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.
For the civilian yard workers at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, working on the large navy ships could be a bit dangerous sometimes. For 24-year old Claude R. Colby of Kittery his workweek ended not quite the way he had planned. On Friday June 7, 1912 Colby goes to work in the yard much as he did every day. Colby was a Ship Fitter’s helper, which meant that he would be climbing up and down the sides of ships and doing the grunt work for the Ship Fitters. Colby is up on the bridge deck of the North Carolina when he slips and falls breaking his nose. Likely his pride was more injured than his nose was.
On Sunday June 9, 1912 several North Carolina sailors were enjoying the day on Clark’s Island, which was very near the Island where the Portsmouth Navy Yard is located. Just a short distance across the bay within sight of Clark’s Island there were three young women in a small skiff rowing in the bay enjoying the day. But the tide at the time was running swiftly and combined with the wind was taking the women out to sea faster than they knew. Soon enough they realized their predicament and began to row with some enthusiasm. But one of the oars became dislodged from the oarlock and was lost. Now with only one oar, control of the small boat was nearly impossible. About this time the sailors on Clark’s Island thought they needed to come to the aid of the 3 young women and set out after them. By the time the sailors caught up to the women they were just past Fort Constitution nearly exposed to open sea and waves that would have swamped the small boat. But the North Carolina sailors managed to attach a rope to the small boat and soon were towing them back to Kittery Point from where they had set out. It was likely that the girls got several invitations to go sailing again sometime from the sailors.
In the early fall of 1912 the North Carolina enters into the Boston Navy Yard for routine repairs. Once they are completed she was ordered to take part in a naval review being held in New York. On Monday October 7, 1912 both the Nashville and North Carolina are ready to steam out of Boston for New York. The Nashville leaves the dock first followed about a half hour later by the North Carolina, and both steam together to New York. Once the naval review was over the North Carolina would return back to the Boston Navy Yard where she would replace the scout cruiser USS Salem as the yards Receiving Ship.
A dispatch arrives aboard the North Carolina on October 28, 1912 from the Secretary of the Navy George von Lengerke Meyer, addressed for the Captain. It details that there are Letters of Commendations to be given to 6 enlisted men of his crew for bravery and heroic efforts in saving the lives of those in peril on the water. The event took place on October 13, 1912 as the North Carolina and the USS Maine were anchored near each other in the North River in New York. There was a collision of the motorboat Madvic and the yacht Vixen owned by John D. Archhold, which occurred near where the North Carolina and Maine were located. Sailors from both the North Carolina and Maine saw what was happening and 6 men from the North Carolina and 5 men from the Maine took action and rescued those in the water from the accident.
The Letters of Commendation from Secretary Meyer was read and given to each sailor from both ships. The six men from the North Carolina were; Claude Farmer, Joseph D. Walsh, John O’Shea, George W. Emerson, Howard Merritt, Chester F. Brown. Those men from the USS Maine were: William W. Lake, Henry F. Klein, Richard D. McCarthy, Ernest R. Jones, and Ernest D. Loveland.
During the winter of 1913-1914 North Carolina took part in maneuvers in Caribbean waters and was based out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During this time she was under the command of Captain William A. Moffett. Moffett was a visionary and transformed the Navy. As limited as his exposure to aviation was at the time, he clearly glimpsed the future. As Moffett wrote in 1920, “naval aviation must go to sea on the back of the fleet… the fleet and naval aviation are one and inseparable.” Moffett would later perish in the crash of the US Naval Airship Akron accident on April 4, 1933.
The North Carolina spent Thanksgiving of 1913 at the Boston Navy Yard, and the crew was given a feast by the ships Passed Assistant Paymaster, Graham Montrose Adee. He had recently come aboard the ship when his former duty as the Commissary Officer at the Boston Navy Yard was over. Paymaster Adee and Commissary Steward W. C. Corning organized this celebration feast, printing up invitation Thanksgiving Menu cards for the crew. Thanksgiving of 1913 was celebrated on November 27 and the menu consisted of three courses that were created by the ships cooks.
Consomme Royal, Bluepoint on the Halfshell, Cocktail Sauce, Rareripes, Iced Pepitolives, and Radishes.
Roast Turkey, Walnut Dressing, Giblet Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Cold Sliced Smithfield Ham, Potato Croquettes, Fried Egg Plant,
Celery, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Baked Parsnips, and Asparagus Hollandaise.
Plum Pudding, Sherry Sauce, Pumpkin Pie, Malaga Grapes, Apples, Oranges, Bananas, Ice Cream, Assorted Nuts, Cigars, and Demi Tasse.
