Length: 504 feet 6 inches. Breadth: 72 feet 11 inches. Mean Draft: 25 feet. Displacement: 14,500 tons normal, 15,981 tons full load. Machinery: 28,600 IHP; Babcock boilers, 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
USS North Carolina about 1905-1907
The keel of the second North Carolina (ACR-12) was laid down on 21 March 1905 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., in Newport News, Virginia. The unfinished hull of the North Carolina was launched 6 October 1906, and was sponsored by Miss Rebekah Glenn, who was the daughter of the Governor of North Carolina, Robert Broadnax Glenn. North Carolina was completed and commissioned at Norfolk on 7 May 1908, with Captain William A. Marshall as her first Commander.
Another undated photo of the North Carolina. Here she is shown in her original configuration before she was re-fitted with the cage style masts.
North Carolina again for the second time on January 18, 1908 failed to obtain her Government contract of 22 knots speed. In her second speed run, which was to last four hours, just off the Virginia Capes, was called off by officials on board from the Newport News Ship Builders, as it was evident that she was unable to make her speed of 22 knots. It was reported that she would be given a third trial to make her Government requirements.
Following her trials and shakedown along the eastern seaboard and in Caribbean waters, North Carolina sailed from Norfolk, VA on Monday December 21, 1908 for Charleston Bay, South Carolina where she was to meet her sister ship the USS Montana. 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. 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.
In the first weeks of February the North Carolina was transporting President-elect Taft back to New Orleans, and on Thursday evening of the 11th of February the North Carolina and the Montana arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi River where they anchored and met the scout cruiser Birmingham. Taft was transferred from the North Carolina to the Birmingham where she would take President-elect Taft the final 128 miles up the river to New Orleans.
During mid 1909 there was a growing uneasiness in the eastern Mediterranean and as such the State Department thought it wise to have some American Naval presence in the region to protect Americans threatened by conflict in the Turkish Empire. And so on the 23rd of April 1909 the North Carolina along with her sister ship the Montana arrived in the region. On 17 May 1909 North Carolina sent a medical relief party ashore to Adana, Turkey, to treat both wounded and desperately ill Armenians, who were the victims of a massacre. North Carolina and her crew provided food, shelter, disinfectants, distilled water, dressings and medicines, and assisted other relief agencies already on the scene.
The early morning of Sunday 11 July 1909 started out like any other Sunday morning with the usual routines on board ship. That morning, Ensign Hugh K. Aiken and Chief Water Tender Peter Mullan were making a routine daily inspection of a coalbunker. There was a build up of highly explosive coal gasses in the bunker and something set off the coal gasses resulting in an explosion as Ensign Aiken and Chief Mullan were entering the bunker. Chief Mullan was only slightly injured but Ensign Aiken was seriously injured. Captain Marshall put into Naples, Italy to assess the damage to the North Carolina and on Tuesday 13 July 1909 shortly after 7 o'clock in the morning Ensign Aiken died as a result of his injuries while still on board the North Carolina. Captain Marshall called for a complete investigation into the cause of the explosion.
Chief Peter Mullan was from New York and made his home at 26 Cheever Place in Brooklyn, NY. Ensign Hugh K. Aiken was born in New Orleans, LA on 23 September 1884. He entered the United States Naval Academy on 14 May 1902 and graduated in February of 1906. Aiken served as Midshipmen on the USS Texas and also the cruiser USS St. Louis. He was promoted to Ensign on 13 February 1908 and ordered to duty on the North Carolina. While at the Naval Academy Aiken excelled at athletics and played on the football team. In one game his skull was fractured and for several days was in serious condition. As a result he had a small silver plate inserted in his skull to repair the injury he sustained.
For the remainder of the summer of 1909 the North Carolina and Montana continued cruising the Levant region of the far Eastern Mediterranean Sea, giving comfort to the refugees and the safe feeling to the American citizens in the region that the protection of the American Navy was close by. She, on 3 August 1909 was recalled from this duty in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and returned home.
Skylarking on the Bridge. Here a group of the North Carolina's Signalmen, cutlass in hand stage a mock battle.
After returning home North Carolina made a cruise southward to Caribbean waters and in late March 1910 made a stop in Bridgetown, British West Indies. As the 1910 Federal Census was taken on the United States Armored Cruiser USS North Carolina on the fourth day of June she was commanded by Captain Clifford J. Boush. His Executive Officer was 39-year old Lt. Cmdr. Harley H. Christy, who by now was a seasoned naval officer with many years of sea service behind him. Lt. Cmdr Christy would one day command a sister ship of the North Carolina, the USS San Diego, and would be the only commander to lose an Armored Cruiser to enemy action during WWI.
In the years before World War I, North Carolina trained and maneuvered in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean and participated in ceremonial and diplomatic activities. Highlights included attending centennial celebrations of the independence of Argentina (May-June 1910) and Venezuela (June-July 1911) carrying the Secretary of War for an inspection tour of Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Cuba, and the Panama Canal (July-August 1911).
On 31 October 1911 Secretary of the Navy Meyer reviewed 102 Naval vessels in New York harbor, which was the largest assemblage of United States warships reviewed at that time. The crowd assembled to look at the great warships numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Each ship was decked out with all the trimmings and each sailor was dressed in his whites making quite a sight to the onlookers. There were 17 battleships there that day along with the cruisers Washington and North Carolina.
The construction of one of the greatest engineering feats of the early 1900’s was completed in late 1911. This was the great “Railroad Over The Sea” envisioned by Standard Oil founder Henry M. Flagler. Construction was begun in 1905 and completed in 1911 with estimated construction costs of $150,000 per mile. The line ran 156 miles from Miami all the way to Key West, Florida. During early January 1912 the running of the first train was held and a completion celebration was held at Key West to commemorate this event. Warships were invited to participate in the festivities and on January 20, 1912 the Armored Cruisers USS Washington and North Carolina along with the scout cruisers Salem and Birmingham, and the Portuguese cruiser Aramada anchored at Key West to join the celebration.
On the 16th of March 1912 the North Carolina and the scout cruiser Birmingham acted as escorts to the rusty, twisted hulk of the battleship USS Maine. Raised from the bottom of the harbor in Havana, Cuba where she was blown apart by an explosion some 14 years before, it was now time to bury the old hulk of the Maine and bring her sailors home for proper burial.
On Saturday March 16th under a grey sky and a heavy sea, the old battleship Maine was towed from Havana. Her decks were covered with flowers and palms and a great naval ensign flew from a temporary mast that had been rigged where her main mast once stood. She put to sea for her last voyage with Captain John O’Brien as her last skipper standing on her deck. As the wreck of the Maine was towed passed the North Carolina and Birmingham, which were to act as her escorts, their crews manned the rails and stood at attention. The marines Presented Arms and the scarlet-coated bandsmen on the Quarterdeck of the North Carolina played the National Anthem as salutes were fired.
The hulk of the USS Maine with her tugs towing her to her final resting place on 16 March 1912. The large flag can be seen flying from her tempory mast. The caption reads; “Towing the Maine out to the last resting place. She went down with colors flying.”
A view likely taken from the North Carolina just after the Maine sank to her grave. The Birmingham is the ship on the left of the photo.
Passing out of the harbor no salutes were fired as the flotilla proceeded in silence with all flags flown at half-mast. The course taken was almost due north so as to keep the wreck of the Maine headed into the heavy seas. A three-whistle blast from the North Carolina followed by one shot announced that the three-mile limit had been reached. Half an hour passed until the entire fleet was assembled at the spot. Then the North Carolina and Birmingham took positions to the eastward of the Maine. The Cuban warships moved to the westward and the remainder of the ships gathered there assembled to the north and south of the Maine.
In the meantime a crew went aboard the Maine to prepare her for her final moments. Another whistle sounded from the North Carolina and another shot was fired. This was the signal to the men on board the Maine to open the valves to let in the sea. Then after everyone had left the Maine, Captain John O’Brien jumped from her being the last man on board to the waiting tug, which towed her to this spot. They moved a short distance away while the crews of the rest of the ships gathered stood at attention at the rails.
There was silence and only the wash of the waves could be heard. For the next ten minutes the great rusty, twisted hulk pitched heavily in the sea struggling, as if she did not want to give up to her ancient enemy. As she settled the waves began to claim her and wash over her decks. She settled bow down and soon enough she was stern up showing her propellers and then her keel. In only a few seconds she was almost vertical, and then there was a flash of blue and white as the great Ensign she was flying disappeared beneath the surface of the pitching sea. At the same moment the pressure building up within her hull exploded her decks open and with an incredible velocity the Maine took one swift plunge to her grave. It was as if she had given her last breath and she left no trace except the floating flowers tossing in her foam.
Whistles blasting from the whole assemblage of ships then broke the silence, and ten minutes later the Cuban flagship Hatuey fired a farewell National salute to the North Carolina and Birmingham to which, both ships returned the salute. Exactly twenty minutes elapsed from the opening of the valves until the Maine was gone, and the waters where she made her grave were 600 fathoms deep.
After a few moments the North Carolina, with the recovered bodies from the wreck of the Maine, along with the Birmingham set course for Norfolk, Virginia where they were to deliver the honored sailors from the Maine for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
As war began in Europe, North Carolina was again called to protect Americans in the regions of the Eastern Mediterranean. She departed Boston on 7 August 1914 heading for the all too familiar waters of the Mediterranean. After calling at ports of England and France, she cruised constantly between Jaffa, Beirut, and Alexandria, Egypt, making known that her presence was a reminder of the might of the still neutral United States.
An example of this show of force was put to the test during late December 1914. On the 28th of December the Italian Cruiser Calabrea, then on station at Beirut, Syria was ordered by Rome to assist the North Carolina in protecting refugees along the Syrian coast near Jaffa. Navy Secretary Daniels sent direct orders to Captain Oman on the North Carolina and Captain Decker on the USS Tennessee to transport these refugees from Jaffa to Alexandria, Egypt. Captain Decker and the Tennessee had the previous day left Jaffa bound for Alexandria with the first 500 refugees. Secretary Daniels also requested detailed information from both Captain Oman and Decker about a recent wire dispatch from Athens, Greece about the reported story that Captain Oman and the North Carolina had threatened to fire on the Port of Tripoli, Syria when the local Turkish authorities made attempts to prevent British and French diplomats and their nationals from leaving Tripoli on an American Steamer. It was reported that American authorities could not confirm this report. When her duty was completed in the Mediterranean she sailed for home, reaching Boston on 18 June 1915 where she was due for overhaul.
During the events of the 28th and 29th of December a crewman of the North Carolina identified only as T. D. F. vents is frustration with the simple things that all sailors look forward to. On a post card post marked on the 29th of December from Beirut, Syria he writes to a Miss Anne R. Bernie of Quincy, Massachusetts telling her that the ships stores along with the ships mail was not delivered. In his words he tells her "...I don't care about the stores but I do want that mail." He had underlined the word "do" letting her know just how important the mail is to a sailor.
After her repairs were completed she sailed south for her next assignment, reaching Pensacola, Florida on 9 September 1915 where she was to serve as Station Ship there. Her duties at the Naval Station would be to develop new ways to use aircraft from ships. On 5 November 1915, she became the first ship ever to launch an aircraft by catapult while under way. This experimental work by the North Carolina led to the use of catapults on battleships and cruisers through World War II, and to the steam catapults on present-day aircraft carriers.
After her fitting of the catapults she sailed north to the Virginia Capes where she was to perform Neutrality Patrols. As more and more German activity was taking place just off the US East Coast the American Government became anxious and detailed several of the Armored Cruisers to Neutrality Patrols. British Cruisers patrolled beyond the three-mile limit watching for suspicious activities. In the later days of July 1916 the North Carolina was patrolling off the Virginia Capes with several destroyers, which were detailed to operate with her. The job the North Carolina and her destroyers were doing became even more important during a recent event that too place on the evening of July 28. This took place in the Lower Chesapeake where an unidentified vessel trailed the Battleship USS Louisiana and was witnesses by the British cruisers just off the three-mile limit. This event gave even more credence to our Neutrality Patrols preformed by our ships. The North Carolina carried with her the navy’s newest weapons of the day that being the airplane catapults recently fitted on her fantail. She would put this to good use detecting German activities. Among the German ships known to be in operation just off the coast were the Deutschland and her presence made the United States officials wary of her activities, leading to more support for keeping these Neutrality Patrols in place.
When the United States entered World War I, North Carolina sailed north to escort troop transports plying between Norfolk and New York. Between December 1918 and July 1919, she brought men of the AEF home from Europe. North Carolina was on 7 June 1920 renamed Charlotte so that her original name might be assigned to a new battleship. USS Charlotte was decommissioned at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington on 18 February 1921. Her name was struck from the Navy List 15 July 1930, and she was sold for scrapping 29 September 1930.
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 North Carolina/ USS Charlotte please e-mail them to: Joe Hartwell
Lt. Arthur Clemons Brettle served in the United States Naval Reserve Force aboard the Armored Cruiser USS North Carolina during WWI. His story begins with his father who was also named Arthur C. Brettle.
The senior Arthur C. Brettle was born in July of 1856 in England. At ten-years of age in 1866 his family came to the United States and settled in New York State. Arthur Brettle (Sr.) was later granted his Naturalization papers and would live the rest of his life in his new country.
About 1884 Arthur C. Brettle (Sr.) met and married a woman named Evangelia C. who was born in October of 1861. She was born and raised in New York State. In June of 1900 Arthur and Evangelia made their home in Buffalo, New York where Arthur worked as a bank officer. With 16-years of marriage behind them Arthur and Evangelia had 4 children by then. They were eldest daughter Eleanor A. born in October of 1886; Arthur C., Jr. born August 5, 1888; Mildred F. born in December of 1893 and finally Dorothy E. born in September of 1898.
By the summer of 1910 the Brettle’s were living at 417, Fourteenth Street in Buffalo, NY. On the 1910 Census form it shows Evangelia as the head of the household and her husband was not listed. She was however marked as Married and had been for 25-years. But 10 years later on the 1920 Census it notes that she was marked as “Widowed” so it is likely that her husband had passed away or was ill when the taking of the 1910 Census was recorded. All 4 children were still living in the home with their mother. Eleanor the eldest daughter who was now 24-years old was single and was working teaching school in the public school system. Also in the home with the Brettle’s were two boarders, Minnie and Melvin Ferris who had been married for only 1-year. Melvin worked as a carpenter.
After High school young Arthur C. Brettle Jr. enrolled in college at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York to study electrical engineering. While attending college he met and fell in love with a young woman named Marion Billings. She was also enrolled at Syracuse University studying to become an art teacher. Marion was born on September 12, 1889.
Almost two-months after the United States declares war with Germany in 1917 Arthur Brettle registers for the Federal Draft at his local draft board in Schenectady, NY on June 5, 1917. He was single and lived at 12 Bedford Road in Schenectady. And at the time he was working as an electrical engineer for the General Electric Company in Schenectady. Arthur was a tall man and had blue eyes and light colored hair. Arthur may have enlisted into the United States Naval Reserve Force where his skills could be put to use.
As America entered the war her needs for qualified officers in the navy to lead the coming increase of new enlisted men to fill the ranks, college educated men were often selected as officer candidates and this is the likely path Arthur took. It is known that by December 10, 1917 he was a Lt. (jg) stationed in the Reserve Officers Quarters at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. This is known from several letters written to him from his future wife, Marion Billings of Lake Placid, NY, who was an Art Teacher at a school in Fulton, N.Y.
Lt. (jg) Brettle was stationed at the Reserve Officers Quarters as late as December 14, 1917 and then sometime between then and his next letter dated January 28, 1918 he was assigned to sea duty. This letter of January 28 his address was now aboard the Armored Cruiser USS North Carolina. She was then involved in escorting troop transports sailing between Norfolk and New York. Later during the war she made nine trips escorting troop transports across the Atlantic to Europe. The North Carolina had attached to her stern deck a new weapon that the navy had only recently began to experiment with. That weapon was an airplane, which would be used to scout for the German U-Boats. It is not known today what Lt. (jg) Brettle’s duty was on the ship but some of the family remember that it had something to do with communicating with the pilots as they landed the planes on deck. By July of 1918 Brettle may have been advanced to full Lieutenant as his letters are now addressed to “Lieut. Arthur C. Brettle” or Marion Billings may have just written it incorrectly.
At some point possibly after the war Lt. (jg) Brettle may have been transferred off the North Carolina and stationed at the Naval station in Brest, France. His daughter Eleanor Ann Brettle Kirsch has a diary that he kept that was written in Brest, France during 1919. Most of the letters Lt. (jg) Brettle wrote were not war related but love letters to his future wife and details making plans for their coming marriage after the war. In one such letter he writes this passage, “Received my orders to go back to the U. S. to my home to await orders. Assigned to USS George Washington for return.”
Lt. (jg) Arthur Clemons Brettle was honorably discharged from the Navy and went back to New York to marry Marion Billings. Arthur returned to the Buffalo area where he took his previous job with General Electric. Arthur and Marion lived in Hamburg, which is located just south of Buffalo, from before 1927 when their youngest daughter Eleanor Ann (Brettle) Kirsch was born. The two oldest daughters of Arthur and Marion were Barbara (Brettle) Bollinger who lived in Pulaski, NY, a school music teacher and Julia (Brettle) Junge, who lived in Schenectady, an artist, and a weaver. Arthur and Marion lived there until about 1951 when they had moved to Florida. They then sold the house to their daughter Eleanor Ann (Brettle) Kirsch and husband. During the same time Arthur’s two sisters Dorothy E. and Eleanor A. and mother Evangelia lived together in Buffalo at 138 Crestwood Ave. Teaching runs in the Brettle family as Dorothy was teaching at Public School No. 56 and Eleanor was a teacher at Bennett High School.
Arthur C. Brettle Passed away on January 18, 1970 in Bradenton, Florida and his wife Marion passed away in Schenectady, NY in October of 1974. His daughter Eleanor Ann Kirsch today has his diary, letters and his officers dress sword.
Lt. (jg) Arthur C. Brettle. Winter overcoat showing one overseas stripe on his lower left sleeve. The back of this photo states it was taken aboard the USS George Washington.
Lt. (jg) Arthur C. Brettle. Winter Blue uniform.
This is an example of one of the many letters from Lt. (jg) Brettle’s future wife, M. Billings of Lake Placid, NY
This is Lt. (jg) Brettle’s Dress sword.