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ACR-13 USS Montana / USS Missoula


Length: 504 feet 5 inches. Breadth: 72 feet 10 1/2 inches. Mean Draft: 25 feet. Displacement: 14,500 tons normal, 15,981 tons full load. Machinery: 28,600 IHP; Babcock boiliers, 2 sets of 4-cylinder, Triple Expansion Engines, 2 screws, outward turning. Speed: 22.16 knots. Coal Bunker Capacity: 900 tons normal, 1,992 tons maximum. Batteries: Main Battery: four 10-inch, 40 cal. breech-loading rifles, sixteen 6-inch, 50 cal. rapid fire guns. Secondary Battery: twenty-two 3-inch, 50 cal. rapid fire guns, two 3-inch antiaircraft, four 3 pdr. saluting guns, two 3-inch field pieces, six automatic guns, caliber .30, four 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes. Armor: Belt, 3 to 5 inches; turrets, 5-9-inches; barbettes, 5-inches; deck, 3 inches; Conning Tower, 9 inches. Complement: 41 officers, 850 men (921 as flagship). Built by: Newport News Ship Builders, Newport News VA Class: Tennessee


The first USS Montana (ACR-13), also referred to as "Armored Cruiser No. 13", later renamed Missoula and designated CA-13, was an armored cruiser of the United States Navy, a sister-ship of North Carolina (ACR-12).

On January 11, 1905, the Newport News Shipbuilding Company ordered the first material for her hull and on January 21 her lines were laid on the builders’ yard. Her first frame was erected on May 13, 1905. She had her keel laid down on April 29, 1905. Montana was launched 15 December 1906, and was sponsored by Miss Minnie Conrad the daughter of W. G. Conrad of Great Falls, Montana. Martin Maginnis who was the ex-Territorial Delegate in Congress represented Governor Toole, along with Montana Senator Carter and Montana Representative Dixon were also present on the platform. Absent from the launching platform were any U.S. Navy representatives. At the time of her launching, she was said to be about 58% completed.

The newly christened ship was formerly accepted from her builders on July 10, 1908 at the contract cost of $3,575,000 and was fully commissioned into the navy at the Norfolk Navy Yard 21 July 1908, with Captain Alfred Reynolds in command of 40 Officers and 844 enlisted men and a detachment of 66 enlisted marines.

The Montana had not even been commissioned yet a week when the first misfortune struck the ship. On July 28, the crew is busy coaling the ship, likely the first time by the crew. By noon that day it is all backsides and elbows as the crew is busy shoveling those ‘black diamonds’ into the Montana’s bunkers. On the starboard side of the ship forward, near the rail Ordinary Seaman George Harvey Kerr is busy shoveling his share of the coal. At 43-minutes past noon a bag of coal being hoisted at the time strikes Seaman Kerr unexpectedly in the chest, knocking him backwards off the deck and into the bay. He is unable to be rescued in time and was drowned because of the accident.

Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, Montana departed Norfolk August 5, 1908 to cruise off the east coast until 25 January 1909 when she sailed from Charleston, South Carolina where she was to meet her sister ship the USS North Carolina. There the two ships were preparing for the upcoming trip to take President-elect William Howard Taft on an inspection tour of the nearly finished Panama Canal in February of 1909. Both the North Carolina and the Montana were to sail from Savannah, Georgia with Taft on board on January 25, 1909 to start the trip south to Panama, arriving off Colon, Panama, the 29th. Taft had chosen the North Carolina as his flagship for the trip as she was the Navy’s newest warship, and would represent the best that the navy had at the time as a show of her might and advanced naval technologies to the region. Additionally, the North Carolina and the Montana had the new wireless radio sets should Taft need to use them to communicate with the States.

However, during the trip south from Charleston, SC to Colon, Panama one of the Montana’s sailors was drowned. Coal Passer Clarence Demint was lost overboard and drowned as the ship was steaming south on January 28, 1909. It was not known why or how he fell from the ship. He could have been relaxing, cooling off along the rail of the ship, and washed overboard by a wave or wind, or he could have slipped or even jumped, any number of things could have been his demise.

While operating with the Special Service Squadron, Montana departed Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 2 April 1909 for the Mediterranean to protect American interests during the aftermath of the Turkish Revolution of 1908. Leaving Gibraltar 23 July, she arrived Boston on 3 August, and resumed east coast operations.

Another tragedy befell the Montana on October 31, 1909 when Ordinary Seaman Lloyd Harrison Hamp was drowned in an accident. On the morning of October 31, there was a lighter moored to the port side of the Montana as she is at anchor. At about 9:00 that morning one of the Montana’s steam launches is operating along the port side of the Montana, and passed near where the lighter was moored to the ship, when Seaman Hamp, who was a member of the steam launch’s crew accidentally fell off the steamer and somehow became trapped under the lighter long enough to be drowned.

On 8 April 1910, Montana sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to take part in the Argentine Centennial Celebration, calling at Uruguay, Argentina, and finally Brazil before heading for home 30 June, arriving Hampton Roads 22 July. During this cruise her ships officers were as follows:

Captain John Gardner Quinby
Lt. Commander Cluade B. Price
Lt. Commander Duncan M. Wood
Lt. Commander Amon Bronson, Jr.
Lt. Arthur P. Fairfield
Lt. Joseph L. Hileman
Lt. John H. Newton
Lt. Virgil Baker
Ensign Louis H. Maxfield
Ensign John E. Iseman, Jr.
Ensign James McC. Irish
Ensign Rufus King
Ensign Maurice R. Pierce
Ensign Harold A. Strauss
Ensign Lloyd C. Stark
Ensign Franklin P. Conger
Midshipman Cummings L. Lothrop
Midshipman Frank T. Leighton
Midshipman Ralph E. Sampson
Midshipman Clifford E. Van Hook
Midshipman Alfred Y. Lamphier
Midshipman Frederick C. Sherman
Midshipman Romuald P. P. Meclewski
Midshipman Francis G. Marsh
Surgeon George F. Freeman
Surgeon Charles G. Smith
Asst. Surgeon Harry R. Hermesch
Asst. Surgeon Harry E. Jenkins
Paymaster Arthur F. Huntington
Paymaster George C. Schafer
1st Lt. Henry N. Manney, Jr. USMC
2nd Lt. Davis S. Combes, USMC
Chief Boatswain John C. Rickertts
Chief Gunner Samuel Chiles
Gunner Charles H. Anderson
Chief Carpenter William Boone
Chief Machinist Lemuel T. Cooper
Chief Machinist George Crofton
Machinist Orrin R. Hewitt
Pay Clerk F. W. Jepson
Pay Clerk Francis C. Colville

The Montana on her way to Buenos Ayres reached the port of Havana, Cuba on April 11, 1910. Aboard the Montana was the United States Special Envoy to the Argentine Republic, Major General Leonard Wood, USA. As the Montana reached her buoy to drop her anchor she was surrounded by a welcoming flotilla of yachts, tugs and officials with a delegation of Spanish War Veterans, along with the United States Consular Officers and representatives of various commercial bodies.

General Wood and his wife held an informal reception on the quarterdeck of the Montana, which was filled with visitors wanting to welcome the General and the former Military Governor of Cuba (1899-1902). General Wood had remarked that he was delighted to be back in Havana and was especially pleased to renew acquaintances with so many dear friends and colleagues of his former administration. One prominent guest was Dr. Guiteras, Chief of the Sanitary Service.

On the evening of April 11 General Wood, Rear Admiral Staunton, commander of the special service squadron, Capt. Quinby, the Montana’s commanding officer, Consul General Rodgers and others were the guests at dinner of American Minister Jackson. General Wood entertained another group the next morning at a breakfast held at the Havana Yacht Club, and in the afternoon, Cuban President Gomez held another party followed by a formal Cuban State dinner that evening at the palace. The Montana remained in Cuba until she met with the scout cruiser Chester and on April 14 the Montana and the Chester together steamed south on to Rio de Janeiro.

After stopping in Rio de Janeiro, the Montana steamed farther south and was in Montevideo, Uruguay in early May 1910.

On May 12, 1910, the Montana is conducting a coaling operation when at 7:45 in the morning an accident took place where Boatswain’s Mate 2c Raymond Stanley Greeble of Baltimore, Maryland was drowned. One of the coaling hooks used to hoist the large bags of coal aboard was being swung out away from the deck where BM2c Greeble was standing, when it caught in his clothes and carried him overboard causing him to hit the rail of the collier moored next to the Montana. Greeble then glanced off the rail and fell until his body hit the armor shelf of the Montana several feet below injuring him badly, and then ultimately hitting the water between the two ships. Greeble did not come up and his body was not recovered.

After her South American cruise, Montana returned to the east coast for the remainder of the summer of 1910. On November 10, 1910 President Taft and his party embarked aboard the Montana then at Charleston, South Carolina for a planned visit south to the Panama Canal Zone. President Taft and his party returned to Hampton Roads on November 22.

Montana was to steam to Mexican waters but orders were changed and she was instead sent to Cuban waters to participate in fleet training. In December of 1910 the Atlantic Battleship Fleet was in England and was due to participate in the winter battle practice. This year’s practice would have the battleship fleet sail from England and make a mock attack on the Panama Canal Zone. The defending force was made up of the following ships; the armored cruisers USS Tennessee, Montana, North Carolina and Washington, the scout cruisers Salem and Birmingham, and the destroyers Smith, Flusser, Reid, Lamson, and Preston. The North Atlantic Battleship fleet of 16 ships steamed from England on December 30, 1910 and the defending force of 11 cruisers and destroyers were to seek out this invading force in mid ocean. The cruiser fleet defeated the battleship fleet and then the combined ships steamed on to Guantanamo, Cuba for target practice.

While the Montana, Tennessee, and North Carolina are in Cuban waters conducting target practice, back at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, new searchlights sat awaiting the three cruisers to return to have them installed. However, on February 16, 1911 the yard workers at the Portsmouth Navy Yard had instructions to ship the searchlights to the New York Navy Yard. It was noted in the February 16, 1911 Portsmouth Herald, Navy Yard notes section, that although the work did not amount to much the Portsmouth yard workers were a bit displeased that the work was sent to the New York Yard. The Portsmouth Yard was the homeport of the Atlantic Fleet Armored Cruisers and the Portsmouth Yard workers saw this as an insult that the work on their cruisers was sent to New York.

On the morning of March 13, 1911, the Fifth Division of the Atlantic Fleet commanded by Rear Admiral Sydney A. Staunton, arrived in Caimanera, Cuba, which included the cruisers Tennessee, North Carolina and the Montana. Joining the Fifth Division was the auxiliary cruiser Prairie with a battalion of marines aboard. The fleet would be undertaking training exercises held in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Galveston, Texas. After the battle practice the 4-cruisers, Tennessee, Montana, North Carolina, and Washington were held in the area with orders from the Navy Department. They had been cleared to steam north to Portsmouth, but because of the unrest in Mexico between President Diaz’s forces and the rebels under Madero, the Navy Department kept them and the Marine Battalion with them at Guantanamo for several months.