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. In late September the North Carolina while at Brindisi, Italy, located on the Adriatic Sea, was selected to transport a shipment of gold for the aid of Americans then in the country of Turkey. The North Carolina was to transport the gold and then off load it to the Yacht Scorpion at Smyrna, which is the present city of Izmir, Turkey. As the North Carolina was transporting the gold shipment her sister ship the Tennessee was ordered to cruise just off the Turkish Coast in order to keep a watchful eye out for trouble. Once this mission was completed the US State Department authorized an additional sum of money of about $75,000 to also be sent to aid the American officials in Turkey. On October 9, 1914 the North Carolina arrived in Beirut to pick of the funds that had been wire transferred there through the British Bank at Alexandra, Egypt.
On the 18th of October due to unrest in the Port of Smyrna, Turkey the Governor of the city of Alexandretta, Turkey (present day city of Iskenderun, Turkey) along the Turkey-Syrian border, was reported to threaten to burn the town should British and French worships appear in the harbor of Alexandretta. American Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. felt that due to the tensions in these two Turkish port cities he requested to the Navy Department that they not have the North Carolina or the Tennessee come into sight of these harbor cities for fear of the local Turkish people misinterpreting an American warship as an act of war thus causing problems he did not want to create. But Mr. Morgenthau had the foresight to keep the North Carolina at Beirut because of his fears of a “Holy War” breaking out within Turkey. If such an event occurred Morgenthau felt that Americans and other Christians in the region would be in danger at the hands of the Muslims. The tensions in the region did have several effects on America and at the time the “Jihad” or “Holy War” was directed against the British, Russians, and the French. But to the Muslim masses the Jihad meant a war against all enemies of Islam and Americans were counted among those enemies. Because of the tension created by Germany and the Kaiser due to the outbreak of war on the European continent the Muslims would likely group all Christian nations together and treat them all as one threat. That was why Mr. Morgenthau requested the Navy Department to keep the North Carolina and the Tennessee within easy reach should they be needed. Through out the rest of 1914 the North Carolina 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.
Back in Washington DC there was a rumor beginning to circulate that the North Carolina, which had not been heard from in several days had been damaged in some way. The story began to circulate in the Navy Department that the North Carolina had struck a mine and been damaged while in Beirut. The stories were of a nature that seemed creditable at the time and this caused Secretary Daniels gave express orders on November 10, 1914 to raise communications with the North Carolina to confirm the stories of the day. Navy officials quickly pointed out that cable communications with Constantinople and Beirut were slow but that no information coming from there led them to believe any of the story was true. This was also confirmed from British wires with Royal Navy ships that would have reported if an American ship had been damaged. The last confirmed communication with the North Carolina or the Tennessee was on November 2 as the North Carolina was at Beirut and the Tennessee was at Mytilene, Greece. By late in the evening on November 11, 1914 word had circulated through the navy circles and relatives began calling the Navy Department asking of the condition of family members. Secretary Daniels reported that although he had no positive word from the cruiser he felt confident that no harm had befell them. It was not until the next day on the 12th that a message was relayed from Captain Decker of the Tennessee that he had been in contact with the North Carolina and they were safe in Beirut. The cable message was only 6 words long but it was enough to safely put the rumors to bed.
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 Joseph W. 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 Captains 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. While in Beirut the North Carolina received much needed supplies from the Collier USS Jason, under the command of Captain Meriweather. The Jason gave outstanding support to both the Tennessee and the North Carolina while the two ships were tending to the refugees.
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. On March 24, 1915 he again writes to Miss Anne R. Bernie and states it was written from “Beirut, Turkey” which happen to be two different places. The sailor may have been ashore and visited the famous Ancient Roman Baalbeck Temples in Lebanon as this was what was on the front of the post card, and he later may have written this to Miss Bernie back onboard ship while sailing off the coast of Turkey.
The Navy Department had sent the cruiser Des Moines to relieve the North Carolina from her duties in the Mediterranean. The Des Moines arrived off Alexandra, Egypt in the last week of May 1915. On May 27 the North Carolina was moving out of the harbor in Alexandra and ran aground in the mud. Captain Oman made a report back to the Navy Department that his ship was not damaged and that dredging operations had already been undertaken. The efforts of the first day had failed to free the North Carolina and another day or two would be required to free her from the grip of the mud. As soon as she was re-floated Captain Oman was under orders to steam to Boston for overhaul before proceeding to Pensacola, Florida where the North Carolina would be fitted with an aircraft launch catapult on her aft-deck. She reached Boston on June 18, 1915.
While the North Carolina is at the Boston Navy Yard undergoing a routine overhaul the crew has some liberty time in Boston. