virginia headed straight for Cumberland, determining that the federal ship's rifled guns made it the most dangerous adversary of the blockading ships. The ironclad shrugged off Cumberland's fire and rammed a hole into the sloop. Lt. Morris later described the attack:
Virginia stood down toward us. We opened fire on her; she stood on and struck us under the starboard for channels; she delivered her fire at the same time; the destruction was great...at 3:35 p.m. the water had risen to the main hatchway, and the ship canted to port; we delivered a parting fire, each man trying to save himself by jumping overboard...all the wounded who could walk were ordered out...but those of the wounded who had been carried into the sick bay were so mangled that it was impossible to save them.
Cumberland went down with colors flying. One-hundred-and-twenty-one of its crew were killed in the battle.
In 1862, John Laird Sons and Company of Liverpool, England built the screw sloop-of-war CSS Alabama for the Confederate States of America. Launched asEnrica, the vessel was fitted out as a cruiser and commissioned as CSSAlabama on 24 August 1862. Under Captain Raphael Semmes, Alabama spent the next two months capturing and burning ships in the North Atlantic and intercepting American grain ships bound for Europe. Continuing its path of destruction through the West Indies, Alabama sank USS Hatteras near Galveston, Texas, and captured its crew. After visiting Cape Town, South Africa, Alabama sailed for the East Indies where it spent the next six months cruising for enemy shipping. While there, the formidable commerce raider destroyed seven more ships before redoubling the Cape of Good Hope and returning to Europe.
On 11 June 1864 Alabama arrived at Cherbourg, France and Captain Semmes requested the permission of city officials to dock and overhaul his ship. Three days later, the sloop-of-war USS Kearsarge, which had been pursuing the raider, arrived off Cherbourg and began patrolling just outside of the harbor. On June 19, Alabama sailed out of Cherbourg to engage Kearsarge. As Kearsarge turned to meet its opponent, Alabama opened fire. Kearsarge’s crew waited until the distance between both vessels closed to less than 1,000 yards before returning fire. According to survivors of the battle, the two ships steamed on opposite circular courses as each commander tried to cross the bow of his opponent to deliver a heavy raking fire. The battle quickly turned against Alabama due to the poor quality of its powder and shells; by contrast, Kearsarge benefited from additional protection provided by chain cables along its sides.
Approximately one hour after firing the first shot, Alabama had been reduced to a rapidly sinking hulk. According to witnesses, Alabama fired 150 rounds to the Kearsarge’s 100. When a shell fired by Kearsarge tore open a section of Alabama’s hull at the waterline, seawater quickly rushed through the cruiser and forced it to the bottom. Semmes subsequently struck his colors and sent a boat to surrender to his opponent. Although Kearsarge’s crew rescued most of the raider’s survivors, the British yacht Deerhoundpicked up Semmes and 41 others who escaped to England. During its two-year career as a commerce raider, Alabama inflicted considerable disorder and devastation on United States merchant shipping throughout the globe. The Confederate cruiser claimed more than 60 prizes with a total value of approximately $6,000,000.
Jacob Jones (DD-61) was laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey, on 3 August 1914, just over a month after the start of World War I. On 29 May 1915 the ship was launched, sponsored by Mrs. Jerome Parker Crittendom, the great-granddaughter of Commodore Jacob Jones. The next year, on 10 February 1916, USS Jacob Jones was commissioned with Lieutenant Commander W. S. Pye in command. The ship was a Tucker-class destroyer, one of six such U.S. destroyers that displaced over 1,000 tons of water—Jacob Jones's normal displacement was 1,150 tons with a full-load displacement of 1,265 tons and the dimensions 315 ft. 3 in. (OA) x 29 ft. 10 in. x 10 ft. 8 ¼ in. (Maximum). After shakedown, Jacob Jones commenced training exercises off the New England coast, then entered Philadelphia Navy Yard for repairs.
On 6 December 1917, Jacob Jones departed Brest, France, to return to Queenstown, Ireland. At 16:21 she sighted a torpedo wake at a thousand yards while steaming independently 25 miles southeast of Bishop Rock, Scilly Islands, and 20 miles east of Start Point, England. She maneuvered to escape, but the torpedo struck her starboard side three feet below the water line, rupturing her fuel oil tank located below the auxiliary and engine rooms. As the stern sank, the depth charges exploded and Commander David W. Bagley ordered all life rafts and boats launched and the ship abandoned. Two shots were fired from the No. 4 four-inch gun in the hopes that a nearby vessel might hear it and come to the ship's rescue. Eight minutes after being struck by the torpedo, Jacob Jones sank with 2 officers and 62 men still onboard.
The ship’s survivors floated on rafts, boats, and debris in frigid north Atlantic waters off the southwest coast of England. Three rafts were launched before the ship sank and another floated off when she sank. The motor dory, with engine out of commission, floated off, but two small boats remained afloat in the survivors' vicinity, one damaged beyond usefulness and the other leaking badly. Survivors used the second small boat to transport men to the rafts. An attempt was made to launch the whale boat, but it had been damaged by the explosion and capsized soon after being set afloat. The commander of attacking U-53, Kapitan Hans Rose, surfaced and took prisoner two badly-wounded survivors, Albert De Mello, Seaman second class and John Francis Murphy, Ship's cook second class petty officer. Kapitan Rose also radioed the approximate location and drift of the survivors to the American base in Queenstown, only requesting that the rescuing ships give him an hour to leave the vicinity.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant, junior grade, Stanton F. Kalk, the officer-of-the-deck when the torpedo struck, began helping men out of the water and evenly distributing them into the life rafts and boats. He died of exhaustion and exposure, and was posthumously awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. The other officer killed was Gunner Harry R. Hood. Chief Boatswain’s Mate Harry Gibson (posthumously) and Chief Electrician’s Mate L. J. Kelly both received the Navy Cross as well as letters of commendation along with Chief Boatswain’s Mate Charles Charlesworth. Through the night of 6–7 December, British sloop-of-war Camellia and British liner Catalinaconducted rescue operations. At 08:30 on 7 December, HMS Insolent picked up the last survivors of Jacob Jones. Out of the 7 officers and 103 men on board at the time of the attack, 64 men lost their lives. Almost all of the survivors suffered from shock and exposure at the time they were rescued, and one officer and thirteen men were injured badly enough to be put on the sick-list later.
Jacob Jones retains significance as the first U.S. destroyer ever to be lost to enemy action. 6 Dec 2017 will mark the 100th year anniversary since its sinking. A second Jacob Jones destroyer, DD-130, was laid down at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey, on 21 February 1918 and launched on 20 November 1918 with sponsorship from Jacob Jones’s great-granddaughter Mrs. Cazenove Doughton. That ship was sunk on 28 February 1942 by a U-boat in World War II. Two destroyers were named after Lieutenant Kalk, DD-170 and DD-61. A frigate, DE-1069, was named after Commander Bagley—who retired from military service as an admiral—along with his brother, Ensign Worth Bagley, who holds distinction as the only U.S. naval officer killed in action during the Spanish-American War.
Originally named Chi Kiang, USS Tulip was intended for duty with China's military in 1863. The little steam-screw gunboat and its sistership, USS Fuchsia, were constructed in the winter of 1862 by master shipwright James C. Jewett of New York City. The ship was registered as having two decks, two masts, and a round stern with an eagle for its figurehead. The vessel measured 101 feet 4 inches in length, 22 feet 10 inches in breadth, with a loaded draft of 11 feet 5 inches and weighed 240 tons. Designed as a screw steamer, and the only extant example of its type, the ship was outfitted with a two horizontal, direct-acting engine (two cylinders) and two 15 foot long fire-tube boilers.
In 1863, the U.S. Navy purchased Tulip for $30,000 and moved it to the New York Navy Yard where its superstructure was modified for a lower profile. Designated as a fourth-rate gunboat, Tulip was assigned to the Potomac Flotilla Base, where it served until lost 11 November 1864. Problems with the starboard boiler were ignored by the ship's captain, Captain Smith, in his desire for a speedy voyage up the Potomac River to the Anacostia Naval Base for repairs. With a full head of steam in both boilers, the starboard boiler exploded and the vessel sank just off Ragged Point, Virginia.
The second USS Tennessee (ACR-10), also referred to as "Armored Cruiser No. 10", and later renamed Memphis, was a United States Navy armored cruiser, the lead ship of her class.
She was laid down by the Cramp Shipbuilding Company of Philadelphia on 20 June 1903, launched on 3 December 1904, sponsored by Ms. Annie K. Frazier (daughter of Governor James B. Frazier of Tennessee and later the foundress of the Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy), and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 17 July 1906, Captain Albert Gleaves Berry in command
The new armored cruiser departed Hampton Roads on 8 November 1906 as escort for Louisiana in which President Theodore Roosevelt had embarked for a cruise to Panama to check on the progress of work constructing the Panama Canal. After a brief visit to Puerto Rico on the return voyage, the warships arrived back at Hampton Roads on 26 November.
Following a yard period for repairs, Tennessee left Hampton Roads on 16 April 1907 for the Jamestown Exposition, held from 7 to 11 June 1907, to commemorate the tricentennial of the founding of the first English settlement in America.
On the afternoon of 29 August 1916, two U.S. Navy ships were at anchor in the harbor of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, when at 3:30 p.m. a series of very close tsunami-like waves inundated the harbor, driving Memphis III (Armored Cruiser No. 10) ashore and almost wrecking the pre–Spanish American War gunboat Castine I. The waves were so steep, reportedly 75 feet high, that they flowed over the armored cruiser, including the bridge and even the stacks, and repeatedly battered the warship into the harbor bottom.
The massive waves swamped Memphis as the Sailors in the engine rooms and fire rooms tried in vain to power up the steam engines to get the ship underway. Castinesurvived the storm by getting underway and steaming out to sea to weather the storm.
In less than two hours, Memphis was wrecked. Above the waterline the ship didn’t appear to be damaged, but below the surface of the water the ship’s hull was crushed, conforming to the rocks and coral on which she lay on the shore of Santo Domingo. The lower decks were flooded almost to the waterline, leaving Memphis stranded in shallow water.
The crew of Memphis battled to save the ship but the sea’s abrupt destructive action proved to be too much. Along with the loss of the ship, 43 Sailors lost their lives and many more were wounded. Three Sailors received the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions on that day: Commander Claud Ashton Jones, Chief Machinist’s Mate George William Rud (posthumously), and Machinist Charles H. Willey.
The U.S. Navy conducted three inquiries to investigate the tragedy. All three courts were conducted in the first weeks of September 1916. The significant findings of fact from the inquires include:
- Between 4:20 and 4:30, the heavy rolling of Memphis caused water spray to enter the stacks, hampering the attempts to power up the engines to get underway.
- There had been a tropical disturbance which passed south of Santo Domingo during the night before the tragedy. The disturbance produced no wind or other markers of severe weather but “produced the heavy swells which, coming in from the deep water to the shallow water of Santo Domingo City anchorage, cause the high seas and heavy seas that eventually dragged and wrecked the Memphis.”1
- The captain of the ship, Captain Edward L. Beach Sr., should have given the order to raise the steam to power the engines earlier; anchored Memphis in a safer anchorage; and taken steps to save the ship and recognized the emergency sooner.
The wreck of Memphis remained on the shore of Santo Domingo for 21 years until 1937, when sufficient ship breaking capability became available to salvage the ship.
The USS Indianapolis (CA-35) was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 15 November 1932. The ship served with honor from Pearl Harbor through the last campaign of World War II, sinking in action two weeks before the end of the war. On 30 July 1945, while sailing from Guam to Leyte, Indianapolis was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-58. The ship capsized and sank in twelve minutes. Survivors were spotted by a patrol aircraft on 2 August. All air and surface units capable of rescue operations were dispatched to the scene at once, and the surrounding waters were thoroughly searched for survivors. Upon completion of the day and night search on 8 August, 316 men were rescued out of the crew of 1,196.
CSS Florida was the first of the foreign-built ships purchased to raid Union merchant shipping during the Civil War. While under construction, Floridawas named Oreto to avoid provisions of neutrality laws. This was part of an elaborate deception to make Union agents believe the ship was destined for Italy or Spain.
William C. Miller & Sons of Liverpool, England built Florida based on their gunboat design. Florida was a three-masted, bark-rigged, wooden-hulled vessel. In addition to sail power, Florida came equipped with two steam engines installed by the Liverpool engineering firm of Fawcett, Preston & Co. It also had two unusual features that included a double-bladed screw propeller that was retractable when not in use, and collapsible smoke stacks. For armament, it carried six 6-inch Blakely rifles, two 7-inch Blakely rifles on pivots fore and aft, and one 12-pound howitzer.
Florida left England on 22 March 1862. To avoid British neutrality law, the ship sailed without any weapons or war materiel. Confederate Naval Officer, John Low, took the ship to Nassau, Bahamas, where it was officially commissioned 17 August. Captain John Newland Maffitt accepted orders to command the commerce raider and assembled a skeleton crew to sail for Cuba.
At this time, the ship's crew was suffering from an attack of yellow fever. Adding to Florida's problems, rammers, sights, locks, and other equipment necessary to operate its guns were not loaded with the other supplies in the Bahamas. The ship, unable to work its guns, was left defenseless. It was in this dangerous situation that, after a brief stop in Cuba, Maffitt boldly sailed into Mobile Bay on 4 September 1862. The ship, flying the Union jack as a ruse, braved a storm of shot and shell from Union blockaders and arrived to a hero's welcome. Florida received damage from its exploit, however, and needed repairs. Once these were completed, Florida escaped to sea on 16 January 1863.
During this second voyage, Florida captured 13 prizes in 240 active days of sea service. The psychological condition of the crew no doubt influenced Morris's decision to put into Bahia, despite the presence of warship, USS Wachusett. Morris relied on Wachusett's captain, Napoleon Collins, to honor international neutrality conventions. When Collins became aware of Florida, he cleared his ship for action and waited. American consular agents in the port urged Collins to take action, and their aggressive persistence swayed him. On the night of 7 October, while half of Florida's crew including Morris, were on shore, Wachusett attacked. Wachusett rammed Florida demanding its surrender. Florida, with minimal crew and unloaded guns, complied.
Florida's capture set off a diplomatic firestorm, as Brazil strongly protested the violation of her rights as a neutral power. Brazilian guns fired on theWachusett as it left with Florida, and the U.S. Consulate in Bahia was ransacked. Brazil, as well as other governments demanded the ship's return.
The American public was jubilant over the capture. The U.S. Government, at this time under attack all over the world regarding the incident, did not want the troublesome Florida to resume her destructive career. Florida could neither be returned nor kept.
While anchored off Newport News, Florida was rammed in an accident by the troop ferry Alliance during rough weather on the night of 19 November 1864. It began to take on water and was moved up the James River to a spot near where USS Cumberland sank during the battle of Hampton Roads. When an auxiliary pump failed, the ship began to take on more water, eventually sinking 28 November 1862. An official inquiry blamed the sinking on the failed pump, but statements in later years by Captain Maffit and circumstantial evidence have led some historians to conclude that Florida was deliberately destroyed in an "accident" to remove a diplomatic embarrassment. Whether by accident or design, Florida's career ended on the muddy bottom of the James River.