Nevertheless, before the Montana steamed north there was time for a bit of fun for the crew. In navy circles having a winning race boat crew entitled that ship to have bragging rights and always first drinks at the local watering holes, wherever they sailed. These 12-oar boat races between ships also served to unite the crew of the ship by cheering their respective oarsmen. When the Montana reached the Portsmouth Yard, word was “leaked” out about a high-stakes boat race held in Guantanamo several days previous between the Montana and the Washington’s race boats. The “leaking” of the story was actually just another form of bragging rights for the Montana’s crew. The large sum of money wagered between the two ships was not disclosed but the Montana’s crew under Ensign Rufus King bested the Washington’s crew.

Once released from Cuban waters the Montana steamed north to the Portsmouth Navy Yard, which was her homeport, for a scheduled overhaul period. Leaving Guantanamo, the Montana had aboard a large detachment of marines that were being transported from Guantanamo to the Charlestown Navy Yard. Montana made a stop at the Boston Navy Yard on July 7, and disembarked the marines and then she steamed on to Portsmouth where she arrived on July 8, 1911.

While the Montana is steaming north from Cuban waters to Portsmouth, several of the Montana’s baseball team write to friends back in their homeport of Portsmouth stating boldly that the Montana’s baseball team is one of the best in the Atlantic Fleet. During the two-month overhaul period, they were expecting to spend some quality time on the local baseball diamonds to prove their proficiency of the game.

On March 18, 1911 workmen at the Portsmouth Yard were notified that on or about April 10 the Montana would arrive at the yard, but she was delayed and remained in Cuban waters until early July. Once the Montana arrived at the Portsmouth Yard the cruiser would be in the yard for about a 2-month period of overhaul. During the overhaul, the foremast of the Montana was removed and she was re-fitted with the new cage style masts being installed in many of the ships at that time. The Montana would be the first of her class to have the new Fire-Control Mast installed. Once this work was completed, the Montana left the Portsmouth Navy Yard and arrived at the New York Navy Yard where she stayed for 10-days, in which time she had new searchlights installed. After completion, she steamed back to the Portsmouth Yard. Once her overhaul and re-fits were completed, the Montana was placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in late August 1911 at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, where she remained until November 11, 1912. During this time in reserve, much of the crew of the Montana would be disbursed and she would have a skeleton crew to look after her.

As the Montana begins her overhaul period it is time for crew re-assignments and transfers from the ship. On July 5, 1911, Chief Boatswain James Glass reports aboard the Montana for duty. Chief Glass had been assigned to the USS Hist until her crew was re-assigned when she was decommissioned in July of 1911. The Hist was a 472-ton yacht, which was built for private use at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1895. The U.S. Navy purchased the Hist in April 1898 for use in the Spanish-American War. Hist was active in Cuban waters during that conflict and participated in the Battle of Santiago on June 3, 1898. Following the war, Hist served along the U.S. Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean area until July 1911, when she was decommissioned.

On July 12 over 300 sailors were detached from the Montana and re-assigned to duty aboard the battleship USS New Jersey then stationed at the Boston Navy Yard. And on the following day, July 13 another 40 men were sent to duty aboard the USS Wisconsin. Also on July 12 the Montana had been anchored in the lower harbor of Portsmouth was moved in the afternoon to the flatiron dock in the upper harbor by the tugs Penacook and M. Mitchell Davis. There at the flatiron dock on July 13 the torpedoes and ammunition from the Montana were offloaded from the ship, and taken to storage at the Navy Yard.

For the local towns folk near the Portsmouth Navy Yard the presence of the big cruisers drew much curiosity. It was common practice for the Yard to open its gates and allow the locals in to look around and tour the big ships. These tours were often a social event and attended by many who wanted to see the big ships up close. One such open house was held on Sunday July 16 where hundreds swarmed both the Montana and the Tennessee. Work on the overhaul progresses throughout July and into August on the Montana and Tennessee. By July 19 both ships have their electrical generating stations put out of commission for rebuilds and had no internal power of their own, so both cruisers were hooked up to the yard’s central power plant for several days.

While the Montana is being overhauled, there is time for the crew to be ashore and take in some of the area towns and beaches. When a sailor is off duty on Liberty and he sees danger, his naval training may be called on at any moment. This training to act quickly when danger is present was called on when three Montana sailors were spending the day in York Harbor, Maine on July 13, 1911. York Harbor is just a few miles up the coast from the Portsmouth Naval Yard. The three, Boatswain mate J. J. McKenna, Ship Fitter J. W. Gessner and Coxswain G. W. Pyle, sprang into action when a forest fire got out of control and began to threaten the nearby York Beach area. The three sailors took the lead in organizing and fighting the fire, which was about to overwhelm the town of York Beach. For their efforts Beekman Winthrop, the Acting Secretary of the Navy sent Letters of Commendation to each of the three sailors. After the fire was under control the navy sent two detachments of 25-men each from the Montana and the battleship Wisconsin to aid the citizens of York Beach in cleaning up after the fire.

On July 26, 1911, another large contingent of sailors were detached from the Montana. The navy even had a special passenger train brought into the local rail yard and several hundred sailors boarded who were bound for duty aboard the USS Wabash and Boston. As enlisted men were being sent away from the Montana for duty elsewhere, civilian workmen who had been laid off now were returning to the yard for work. On Monday morning, July 31, 1911 over fifty workers returned to work because of the Montana’s overhaul then in progress.

A bit of excitement came to the Montana on Thursday August 24, 1911, when a United States Postal Inspector by the name of William W. Stone, went to the Portsmouth Navy Yard and came aboard the Montana for the purpose of investigating a case of forgery and robbery. Inspector Stone questioned 21-year old Seaman Ben A. Grenkowski of Michigan in regards to this case. It turns out that Seaman Grenkowski was out of money and worked out a scheme of forgery against his bunkmate Seaman Joseph O’Connell.

Grenkowski had discovered that O’Connell had a bank account in New York by the discovery of his bank withdraw slips that Grenkowski had found in O’Connell’s possessions. Grenkowski stole them, and filled out one and signed O’Connell’s name for $10 and sent it off in the mail to O’Connell’s bank. A few days later, back came $10 and Grenkowski intercepted the envelope. This seemed simple enough so Grenkowski forged another one for $50, which also worked like a charm. Then O’Connell himself made a legitimate withdraw and found that when he sent off his withdraw slip to the bank it came back with his money and a note complaining he had been making several of the mail withdraws and the bank did not appreciate the frequent withdraws by mail.

Navy regulations states that all mail for the crew is to be delivered directly to the ship, but Grenkowski’s scheme called for the bank to send his forged withdraw money by registered mail to the Portsmouth Yard office where Grenkowski could retrieve it. The curt letter from the bank caused O’Connell to begin to get suspicious of this and began to do some investigations of his own. O’Connell began to notice that his bunkmate Seaman Grenkowski suddenly was seemly flush with money and began to suspect him. O’Connell then reported the suspicions of Grenkowski to officers of the Montana, and then the officers called in the authorities.

When Inspector Stone came aboard the Montana he asked that Seaman Grenkowski be brought to the Captain’s cabin and was questioned for over an hour. Grenkowski finally admitted to the scheme and confessed his guilt. Then Captain Quinby called the Marine guard and had Grenkowski locked in the Montana’s brig. Grenkowski remained in the brig until Friday evening when United States Deputy Marshall Fred S. Johnson took possession of Grenkowski from the ships brig. Prisoner Grenkowski was taken to Manchester where he was arraigned before United States Commissioner Crawford and bound over for trial in Portsmouth at a later date.

Captain John Gardner Quinby’s term of commanding the Montana was up, and he was ordered to take command of the USS Franklin. The Franklin was a wooden hulled frigate built in 1854 and had been the Receiving Ship at the Norfolk Navy Yard since 1877. On September 8, 1911, Captain Hilary Pollard Jones reported aboard the Montana to take command from Captain Quinby.

When sailors are ashore with idle time, they find or invent ways to entertain themselves. One such unnamed Montana sailor had went with the Navy football team to watch the game in Dover, Delaware on Saturday evening October 14, 1911. After the game was over, he needed to return to the Portsmouth Navy Yard to return to his ship. The customary method was to buy a ticket and ride in one of the passenger cars of the train, but that was not the case for this sailor. Back in Dover, some of his shipmates also at the game had thought they had left him behind in the station, but he must have jumped on at the last moment. When the train pulled into the Portsmouth Station, the bluejacket was standing on the cowcatcher of the engine just as if he was standing watch aboard the Montana. As the train pulled into the Portsmouth depot, the people saw him riding the cowcatcher and began to get excited. Quickly his fellow shipmates hustled him away and so ended the free trip of the stowaway sailor.

Aboard navy man-o-war ships, sailors have from ancient times kept pets of all sorts. The Montana was a typical ship in as much as the keeping of pets was concerned, but aboard the Montana, Chief Carpenters Mate Fletcher was an exception. Chief Fletcher had recently in October of 1911, been given a crow as a pet. Chief Fletcher liked to boast that the crow was much better than a parrot, and that he will have his crow trained for public exhibition soon. This made other bird fanciers on the ships in the Portsmouth Navy Yard a bit jealous of Chief Fletcher’s new pet. Fletcher claimed to be the only man alive that has so far tamed the crow from the cornfields.

Crows were not the only pets aboard the Montana, sailors also kept dogs as well. Once such dog was a Boston terrier puppy. However, it turns out the puppy came aboard ship in some questionable ways. On December 14, 1911 Portsmouth Police patrolman James P. McCaffrey asked permission to come aboard the Montana to look for the Boston Terrier that was said to have been stolen from a local woman. A Mrs. Susan Townsend complained that sailors had taken her puppy and that was the reason Patrolman McCaffrey was aboard the Montana. Mrs. Townsend reported to the police that sailors who were returning to their ship after liberty in town took the puppy on Thursday evening. When Patrolman McCaffrey came aboard, he found the puppy being admired by several sailors. When questioned they told patrolman McCaffrey that the pup had followed them to the ship and they had not stolen the pup. In the end, McCaffrey took the pup and returned it back to Mrs. Townsend, and so ended the stay of the pup aboard the Montana.

In December of 1912, she departed on a second trip to the Near East, stopping at Beirut, Alexandretta (now Iskenderun) and Mersin, Turkey. On December 2, 1912, she sailed from Port Said, Egypt to join her sister ship the Tennessee in Beirut to protect Americans in that city. On Sunday afternoon of May 18, 1913 the Montana was passing through the Strait of Gibraltar and passed close to the British garrison at Gibraltar. The Montana fired an unusual salute to the British garrison there. The British officer on duty in the garrison promptly ordered a return salute fired from the battery in the fort. Evidently, this was unusual enough that it made the news the next day as Marconi Transatlantic Wireless Telegraph transmitted it to the New York Times.

Returning to the United States in June of 1913, the Montana operated off the east coast and made training cruises to Mexico, Cuba, and Haiti until the United States entered World War I.

The navy routinely retires officers and in July of 1913 the Navy “Plucking Board” met and announced a list of 14 officers who would be retired on the mandatory list. The Naval Personnel Act of 1899 established a new “plucking board” that was designed to review the records of Captains and to “select out” those who did not merit the potential for promotion to the Flag ranks. It was the first introduction of a merit based promotion system. While the system held promise in the fact that it at least tried to do something, its practice was less than optimal.

On July 2nd the board selected Captain John M. Ellicott, who was then in command of the Maryland, then on station in Alaskan waters making reconnaissance surveys for coal deposits and anchorages, to be among the 14 officers selected for mandatory retirement. On July 3, it was announced that Commander Phillip Andrews would be the Maryland’s next skipper. Commander Andrews was currently the commanding officer of the USS Montana serving with the Atlantic Fleet then at the Portsmouth, NH Navy Yard. Commander Andrews had previously served as the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation with the temporary rank of Rear Admiral before his command of the Montana. He was returned to rank of Captain when assigned to the Maryland in order that he could have more sea service in his present grade.

Aboard the USS Montana, then at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, orders were given to the Montana’s commanding officer, Commander Philip Andrews. His orders state that he is relieved of command of the Montana and is to proceed to Alaskan waters and assume command of the USS Maryland from Captain Ellicott. At about the same time as Commander Andrews received his orders; Captain Ellicott aboard the Maryland also receives orders, which are not welcomed by Ellicott, but orders were orders and he had to act in accordance with them. On the 24th of July 1913 Captain Ellicott relinquished his command of the Maryland to Captain Andrews at Seward, Alaska. Captain Ellicott left Alaska on the steamer Northwestern for transportation to Washington, DC where it was reported that he would lodge a protest against the Plucking Board’s decision of his retirement. Commander Francis Laird Chadwick then took command of the Montana from Captain Andrews.

The Montana on January 27, 1914 landed a force of 2 officers and 54 enlisted men, under the command of Lt. (jg) N. L. Nichols, USN ashore in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for the protection of American lives and interests there. This force patrolled ashore until recalled to the Montana on February 9, 1914. While the Montana’s men were in Port-au-Price there were along with them forces from the USS South Carolina and the British ships HMS Lancaster and HMS Bremen and the French cruiser . All these forces were ordered recalled to their respective ships on February 9.

Once the Montana was recalled from Haiti she steamed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and anchored there throughout February and March 1914. Liberty on Cuba always was fun for the sailors, many of whom would bring pets aboard to be shipboard mascots. Once such Montana mascot was “Pete the Parrot.” There was a photo taken aboard the Montana next to one of her main gun turrets. The writing on this photo states: “USS Montana Guantanamo Bay, Cuba February 28, 1915 Gunners Mates and Stricker with Mascot ‘Pete the Parrot.” There are twelve Gunners Mates in this photo and ‘Pete the Parrot’ can be seen on the left hand of the third man from the left in the front row. The sailor holding ‘Pete’ is believed to be identified as Stricker.

In April of 1914, Montana was rushed to Veracruz, Mexico in order to support actions that were already underway there. Montana reached Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on April 22, 1914 where she embarked a marine detachment under the command of Captain F. L. Bradman, USMC, consisting of 1 officer and 72 enlisted men. As soon as they were loaded, the Montana steamed for Vera Cruz, Mexico where the marines were landed on April 28, 1914 as reinforcements to those forces already engaged in Vera Cruz.

On the morning of April 21, 1914, warships of the United States Atlantic Fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, began preparations for the seizure of the Veracruz waterfront. By 11:30 a.m., with whaleboats swung over the side, 502 U.S. Marines from the 2nd Advanced Base Regiment, 285-armed Navy sailors, known as "Bluejackets," from the battleship USS Florida (BB-30) and a provisional battalion composed of the Marine detachments of the Florida and her sister ship USS Utah (BB-31) began landing operations. Plowing through the surf in whaleboats toward pier 4, Veracruz's main wharf, a large crowd of Mexican and American citizens gathered to watch the spectacle. The invaders encountered no resistance as they exited the whaleboats, formed ranks into a Marine and a seaman regiment, and began marching toward their objectives. This initial show of force was enough to prompt the retreat of the Mexican forces led by General Gustavo Maass. In the face of this, Mexican Commodore Manuel Azueta encouraged cadets of the Veracruz Naval Academy to take up the defense of the port for them. Also, about 50 line soldiers of the Mexican Army remained behind to fight the invaders along with the citizens of Veracruz.

On the night of the 21st, Fletcher decided that he had no choice but to expand the initial operation to include the entire city, not just the waterfront. Five additional U.S. battleships and two cruisers, one of which was the Montana, had reached Veracruz during the hours of darkness and they carried with them Major Smedley Butler and his Marine Battalion, which, had been rushed from Panama. The battleship's seaman battalions were quickly organized into a regiment of 1,200-men strong, supported by the ship's Marine detachments providing an additional 300-man battalion. These newly arrived forces went ashore around midnight to await the morning's advance.

At 7:45 a.m., the advance began. The Leathernecks adapted to street fighting, which was a novelty to them. The sailors were less adroit at this style of fighting. A regiment led by Navy Captain E. A. Anderson advanced on the Mexican Naval Academy in parade ground formation, making his men easy targets for the cadets barricaded inside. This attack was repulsed with casualties, and the advance was only saved when three warships in the harbor, the USS Prairie (1890), San Francisco (C-5), and Chester (CL-1), pounded the Academy with their long guns for a few minutes, silencing all resistance and killing 15 of the cadets inside.

In the end the American forces suffered 22 men killed and 70 wounded. The Mexican casualties numbered 152-172 killed and 195-250 wounded. Seventeen of the 22 American dead were loaded onto the USS Montana, which had arrived in Veracruz on the night of April 21, for transportation back to New York. Montana reached New York Harbor on May 10, 1914 with the bodies of those who were killed.

For her service on station in Mexican waters, the crew of the Montana is entitled to wear the Mexican Service Medal for the following dates of service: April 28-May 3, 1914.

In mid-February of 1917 the commanding officer of the Montana, Captain Chester Wells is ordered to steam to Cuban waters. On February 25, 1917, a landing force consisting of 11 officers and 165 men under the command of Lt. A.J. James, USN, was landed from the Montana at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This force was augmented by a detachment of 40 marines under the command of Lt. M.B. Humphrey, USMC, from Fisherman’s Point, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The entire force was towed by a tug to Caimanera, Cuba and then embarked on train for Guantanamo City. Montana’s landing party, with the exception of the marine detachment under Lt. H. Schmidt, USMC, returned aboard ship on March 6, 1917.

Again on March 9, 1917, a landing force consisting of 10 officers and 111 men, under the command of Lt. Commander Ralph E. Pope, USN, was put ashore from the Montana, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and then were transported by tug and rail to Guantanamo City. The entire landing party of navy bluejackets and marines returned aboard the Montana on March 24, 1917. 1

Orders were issued on March 3, 1917, for a detachment of 20 marines from the Marine Barracks, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under the command of Ensign James E. Boak, USN, were attached to the Montana. This detachment was on duty at Boqueron for the protection of American property from March 13th to March 24th, 1917.

A detail of eight men under command of a Chief gunner landed from the Montana on March 10, 1917, to March 23, 1917, for duty Caimanera, Cuba. Nevertheless, this small force was not allowed to remain ashore at night and was returned to the Montana each night between the 10-23 of March.

During the first months of the WWI, Montana conducted training exercises and transported supplies and men in the York River area and along the east coast. Assigned to the Cruiser and Transport Force July 17, 1917, she did convoy and escort duty out of Hampton Roads; New York, New York; and Halifax, Nova Scotia, through most of 1917 and 1918.

On one convoy trip while at sea on December 7, 1917 Yeoman 3c Bruce Brecheen Williams is standing his watch as lookout on the quarterdeck of the Montana. Around 10:30 in the morning, Yeoman Williams standing near the edge of the deck was washed off his feet and taken over the side into the sea by a wave that came up suddenly. As the ship was steaming along with the convoy Williams was not able to be rescued and he was drowned.

On Monday February 18, 1918 the Montana is conducting target practice firing of her guns. One of the 3-inch guns was accidentally double loaded and a cartridge case ignites causing an explosion in the gun. Eight men are injured, two of which died of wounds sustained during the explosion.

Boatswain’s Mate 1c Charles W. Pauly of Chicago died while the Montana was steaming back to Norfolk, Virginia and Seaman 2c Roy Lee Putnam of Phoenix, Alabama died in the Naval Hospital in Norfolk two days later on the 20th of February as a result of multiple injuries he sustained during the explosion. Seaman Lawrence N. Finley of Cawker City, Kansas who was also seriously wounded in the accident, but he survived.

The other five men injured during the explosion while their injuries were not life threatening but still serious enough, all survived. They are Private Richard N. Guion, USMC, of New Orleans; Seaman William T. Fredrichs of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin; Seaman Charles E. Pyle of Lamar, Colorado; Seaman John H. Atkerson of Salmons, Kentucky; and Seaman N. T. Leroy, unknown address.

Montana also performed as a Naval Academy practice ship under the command of Captain George Calvin Day (b. Nov. 8, 1871 d. Nov. 3, 1940) in the Chesapeake Bay area early in 1918. Captain Day commanded the Montana throughout mid-summer 1919 when he turned over command to Captain Ivan C. Wettengall. The Montana was ordered to steam to France in December of 1918 to return Army troops to America after the war ended. Between January and July 1919, Montana would make six roundtrips from Europe, returning 8,800 American troops. Captain Day early in the war was the commanding officer of the former German liner Amerika, that had been taken over by the United States Navy and re-fitted as a troopship and re-named the USS America, and now as the Commanding Officer of the Montana, was returning some of the very same soldiers he may have taken to France.

In early August 1919, the Pacific Fleet under command of Admiral Hugh Rodman was assembling off San Diego California for a Fleet review that was to take place in San Francisco in several days. The Montana arrived off San Diego at 7:30 on the evening of August 6, 1919 and would escort Navy Secretary Daniels who would be reviewing the fleet from the deck of the Montana. As the Montana entered her anchorage she was next to the USS Georgia, which was the flagship of Admiral W. N. Shoemaker’s division, the Montana fired a 17-gun salute in honor of Admiral Shoemaker who was aboard the Georgia. The Montana had been under orders to steam direct to San Francisco from the Atlantic but on the way her orders were changed when Secretary Daniels selected the Montana to use while reviewing the fleet.

The Official Fleet review took place in early September where 52-ships were reviewed by Secretary Daniels. The official start to the review was began when the old Battleship USS Oregon steamed to an honored position, just off the marina near Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. The Oregon had recently been put back into commission just for this review and was under command of Captain Ivan C. Wettengall. Captain Wettengall was the commanding officer of the Montana but for this review, he was bestowed the honor of command of the Oregon for this event. As Secretary Daniels came aboard the famed Spanish-American battleship for ceremony, the Coast Artillery guns from Fort Winfield Scott gave the Secretary a rousing 19-gun salute.

Following her arrival at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, Montana remained there from 16 August 1919 through her decommissioning 2 February 1921. On 7 June 1920 Montana was renamed Missoula for Missoula, Montana and classified CA-13. She was struck from the Navy list 15 July 1930 and sold to John Irwin, Jr., 29 September 1930 to be salvaged and eventually scrapped.

The old cruiser languished on stripped of her essential machinery and weapons in the Navy Yard at Mare Island awaiting the breakers torches. The old Missoula just lay there rusting quietly but in the memory of her former crew, she was still shiny and bright. After all, she was a home for many men who gave her life. On February 25, 1931 a group of marines paid her a visit when seven former marines who had sailed aboard the Montana as part of her marine detachment during WWI boarded the ship and in a quiet ceremony paid their respects to the ship and their memories of those days. The seven ex-marines all lived in the Eastbay area and were members of the E. D. Howard detachment of the Marine Corps League in San Francisco.

In October 1935, the armored cruiser Missoula was scrapped in accordance with the London Treaty for the reduction of naval armament.

The unfinished hull of the USS Montana as she slides into the water for the first time on December 15 1906 at the Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Virginia.

This photo was taken at the Norfolk Navy Yard on October 8, 1909, while visitors were aboard. Nice view of the Bridge and forward 10-inch guns. Each time they are fired each gun takes 365-pounds of powder and the projectile weighs 850-pounds. The total charge for one gun is 1,215 pounds.

The Montana getting up steam in Mexican Waters on May 3, 1914. She has on board the bodies of the sailors killed in the capture of Vera Cruz, Mexico.


Ships Muster

As I find names of men who sailed this ship I will add them here with what I know of each. If you know additional facts about these men or others who were crew of the USS Montana/ USS Missoula please e-mail them to: Joe Hartwell


Richard Paul DesLauriers, F3c

Dorothy Dickson who is the daughter of Richard P. DesLauriers relates about her father, "He signed on to be a second-class seaman and they put him in fireman position. Guess he did not like it or his mom and dad wanted him out. He was actually only 17 as his birthday was 1901 and not 1900.  He told us he lied to get in and his mom signed for him. Maybe she changed her mind as she had already lost a child unrelated to war."

Richard Paul DesLauriers was born on January 16, 1901 in Kankakee, Illinois into a large farm family. During the First World War, Richard like most young boys still in high school, dreamed about serving in the military for his Country in a far off place in a grand adventure. This feeling was so great for Richard or “Dick” as he was sometimes known, talked to his mother until she agreed to sign the papers and let him go, only if he promised to return and finish his high school education.

And so on June 24, 1918 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Chicago, Richard was enlisted into the Navy as a Apprentice Seaman, given his service number of 131-03-13 and his uniform and began his training. Once completed on October 28, 1918 he was sent to the Naval Training Station, Hampton Roads, Virginia where he stayed until November 9, 1918 where he was assigned to the Armored Cruiser USS Montana. He made at least one trip to France during his time aboard as noted in several letters he wrote home to family.

On January 14, 1919 and Examination Report aboard the Montana found Seaman DesLauriers qualified for a rating of Fireman 3rd Class. But while on board Richard being only 18 at the time, may have started to feel that he wanted to leave the navy and return home as on November 22, 1918 while aboard ship he wrote the following request for discharge.

“I wish to finish my remaining semester in high school and take up a course at a University. My help at the present time is needed at home, as my brother is a cripple and is no help to the large family.”

F3c DesLauriers, Richard P.

As it was his current enrollment was to expire on June 23, 1922. He may have been feeling that the great adventure he was dreaming of was not what he thought it was. This may have been added to from his mother, Eustace, at home who on December 1, 1918 wrote to the Bureau of Navigation in Washington D.C. asking about the health of her son. In the letter she stated:

I am writing to ask your kind assistance in ascertaining the condition of health of one Richard Paul DesLauriers, now on duty as Fireman aboard the USS Montana, 10th Naval Division, whose mail is being sent in care of the Postmaster, New York City.

This lad is 18-years of age, was originally enlisted at Great Lakes as Seaman, but was drafted to Fireman service and shipped to sea before fully regaining his normal health and weight, after a severe case of Influenza.

Mail was last received from him on November 30, after being 8-days out, which stated his health was very poor, being greatly troubled with weak back and kidneys (results of Influenza). Since that time, of course, no word has been received from him and great anxiety as to his condition is felt by me. I would very much appreciate it if you could give me an official report of his condition, as it will probably be some time before news can be received from him, by letter.

Eustace DesLauriers

On December 2, 1918 the Navy Department sent a message to the USS Montana in which the following was transmitted: “Richard P. DesLauriers. Mother Ill. Can you come home. Answer and will wire you money. Father. Kankakee, IL.” And yet again the Navy Department sent a second dispatch to the USS Montana with this message: “Richard P. DesLauriers. Your mother has nervous presentation. Necessary for you to come home. Joseph A. Guertin M.D. Kankakee, IL.” It seemed the family was so desperate to get Richard discharged from the navy that they went all the way to the U. S. House of Representatives, to Congressmen James R. Mann. It was on January 7, 1919 that he wrote the following letter to Admiral Victor Blue, Chief, Bureau of Navigation in Washington D.C.

Dear Admiral Blue,

The case referred to in the enclosed letter and affidavits seems to be one where the discharge of the young man is especially urgent. I, therefore, beg to call the matter to your attention in hope that it may be found practable to release Richard P. DesLauriers now a fireman on the USS Montana.

Yours Truly
James R. Mann

On the receipt of the letter from Congressmen James R. Mann the Navy Department sent a dispatch on January 18, 1919 to Captain George Day of the Montana requesting an official report in writing as to the physical condition of Fireman DesLauriers. On January 22, 1919 Captain Day returned with this report from the Montana then at Pier 2, Hoboken, NJ:

DesLauriers, Richard P. 1310313, F3c, USNRF was examined by the Medical Officer of this vessel this date and his health and physique were found to be in excellent condition. He is found physically qualified to continue his duties. Signed Captain George Day

This was relayed to Richard’s mother on January 27, 1919 in the form of a letter. These efforts were unsuccessful in getting Richard discharged from the navy, and matters were then taken to Richard’s uncle. He was Charles A. Bonniwell a member of the Order of Washington, whose organization was under the command of Rear Admiral Charles H. Stockton, USN Ret. Mr. Bonniwell was the Deputy Vice Commander of the State of Indiana. This is the letter Mr. Bonniwell wrote to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels on December 16, 1918:

Mr. Secretary, Sir,

The writer’s nephew, Richard DesLauriers, of Kankakee, Illinois, enlisted in the United States Navy at the Great Lakes, as a second-class seaman some six or seven months ago.

He had not completed his high school education, but was so anxious to serve his country and though but 18 years of age, his mother willingly gave her permission, that he do so with the understanding that he was to complete his studies immediately after the war.

Your particular attention is called to the fact that he enlisted as a second-class seaman. In the face of what he signed up for, he was drafted in as a fireman and as I term it, “shanghaied” into this branch of the service. Further, he had at the time, just recovered from a very severe attack of Influenza and was out of the hospital less than a month when he was placed in an outgoing fireman draft.

Now though he had enlisted as a second-class seaman, he was perfectly willing to serve his country in any way that his superiors directed, believing that in so doing he would not jeopardize his chances of an honorable discharge from service because of this fact.

In conformance with your published statement that it was the desire of the government to have all students who had not completed their education, to return to school, his mother secured a certificate from the principal of the high school he attended, attesting to the fact that he had not completed his studies and forwarded it on to him to file with his request for discharge.

He filed it with his request for discharge, but this has been denied him by his commanding officer though for what reason, we are unable to ascertain except that they are short of firemen and it has been impossible to get a sufficient number of men to carry on this work. Now, to the writer, this is where the gross injustice comes in. Is this young man to be penalized for his patriotism in accepting this work, while thousands of others who enlisted as second-class seamen after him and remained in this branch of the service, are being discharged from the service?

He is a member of the crew of the USS Montana, which I understand leaves for France on the 21st and will not return for some thirty days. Would it not be possible to arrange for his discharge immediately upon the return of this ship in order that he may take up his studies at the commencement of the January period and so complete his education without any additional burdens upon his parents or himself?

May I have the honor of being advised as to what further action may be necessary to see that justice is accorded this young man?

Very Respectfully yours,
C. A. Bonniwell

Richard’s last day on the Montana was August 23, 1919 and was sent back to great lakes Naval Training Station in Chicago where on August 27, 1919 he was officially discharged from active service with the Navy.

When Richard first reported aboard the Montana he had time to write to his mother and tell her how things were. This is his letter to her written on November 10, 1918.

Dear Mother,
November 10, 1918

Well mother I am no longer a dry land sailor. I am aboard the USS Montana, a First Class Battle Cruiser.

It is a nice ship and I like it fine tho I do not know anything about my work, as I have not been on work yet.

I left the base yesterday afternoon and came directly aboard ship. Things are not new; in fact it is an old tub. I found that out from fellows who know. I sure hope we make more trips across, as I would hate to come home with out doing so.

When you write address the letter:
USS Montana
C/O Postmaster
10th Division, New York

Send me Pete Peters address, as [unreadable] here as in camp but that is to be expected.

You will not hear from me very often now. When we are at sea there is no way to send or receive mail.

The ship I am on is has made the most trips across the pond. The ship Miller is on does not do any overseas work at all and is only a training ship. There is not much news now but will write as often as possible.

If you want to send anything send some candy, as only that sort of stuff would keep. Send some chocolates and pack in a small strong box.

Write soon,
With Love
Dick

While the Montana was in the harbor in Brest, France Richard had a chance to explore a French city and see some sights he may have never seen before. This, for a farm boy from the farm country was most likely very eye opening. This is the letter he wrote his dad on the last day of December 1918.

Dec. 31, 1918
Dear Dad,

As I have a few minutes to write before turning in I thought I would write and tell you something about Brest. I went ashore for a few hours tho I did not have a penny, and roamed around the streets of Brest.

France is about a hundred years behind the U.S.A. and sure is a dirty hole at least Brest is.

The streets a very narrow and muddy, the sidewalks are only three feet wide so if you want to get anywhere you have to take to the street.

The town is closed up until 6:30 in the evening and we only get liberty till 5:30 so you see how wild everything is here.

If they gave the gobs overnight they would clean the town out for they get on some awful drunks as it is and talk about fight, the frogs all clear out when the Yankee gobs get started.

Two thirds of the ships company are under the seas tonight for those who did not go ashore got drunk on shellac, the place is a mad house tonight especially my mess they throw plates and food at one another and at last it ended in a fight in which two gobs got broken noses. They were a chum of [unreadable] and myself. I got one heck of a wallop, which tore loose the cartilage in the lower front of my nose and cut my upper lip pretty bad. I also had the sleeve of my sweater, which you sent me, tore pretty bad but the tailor said he could fix it so it could not be noticed. The way it happened was like this, a big Swede, fine man, hit me in the side of the head, I took a big swing at him but misses him a mile and caught my sleeve in the wire spring on one of the bunks, he then broke my nose and tore my sleeve all in one concentrated effort. I can’t remember much after that only my nose feels like a boil now and my front teeth ache.

Brest is a very immoral place, the girls all of a very low type, they sell immoral pictures and sing at the same counter with holy pictures. If a merchant in Kankakee were to put such pictures on his counter for sale he would send the rest of his life in pen.

The street cars in Brest are a joke, worse then those in Kankakee for size, they must hold about ten people I guess.

I saw a few German subs in the harbor cruising about flying the French flag with the German flag under it.

There are at least 12 U. S. warships and transports in harbor now all loaded with troops homeward bound.

We take our troops aboard on the 3rd or 4th and leave for the good old U.S.A. on the 5th, we will arrive on the 17th the day after my birthday so you see I will be 18 before I get back to the States.

Well Dad how was Xmas at the DesLauriers house anyway? It was fair aboard the “old Monty” 1600 miles at sea but I sure that it of home for I had to serve the dinner instead of eating it so it was not much fun in fact it was hard work for it was one hell of a big dinner just like we had Thanksgiving. I have a big one to serve tomorrow. New Years.

Well give my love to all and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do and I will be,

As ever
Your Son
Dick

Richard DesLauriers is on the left in both photos.


Fireman First Class, Carl Henry Meier

The following narrative was written by Stephen P. Meier, the son of Carl Meier.

FM1c, Carl H. Meier, USN

Carl Henry Meier was born in Richmond, Indiana on April 25, 1899. He was the first child of Ellen (Boland) Meier and John C. F. Meier. He had a brother, William, and a sister Mary. Their father died in 1909. Carl left St. Mary’s grade school after the 8th grade to find work to help support his mother, brother, and sister. He worked at many odd jobs. At the age of 15 he worked as an apprentice to the metallurgist of the Maxwell Automobile Company in New Castle, Indiana. He also worked at a men’s clothing store in Richmond.

On April 13, 1917 dad joined the Navy and was sent to the Great Lakes Naval Station for training before being assigned to the USS Montana as a fireman. During World War I, the Montana was primarily used as a convoy escort between Halifax, Nova Scotia and Brest, France. After the war he volunteered to travel on the Montana through the Panama Canal to San Diego where it joined the pacific fleet. He left the Montana at Bremerton, Washington and returned to Richmond by way of The Great Lakes Naval Station where he received his Honorable Discharge. (He received a travel allowance of $ .05 per mile for 228 miles, or $11.40).

Upon his return to Richmond, he again worked at various odd jobs and finally started working as a plumber. However when the depression started there was very little work, so he served on the Richmond police force for a short period of time, but when times got better he returned to plumbing and started his own business which he ran until his retirement.

In 1926 he married Johanna E. Shinn. They had three children: Carl, Jr., Barbara, and myself, Patrick. On November 2, 1929 tragedy struck the Meier family when their oldest child, Carl, Jr., was hit by a truck and died a few hours later. My mother, Johanna, died suddenly on January 21, 1972. Dad stayed in the old house for a few years, but his health was failing and he moved to Colorado to live with my sister Barbara. The last years of his life were spent in the VA Nursing Home system in Colorado and in Texas. (Barbara was a VA nurse).

Dad died at the VA Medical Center in Kerrville, Texas on February 26, 1986 at the age of 85 years and 10 months. He was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Richmond, Indiana.


USNRF Ensigns J. L. Dawson Painter and Charles A. Painter Jr.

Two brothers who served aboard the Montana During WWI

J. L. Dawson Painter, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 31, 1893. He graduated from college in 1914 and, when the United States entered the war, enlisted in the Naval Reserve and attended Officer’s Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island where he received his commission in 1918. His older brother, Charles A. Painter, Jr., was born in Pittsburgh on November 15, 1891. When the war broke out he enlisted in the Naval Reserve and was commissioned in Newport at about the same time as his brother Dawson. The two brothers were initially assigned to the Montana for training purposes. Dawson Painter subsequently served aboard the USS Nokomis (SP-609, later PY-6), a converted steam yacht on patrol duty off the west coast of France. His brother Charles is thought to have remained on board the Montana. After the war ended on November 11, 1918, both brothers were honorably discharged from the Naval Reserve Force.

Both Dawson and Charles entered the brokerage business in the Pittsburgh firm of Post & Flagg, which, later on, was acquired by Kay, Richards & Company. Dawson Painter subsequently joined the Union Trust Company (later acquired by the Mellon National Bank and Trust Company) where he served as Assistant Vice President until his retirement in 1955. Dawson Painter died in 1956 and is buried with his family in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts. His brother, Charlie Painter, succumbed to Parkinson’s, and died on January 26, 1955 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania and was buried in Pittsburgh.

Ensign J. L. Dawson Painter, USNRF and his brother
Ensign Charles A. Painter, Jr., USNRF shown on the right.

Diary of Ensign (later Lt. Jg.) J. L. Dawson Painter

USS Montana (ARC 13)

Dec. 27, 1917-Mar. 15, 1918.

 This diary was transcribed by the son of Dawson Painter, William H. “Bill” Painter.

December 27, 1917. Came on board 8 P.M. train arriving 5 hours late, were chasing over to Norfolk and back after baggage.

December 28, 1917. Assigned this afternoon to 4th Division and after magazine at General Quarters.

December 29, 1917. Held first drill alone. Sight setting. Stood First Watch 8-12 p.m. Temperature 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Wasn’t cold at all.

December 30, 1917. Sunday. Called on Captain this afternoon. No work. Stood mid-watch. Temperature 12 degrees F. Wind aft. Pretty cold.

January 31, 1917. Am stationed in after magazine at General Quarters. Target practice today. Sub caliber. Weather poor.

January 1, 1918. Weather so poor we gave up target practice and returned to Hampton Roads. No liberty as boat could scarcely run in ice.

January 2, 1918. Snowing today. I had forenoon watch. Ice very heavy and lots of it. No liberty.

January 4, 1918. We were practically ice bound today. This is the coldest spell Hampton Roads has had in years. No boats ran so no mail or liberty.

January 5, 1918. Captain’s Inspection today. Wore sword for first time. Much warmer. Had deck 4-8 p.m. Still no mail or liberty.

January 6, 1918. Started coaling this morning. Put on 965 tons. Weather fine.

January 7, 1918. Coaled all day. Coaling watches up to 4 a.m. Ice still heavy.

January 8, 1918. Finished coaling this morning. Pretty poor work on the whole. Conditions poor. Material and personnel poor also. Weather warmer.

January 9, 1918. Got ashore for first time today. I was boat officer and spent a few hours at the Hotel at Old Point while stewards bought supplies.

January 10, 1918. We shoved off this morning for New York and then we believe abroad. Captain not aboard. He is in Washington. Stood watch in Foretop. Weather fine.

January 11, 1918. Arrived New York. Liberty this afternoon 6 p.m. to tomorrow morning. Saw “Leave It To Jane” and “Midnight Frolics”.

January 12, 1918. Received target ammunition and supplies on board. Shoved off 6 p.m. for abroad. Am in Foretop this trip. Should be easy work.

January 13, 1918. Are on our way with two transports of about 30,000 tons, the Mt.Vernon and the other of half that size, the Madawaska. I had 8-10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to dark in the foretop. Quite a sea running. We rolled 24 degrees and things began to slide. Weather was windy but not very cold. Didn’t sight anything at all.

January 14, 1918. We are steering about 90 degrees this trip. I had 6:30 to 8 A.M. and 2 to 4 p.m. in the foretop. Very little work so far. Nothing sighted.

January 15, 1918. Are making 12 knots on about the same course. I had 12-2 p.m. in the foretop. Held hammock inspection this morning. This afternoon Mr. Liggett called us in and told us probably all but four would be transferred after further training.

January 16, 1918. A bad storm today. Had 10-12 in foretop but didn’t sight anything. Storm is on the quarter and we are rolling.

January 17, 1918. Storm still keeps up. We are rolling worse. Averaged about 20 degrees roll. Table came loose and banged around in mess room. Very hot below as ventilating system is shut off. Thought I was going to be sick sure this P.M. in the foretop. I had 8-10 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.

January 18, 1918. Still rolling badly. Storm at its worst. Wind was the worst I ever felt. Scale 8. Had 6-8 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. As I was coming below we had one 35 degree roll and icebox upset. Breakfast and lunch in our hands as we couldn’t sit at table. Weather fairly warm.

January 19,1918. Storm still on. Lost both transports during night but picked them up at 8 a.m. Stood 12-2 p.m. in foretop. Almost missed lunch but was feeling better at 2 p.m.

January 20, 1918. Sunday. Are in real war zone. Life raft floated by. Dark object sighted on port beam. Casemates obtained permission to open fire, but object disappeared and did not show up again. The Agamemnon joined us today. Should have joined sooner but storm prevented. Storm calmed down some today but are still rolling. Had 10-12 noon in foretop. Nothing sighted.

January 21, 1918. Had 8-10 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. in foretop. General quarters this morning and abandon ship drill. Put on life belts. Sea is calmer but still a long ground swell.

January 22, 1918. Had 6-8 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. in foretop. Weather fine. General quarters this morning. At 2:08 p.m. sighted first destroyer and three more within 10 minutes. A further appeared later. By 3:25 all were nearby and we were relieved. Turned for home then and started on our way into what looks like a heavy storm. We turned at about Lat. 46 degrees 36 minutes latitude, Longitude 19 degrees. All five destroyers were well camouflaged all colors imaginable. They looked very businesslike but were rolling badly even in today’s seaway. I haven’t missed a meal on board here but probably wouldn’t eat one if I got on board a destroyer. Glad I was in foretop when we spotted them. Also glad we got them ahead of the bridge.

January 23, 1918. On our way back. We took off life preservers today, though we are still in the war zone. Are still running into a strong head sea and every fourth or fifth wave covers the forecastle. One ripped the top off a ventilator which was in the foretop and five men went out to fix it. The next wave almost swept them overboard. So we had to turn around and fix it while the sea was from astern. I had 12-2 in the foretop. Weather cloudy and windy.

January 24, 1918. Storm still blowing. Forecastle covered with water most of the time. Once in a while a wave even gets as high as the bridge. Had 10-12 in the foretop.

January 25, 1918. Same as yesterday, only worse. In the evening seas swept quarterdeck also so ventilators closed down. Had 8-10 and 2-4 in foretop. Sighted small, three masted schooner this morning.

January 26, 1918. The storm is over. Nothing but a long swell left. Had 12-2 in foretop. Ought to land within a week from today.

January 27, 1918. At 5:00 a.m. ran into the worst storm so far. The Old Man decided to take it head on and we slowed down to just steerage-way. The seas were as bad as anyone on board had ever seen and the wind was over 90 miles an hour. Getting up to the foretop was no cinch. I had 10-12 and 4-6 in the foretop. Skids for steamer and captain’s motorboat both gave way on one sea with the result that the bottoms of both were stove. Also cover of after ventilator was torn off, and men with buckets bailed all night. Nothing serious happened.

January 27, 1918. Storm has passed. It is a little colder but sea is smooth compared with yesterday. I had 8-10 and 2-4 in foretop. Sighted a bark this morning and we steered toward it to make sure it was O.K. after the storm.

January 29, 1918. No sooner does one storm blow up than another starts up. Much colder today and looks as if storm was coming. Had 10-12 and 4-6 in foretop.

January 30, 1918. Storm is here. Very cold and windy, also snowing hard at times. I had 8-10 and 2-4 in foretop. Couldn’t see more than 100 yards half the time. We are presumably bound for Newport and ought to be there Saturday or Sunday. Hope I see Charlie.

January 31, 1918. Our first really calm day. Had 6-8 and 12-2 in foretop. Sighted a tramp outbound this morning. Weather still cold but wind has died down.

February 1, 1918. Very calm but cold today. This afternoon we ran into a small snowstorm. Had 10-12 and 4-6 in foretop. Ought to arrive in Newport Sunday. Twenty days out at 6:00 p.m. this evening.

February 2, 1918. Captain’s Inspection today. I was on watch in foretop and so missed it. Had 8-10 and 2-4. Weather calm and cold. Temperature about 24 degrees. Sighted Nantucket Shoals lightship this evening.

February 3, 1918. Very heavy fog this morning. We ran into shoal water and dropped anchor. Found we were off Pt. Judith so up anchor and ran into Newport entrance. Too thick to go in. Had 6-8 and 12-2 in foretop.

February 4, 1918. Went in this morning early past Newport up to ---ville. Started coaling at 9:15 and had 400 tons on by 3:00. The worst day for coaling I ever saw. Windy and cold. I heard from Dr. Gibbs that Mother was in Newport and also that Charlie was going to sea on the North Carolina. As soon as we finished coaling we shoved off for Hampton Roads. I had 4-6 in the foretop.

February 5, 1918. Very cold this morning. By this afternoon we had a heavy coating of ice all over forecastle and starboard side over two feet thick in places. Temperature 0 degrees F. This morning 10-12 in foretop. Coldest watch I have had. Not so bad 4-6 this afternoon as wind died down.

February 6, 2008. Sighted land about 8:15. Men on forecastle chopping ice. Much warmer. About 25 degrees F. Sighted Seattle going out to target practice as we came in. Coaling ship this P.M. Weather fine. Really enjoyed it all afternoon. Knocked off at 6:30 after having put on about 500 tons.

February 7, 1918. Finished coaling today. I knocked off at noon and was boat officer this P.M. Had one trip but no time to just put my foot on shore. One letter from Pop, parcel post from Charlie and Alice, Pop and the office (3 pkgs.)

February 8, 1918. Had my first port watch, 24 hrs. watch. Counting division work made about 16 hours actual work out of 24. Off at 8 P.M. Went to beach until 10.

February 9, 1918. Went on at noon today as boat officer. Took Captain ashore and got called for a poor landing the coxswain made. Met Clarke at Hotel at 8 P.M. and brought him aboard until 10 P.M. Hope to see him again but can’t tell as he is also on board a ship as quartermaster.

February 10, 1918. Was off today from noon on. Went ashore with Jacobson and Kilkenny. Went to Newport News and drove back in a machine. Not much doing.

February 11, 1918. Went on noon today to noon tomorrow as boat officer. Weather fine. We have lectures every afternoon by Mr. Case on coming target practice.

February 12, 1918. Ashore today at 5. Had supper with Dan and Mrs. Paulson. Disgraced myself by choking on a cracker. Will have to buy a few crackers and learn how to eat them. Returned early at 10.

February 13, 1918. Boat officer today to noon tomorrow. Weather fine. Nothing special.

February 14, 1918. Ashore at 4 P.M. Supper with Morrow. Sat around afterwards with men from ship and went swimming in Chamberlain. Returned at 10 P.M. through heavy fog.

February 15, 1918. Hard day today. Morning and afternoon watches. Morning watch was worst. Had to report Mess 23 for throwing food on deck. Drill all morning and afternoon with subcaliber target practice. Held sight setting and loading drill.

February 16, 1918. Same drills as yesterday. This finished up our subcaliber. Tomorrow we boresight guns and Monday we begin real practice. This evening was sent out in steamer on patrol 6:30 to 7:30. Nothing exciting.

February 17, 1918. Mid watch this morning. Found man off station and reported to O.D. The poor boob will probably get S.C.M. as was absent over an hour. Boresighting this morning. Had to knock off early as it got too rough. Finish up in the morning.

February 18, 1918. Started target practice today. The three-inch reserve crews fired. Very bad accident on after gun. Shell man tried to ram one shell in with another. Shell in gun burst. Over 25 men hurt. One man died this evening, the one that probably caused the accident. We ran back to Hampton Rds. and sent eight men ashore to hospital. Met Charlie this evening at Chamberlain and found he has orders to the Montana. Pretty lucky for us both. He reported on board today.

February 19, 1918. Continued target practice today. Port three-inch reserve gun crews fired. Rotten scores probably due to poor spotting rather than nervousness over yesterday. This afternoon boresighted six-inch guns. Target practice called off. We received orders to get three months stores on board by the 22nd. Presumably we go to Halifax then and make two quick trips over. No definite news but this seems probable.

February 20, 1918. Coaled ship this afternoon after returning to Hampton Roads this morning. Stiff wind blowing made poor conditions to coal under. Put on deck load also and finished up at 10 P.M.

February 21, 1918. Started taking supplies on board. Men worked up to 3 A.M. Court of Inquiry held today on accident. Went ashore this evening with Charlie and loafed around Chamberlain. Returned 10 P.M. We shove off tomorrow. Had afternoon watch. Received 200 men and read “Rocks and Shoals”.

February 22, 1918. Washington’s Birthday. All ships in Full Dress. Shoved off at 3 P.M. presumably for Halifax. Am stationed in forward control at present very little to do but stand. Weather fine.

February 23, 1918. Still underway. Course about 63 degrees. Had forenoon and first watch. Weather fine but getting colder. Charlie is on same watch as I as J.O.O.D. So we get up and go to bed together. Nothing special.

February 24, 1918. Had afternoon watch. Weather still the same. Sea as calm as we have seen it.

February 25, 1918. Mid watch this morning. Sighted land early this afternoon and took on British naval officer to take us in. We are relieving the South Dakota. They shoved off very shortly after we anchored. It looks as if this will be our base for the next few months with a couple of trips over.

February 26, 1918. Made a boat trip this morning in heavy fog. Later we coaled ship beginning about 9 and knocking off about 4 P.M. It rained this afternoon and made coaling rotten work. Got soaked myself. Ashore this evening. Wandered around Halifax with four or five others.

February 27, 1918. Weather pretty good. Went on as boat officer four o’clock. Made four trips for liberty party before I was through and also didn’t get to bed before 12 P.M.

February 28, 1918. Shoved off this P.M. with English transports. Had morning watch as J.O.O.D. and also first dog in forward control after we got underway. We have eight English transports with us and one English cruiser. Are making better speed than last time.

March 1, 1918. We have nine ships with us counting one English cruiser. Making good speed. Weather clear, cold and calm. Was elected mess treasurer today. Had 4-8 A.M. and 6-8 P.M. in forward control. Night in tonight.

March 2, 1918. Captain’s Inspection today. Had 8-12 A.M. and 8-12 P.M. Weather fine. Is going to be faster trip than last.

March 3, 1918. Had 12-4 P.M. on watch English ships are showing running lights. Weather still the same but a little warmer.

March 4, 1918. Had 12-4 A.M. and 4-6 P.M. Bad storm this afternoon. Convoy all scattered. Wave smashed in steamer on starboard side same as last trip.

March 5, 1918. Picked up convoy again today. Long swell running but not much wind.

March 6, 1918. 8-12 A.m. 8-12 P.M. Had abandon ship [drill] this afternoon and put on life preservers. This trip shorter but colder than last. We haven’t really been in Gulf Stream at all so water is about 50 degrees.

March 7, 1918. Weather still the same. No wind worth speaking of. This evening turned around somewhere about Lat. 50 Long. 20. Destroyers will meet convoy during night.

March 8, 1918. On our way back. 12-4 A.M. 4-6 P.M. Took off life belts this A.M. Weather pretty good.

March 9, 1918. Wind is a little stronger but still good weather. Captain’s Inspection today.

March 10, 1918. Another storm beginning this A.M. 8-12 A.M., 8-12 P.M. Not very bad but will delay us some. Hope to make Halifax by Thursday.

March 11, 1918. 12-4 A.M. and 4-6 P.M. on watch. Forward control is very slow work. Nothing to do but watch the clock go round.

March 13, 1918. Beautiful sunrise this morning but still fairly cloudy. Bag inspection today. So worked from 4 A.M. to 8 P.M. including navigation work.

March 14, 1918. 8-12 A.M., 8-12 P.M. Are getting near Halifax. Speeded up to 16 knots this P.M. so as to make it by Friday. Weather good.

March 15, 1918. 12-4  P.M. Coldest yet. Arrived Halifax this P.M. Made boat trip 6 P.M.

Seaman John H. "Jack" Atkerson


Seaman John H. "Jack" Atkerson

The story of John H. “Jack” Atkerson begins on June 13 of 1896, his birthday. “Jack” was born and raised in Simpson County, Kentucky and he graduated from Franklin High School about 1914.

The Atkerson family in Kentucky dates back to at least the 1830’s. John H. “Jack” Atkerson’s father was Andrew Winfield Atkerson, whose father was George Atkerson. His (George's) father was Elias Atkerson who came to Simpson County, Kentucky in the late 1830’s from Virginia via the Cumberland Gap, settling in Smith County, Tennessee for a short period of time. The subject of this narration “Jack” Atkerson belonged to the Son’s of the American Revolution.

In April of 1848 George Atkerson has a son named Wesley Atkerson, he being the uncle of “Jack” and then in October of 1851 “Jack’s” father Andrew Winfield Atkerson is born. Andrew Winfield was known as “Feel” through out is life and on his gravestone it actually says “Feel” Atkerson. The two brothers, Wesley and “Feel” established homesteads in Simpson County and began farming there. In fact the “Feel” and Wesley Atkerson farms were next to each other at the time of the taking of the 1900 Federal Census.

The Wesley Atkerson family consisted of Wesley and his wife Eliza and their daughter Edna and son Burt. In the “Feel” Atkerson family there was “Feel” and his wife Kate and their eldest son Guy born in November 1884; daughter Blanch born in October 1888; son Curtis born in August 1890; son John H. “Jack” born on June 13, 1896; and a daughter named Lillian Earl born in September 1899. By 1910 “Jack’s” eldest brother had moved away from Kentucky and was living in Jefferson County, Alabama working in a coal mine.

Sometime after graduation from High School in Franklin “Jack” Atkerson joined the navy. It is not known when exactly but it must have been sometime between 1914 and 1917. Why “Jack” did not stay in Kentucky and farm as his father, uncle and grandpa had for years is unknown but possibly “Jack” felt the call if his Revolutionary ancestors calling him to be a patriot and serve his country.

By the time America entered the war and the first call up for the Federal Draft in June of 1917 “Jack” must have already been in the navy as there is no Draft card for him. There is however a draft card for Guy T. Atkerson, “Jack’s” older brother. Guy registered in the third call up of the draft in September of 1918. At the time Guy was working at the Westinghouse plant #2 at the U.S. Naval station at Muscle Shoals Alabama as a machine operator. Guy was noted as having a left leg missing above the knee. On Guy’s Draft card he listed his father “Feel” as nearest relative.

During the first call up of the Draft “Jack’s” older brother Curtis and cousin Bert both register from Simpson County, Kentucky. Bert was farming with a wife and 2 children. Curtis was married with one child and was a Deputy Sheriff working for Joe Atkerson the Sheriff of Simpson County. Joe was likely another brother or other relative of “Feel” and Wesley.

On Monday February 18, 1918 Seaman “Jack” Atkerson is aboard the Armored Cruiser USS Montana and at the time the ship is conducting target practice firing of her guns just off the Chesapeake Bay. One of the guns was accidentally double loaded and a cartridge case ignites causing an explosion in the gun. Eight men are injured, two of which died of wounds sustained during the explosion.

“Jack” is one of the eight men injured but his injuries are not life threatening. He has his left eye taken out from flying metal from the explosion. He has an artificial eye made and as long as forty years after the accident he still had to have pieces of metal removed.

“Jack” recovers from his wounds and he is discharged from the navy due to his injuries. Back home in Simpson County, Kentucky by June of 1918, “Jack” had to register for the second call up of the draft, where he listed that he had his left eye out. He was 21-years old at the time and listed his father “Feel” as next of kin.

Likely on a Veterans benefit “Jack” entered the University of Kentucky where he graduated with a Degree in Agriculture. Eventually he would become an Agricultural Extension Agent until his disabilities from the lost of his eye kept him from doing his job. In 1930 “Jack” was working as the Extension Agent in Scottsville in Allen County, Kentucky. He was still unmarried at the time and did not marry until about 1936 when he took Annie Galloway as his wife. Together “Jack” and Annie had two sons, Jay born on July 28, 1937 and Phillip W. born on May 9, 1939 both being born in Warren County, Kentucky.

John H. “Jack” Atkerson would pass away on June 15 of 1970 of heart disease and his wife Annie would pass away in March of 1977.

Musician First Class Dennis J. Ahern

On August 3 of 1888 in Limerick, Ireland a boy is born who was named Dennis John Ahern. In 1892 a 27-year old man named John Ahern came to America and settled in Plymouth, CT working as an Iron Polisher. This man named John may have been Dennis John Ahern’s father. About 1894 little 6-year old Dennis came across the Atlantic to live with the elder John Ahern in Plymouth, CT. In 1900 the two Ahern’s were living in the John and Mary O’Donnell house in Plymouth.

Dennis John Ahern learned to play the violin during his early years, which would be something that would sustain his life in the new world. At an unknown time he came to possibly live with Mrs. Lizzie C. Marriott of 40 Ashley St. in Dayton, Ohio. The exact relationship is not known. But there came a time when Dennis Ahern joined the United States Navy as a musician. While in the navy Dennis had written several letters to Mrs. Marriott, one of which was dated December 21, 1908 where Dennis speaks about the USS Montana. “The ship is cleared for action and we are having ammunition drill nearly all the time.”

I a previous letter he writes the following on July 9, 1908 while stationed aboard the USS Franklin. “The Bandmaster from the Montana wants to take me aboard as soon as I am rated. I will then draw $30 per month, up from $16 I now get. If he takes me on the Montana I would play the clarinet. The Bandmaster was a Englishman named Mitten, he is a good bandmaster and a good fellow.”

Musician Ahern did make it aboard the USS Montana and may have remained aboard through his entire time in the navy. When the 1910 Federal census was taken Ahern was a Musician First Class serving aboard the USS Montana. At the time he was a 22-year old single man. It is known Ahern was still in the navy past December 15, 1911. Ahern served a 4-year term in the navy and after discharge returned to 40 Ashley Street in Dayton, Ohio to the home of Mrs. Marriot.

During WWI in the first call up for the Federal Draft Dennis Ahern registered on June 5, 1917. At the time he was still living at 40 Ashley Street in Dayton and was working as a violinist for the Hurtig and Seaman Theater in Dayton and was still single. He was a medium built man with grey eyes and light colored hair. He did not serve in the military during WWI.

Sometime there after he married but that ended in divorce. By 1930 Dennis was living in the home of Henry and Elizabeth Robenstein as a lodger. He was still earning a living playing the violin as a musician for a local theater orchestra.

Nothing more is known of the violin player from Limerick, Ireland who came to America to make music.

Coxswain Harold M. Taylor

Harold Mordaunt Taylor was a Coxswain in the United States Navy and served aboard the Armored Cruiser USS Montana from 1914 through 1918. His story of how he came to serve in the United States Navy begins on July 4, 1897 in Haffey, Pennsylvania.

As the United States is about to celebrate her 121st birthday on July 4, 1897 back in Penn Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania 31-year old Sarah Isabelle Taylor (nee Aber) and her husband 35-year old Elmer Harvey Taylor are about to deliver the couples seventh child. That day Sarah delivers a baby boy they named Harold Mordaunt Taylor. Elmer and Sarah would altogether have eight children born to them. At the time Elmer ran a general store to provide for his wife and eight children. Harold went to school only through the eighth grade.

Family stories tell that Harold was a bit of a character growing up and the relationship between he and his father Elmer was strained and sometimes volatile throughout their lives. The story of how Harold Mordaunt Taylor enlisted into the United States Navy is but one example.

According to family stories told of how Harold enlisted into the Navy, it went something like this. The exact circumstances are unknown but Harold somehow accidentally lost his father’s horse drawn wagon into the Allegheny River in December of 1914. Harold evidently feared his father’s wrath enough for losing the wagon in the river, that he wanted to avoid the confrontation with his father over the event, and Harold felt that he should join the Navy so he would not have to deal with his father. Harold would have been about 17 ½-years old at the time, and so he must have lied about his age.

According to the Pennsylvania WWI Service and Compensation file for Harold Mordaunt Taylor it states that on December 18, 1914 he enlisted at the U. S. Navy Recruiting Station in Pittsburgh, PA. It further states his age at enlistment of 18 years, 5 months, so clearly he lied about his age, because on December 18, 1914 Harold would have been 17 years, 5 months old at the time.

Harold must have looked old enough to join without his parents ok for the Navy recruiter and Harold was sent for basic training. Apprentice Seaman Harold M. Taylor was issued his service number of 103 51 45 and began a journey with the Navy for the next 4-years. On the day that America entered the war on April 6, 1917 Seaman Taylor was serving aboard the USS Montana, and may have been serving aboard before the war. About August of 1917 Seaman Taylor was advanced to Coxswain, which would be the rating he would maintain throughout the remainder of the war. Coxswain Taylor would serve aboard the Montana throughout the war in Caribbean waters, on convoy escort duties, and as the U. S. Naval Academy practice ship.

Taylor’s term of service with the Navy was up in December of 1918, and he was transferred off the Montana on November 9, 1918 and sent to the Receiving ship at the Norfolk, Navy Yard. Taylor was Honorably Discharged from Active Service at the Norfolk, Virginia Navy Yard on December 17, 1918.

Now back in civilian life Harold Taylor settled in southwest Pennsylvania, making his home in Penn Hills in Allegheny, County near the city of Pittsburgh. There he took a job working for the railroad as a laborer. He met and married Nancy Agnes McWilliams on September 19, 1919 who was about 4-years younger than Harold. Together Harold and Nancy would have three children, and son they named Harold and two daughters, Norma and Maggie.

The stormy relationship between Harold and his father Elmer continued after Harold had been married. One family story was told how Harold physically threw his father Elmer out of Harold’s home once for making a disparaging comment to his wife Nancy. The ill feelings between father and son were never really mended and when Elmer passed away, Harold inherited just one-dollar from Elmer’s estate. Elmer being a store owner was said to have been a fairly wealthy man when he passed on.

In 1930 Harold and Nancy lived on Bridge Street in Penn Hills and by 1940 they were living in a home on Milltown and Oakmont road in Penn Hills, PA. Harold in 1940 was still working for the railroad now as a brakeman on a train. Harold would work his entire life for the railroad, and he and Nancy would live for the rest of their lives in Penn Hills, PA.

First Sergeant George B. Crowell, USMC

Sgt George B. Crowell, USMC, was 1st Sgt of the Marine detachment on the USS Montana from April 1909 to July 1911. Crowell was born on November 4, 1887 in Paterson, New Jersey. The 1930 Census shows him as single and living in a boarding house in Dover, NJ. His occupation at the time was selling newspapers at the railroad station. George B. Crowell died in February of 1971 in Manahawkin, New Jersey.

His service timeline is as follows:

Private - Enlisted Dec. 4, 1907 Marine Barracks, Boston Navy Yard.
Private – July 1908, transferred to Co. “M” 3rd Battalion Expeditionary Regiment, Camp Elliott, Panama Canal Zone.
Private – Aug. 1908, transferred to Marine Detachment on board SS Esperanza.
Private – Sept. 1908, transferred to Marine Barracks, Boston Navy Yard – (AWOL from guard post for two hours – fined three (3) liberties).
Corporal – Oct. 1908, – transferred to USS Maine (battleship) Note: USS Maine had just returned from the world-wide cruise of the “Great White Fleet”, Maine was decommissioned at Portsmouth, NH at the end of October 1908. Maine was recommissioned June 15, 1911.
Corporal – Nov. 1908, – Sick (likely caused by drunkenness) USS Maine.
Corporal – Dec. 1908, - transferred to Marine Barracks, Norfolk Navy Yard.
Corporal –Jan. 1909, - transferred to Marine Barracks, Naval Station Guantanamo, Cuba.
Corporal – Feb. 1909, - transferred to Marine Barracks, Norfolk Navy Yard.
Corporal – Mar. 1909, - transferred to Marine Barracks, Naval Station Guantanamo, Cuba (neglect of duty, 30-days restriction).
Corporal – April 1909, – transferred to USS Montana (armored cruiser).
Corporal – May1909, – aboard USS Montana in port at Mersina, Turkey (disobeying orders – verbal warning).
Corporal – June 1909, – aboard USS Montana in port at Smyrna, Turkey.
Corporal – July 1909, – aboard USS Montana at sea.
Corporal – Aug. 1909, – aboard USS Montana at southern gunnery drill area (1/2 hour late returning from gun battery party – verbal warning).
Corporal – Sept & Nov. 1909, – aboard USS Montana at Norfolk Navy Yard.
1st Sgt. - Dec. 1909 to June 1911, – aboard USS Montana.
Sgt. - July 1911, – transferred to Marine Barracks, Boston Navy Yard. Arrested and in quarters awaiting results of summary court-martial having been tried aboard USS Montana July 3, 1911. Offense is Neglect of Duty in failing to make certain reports to commanding officer Marine detachment, Guantanamo, Cuba, May 13, 1911. Sentence – reduction to the next inferior grade (sergeant) and to lose pay amounting to $100. By order of the Major General, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Sgt. – Sept. 1911, – transferred to Company “E” Marine Barracks Recruit Depot, Norfolk Navy Yard. On duty instructing recruits.
Sgt. – Early Nov. 1911, – transferred to Marine Officer’s School and Barracks Detachment, Norfolk Navy Yard. On duty instructing recruits.
Sgt. – Early Dec. 1911, – transferred to Company “E” Marine Barracks Recruit Depot, Norfolk Navy Yard.
Sgt. – Late Dec. 1911, – Discharged upon expiration of enlistment, character “Very Good” physical condition – good.


Pete Scarafiotti who today owns First Sergeant Crowell’s uniform shared this photo of Sgt. Crowell’s very rare M1904 dress blue tunic.
Pete commented, “As you can see from the above service record, ole’ George was quite a character.”

Coxswain Harold M. Taylor

Harold Mordaunt Taylor was a Coxswain in the United States Navy and served aboard the Armored Cruiser USS Montana from 1914 through 1918. His story of how he came to serve in the United States Navy begins on July 4, 1897 in Haffey, Pennsylvania.

As the United States is about to celebrate her 121st birthday on July 4, 1897 back in Penn Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania 31-year old Sarah Isabelle Taylor (nee Aber) and her husband 35-year old Elmer Harvey Taylor are about to deliver the couples seventh child. That day Sarah delivers a baby boy they named Harold Mordaunt Taylor. Elmer and Sarah would altogether have eight children born to them. At the time Elmer ran a general store to provide for his wife and eight children. Harold went to school only through the eighth grade.

Family stories tell that Harold was a bit of a character growing up and the relationship between he and his father Elmer was strained and sometimes volatile throughout their lives. The story of how Harold Mordaunt Taylor enlisted into the United States Navy is but one example.

According to family stories told of how Harold enlisted into the Navy, it went something like this. The exact circumstances are unknown but Harold somehow accidentally lost his father’s horse drawn wagon into the Allegheny River in December of 1914. Harold evidently feared his father’s wrath enough for losing the wagon in the river, that he wanted to avoid the confrontation with his father over the event, and Harold felt that he should join the Navy so he would not have to deal with his father. Harold would have been about 17 ½-years old at the time, and so he must have lied about his age.

According to the Pennsylvania WWI Service and Compensation file for Harold Mordaunt Taylor it states that on December 18, 1914 he enlisted at the U. S. Navy Recruiting Station in Pittsburgh, PA. It further states his age at enlistment of 18 years, 5 months, so clearly he lied about his age, because on December 18, 1914 Harold would have been 17 years, 5 months old at the time.

Harold must have looked old enough to join without his parents ok for the Navy recruiter and Harold was sent for basic training. Apprentice Seaman Harold M. Taylor was issued his service number of 103 51 45 and began a journey with the Navy for the next 4-years. On the day that America entered the war on April 6, 1917 Seaman Taylor was serving aboard the USS Montana, and may have been serving aboard before the war. About August of 1917 Seaman Taylor was advanced to Coxswain, which would be the rating he would maintain throughout the remainder of the war. Coxswain Taylor would serve aboard the Montana throughout the war in Caribbean waters, on convoy escort duties, and as the U. S. Naval Academy practice ship.

Taylor’s term of service with the Navy was up in December of 1918, and he was transferred off the Montana on November 9, 1918 and sent to the Receiving ship at the Norfolk, Navy Yard. Taylor was Honorably Discharged from Active Service at the Norfolk, Virginia Navy Yard on December 17, 1918.

Now back in civilian life Harold Taylor settled in southwest Pennsylvania, making his home in Penn Hills in Allegheny, County near the city of Pittsburgh. There he took a job working for the railroad as a laborer. He met and married Nancy Agnes McWilliams on September 19, 1919 who was about 4-years younger than Harold. Together Harold and Nancy would have three children, and son they named Harold and two daughters, Norma and Maggie.

The stormy relationship between Harold and his father Elmer continued after Harold had been married. One family story was told how Harold physically threw his father Elmer out of Harold’s home once for making a disparaging comment to his wife Nancy. The ill feelings between father and son were never really mended and when Elmer passed away, Harold inherited just one-dollar from Elmer’s estate. Elmer being a store owner was said to have been a fairly wealthy man when he passed on.

In 1930 Harold and Nancy lived on Bridge Street in Penn Hills and by 1940 they were living in a home on Milltown and Oakmont road in Penn Hills, PA. Harold in 1940 was still working for the railroad now as a brakeman on a train. Harold would work his entire life for the railroad, and he and Nancy would live for the rest of their lives in Penn Hills, PA.

Harold M. Taylor would pass away on March 29, 1986, in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, at the age of 88, and was buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA.

Harry Benjamin Cornick, Yeoman Third Class

Harry Benjamin Cornick was born on August 22, 1885 in the central Illinois town of Assumption. Harry Cornick was the third of 5 children born to Marion “Mary” Buzan, and Abraham Cornick. In 1885, the little town of Assumption had a population of about 750, and Abraham worked as a leather harness maker to provide for a living for his family. In 1900, the Cornick family consisted of Abraham and Mary and 4 of the 5 children Robert Howard, Harry Benjamin, Ette, and Howard J. the youngest. Mary and all the children were born in Illinois, and Abraham was born in New York.

At some point in Harry B. Cornick’s life he joined the United States Navy. It is known from the 1910 Federal Census that he was serving aboard the Armored Cruiser USS Montana as a Yeoman Third Class. Assuming that Cornick joined the Navy at age 18 then he could have been serving as early as 1903, but this is not known for sure exactly when he joined. From post cards and other keepsakes that survived, and are now in the hands of family members he was aboard the Montana for the Spring 1910 South America cruise, and likely was aboard during the cruise with President Taft to tour the Panama Canal Zone in November of 1910. It is not known how long Cornick served in the Navy or when he was separated.

Evidence of Cornick being on the South American cruise aboard the Montana is supported by a small card of introduction given to Cornick by a Mr. Frank Wavrunek from Buenos Aries, Argentina. Wavrunek was likely connected with the YMCA in Buenos Aries, as the card is addressed to B. A. Shurman of the YMCA in Havana.

Mr. B. A. Shurman
General Sec. YMCA, Monism 452, Armistat 83 A
Havana, Cuba

April 12, 1910
My dear Mr. Shuman,

This will serve to introduce Mr. H. B. Cornick of U.S.N. Montana and I wish that you would kindly see that he is given the same attention as your sincere friend.

Frank Wavrunek
Mexico 349, Buenos Aries

In the records of United States Passports there is an application dated march 13, 1906 placed at the American Legation in Buenos Aries, Argentina in the name of Frank Wavrunek. On the application form Frank Wavrunek states that he was born in Appleton, Wisconsin on September 8, 1887, and that before leaving the United States he was last living in Stevens Point, WI working as a shipping clerk. He left the United States for Buenos Aires on July 5, 1898. The reason he stated for a passport on the application form was for protection and identification. He listed his address as Mexico 349, Buenos Aires, which is the same address as the card he sent on April 12, 1910 to Mr. Shurman on behalf of Harry Cornick. So, it appears that Frank Wavrunek was in Argentina from at least 1898 through and possibly after 1910. Frank Wavrunek was a member of the Holy Name Society of Stangelville, Wisconsin, Third Order of St. Francis and Third Degree, Knights of Columbus at Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Wavrunek passed away on April 7, 1956 and is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

And there was a photo-postcard of at least 21 of the Montana’s sailors and Chiefs on a site seeing tour posing as a group with 7-8 other civilian men, women and children. The photo was written on by Cornick stating “Can you find me? This was taken on top of a wall at Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.”

Cornick also had a framed colorful silk embroidery souvenir framed. These were very popular with the crews of navy ships, and Cornick’s had the phrase “In Remembrance of my cruise with the United States Navy” embroidered across the top. In the center was a life preserver where a photo would be placed of the sailor.

Harry B. Cornick

A photo of the framed embroidery, with a later photo of Harry and his wife Hazel,
shown below the framed embroidery.

It is known that about 1912, Harry Cornick married Hazel Hatfield (1891-1979). So, it is likely that Harry may have been out of the Navy by then. But by September of 1918 when he had to register for the draft during WWI, Harry and Hazel were living and farming in Northeast Montana in the very small town of Daleview.

Daleview, Sheridan County, Montana draws its roots from the lignite coal deposits in the area, and to the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault St. Marie Railroad, also known as the SOO Line. The hills around the Daleview area were also a favorite hangout for outlaws and cattle rustlers. The first post office was opened in 1914 near Daleview and was then known as Ranous. About 3-miles up the line a second post office opened and was known as Daleview. In 1915, the Ranous and Daleview post offices merged into one location.

On April 16, 1919, Harry B. Cornick became the United States Postmaster at the Daleview post office. Along about November of 1919 Harry and Hazel had a daughter who they named Shirley. Along with being the Postmaster in Daleview, Harry also worked at a general store, located in Daleview. This general store was known as the Daleview Cash Store and was owned by Odel Hatfield, who was a relative to Hazel.

While living in Daleview there was a second daughter born to Hazel and Harry. But at the age of two the second daughter was tragically killed in a horse and buggy accident. It was believed that she was thrown from the buggy and it was thought that she broken her neck and died as a result. She was buried in Daleview.

Work in Montana must have fizzled out as by the spring of 1930 the Cornick family had moved from Montana to Decatur, Illinois. There in Decatur, Harry Hazel, and Shirley lived in a home Harry owned, located at 1121 N. College Street. At the time, Harry worked at a grocery store.

Harry and Hazel would live the remainder of their lives in Decatur, Illinois, with Harry working as a painter and wallpaper hanger for many years. On July 2, 1937 Harry B. Cornick passed away and was buried in the Graceland Cemetery in Decatur. His wife Hazel was buried next to Harry in 1979.


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This page was created on 26 February 2005 and last modified on: March 18, 2017

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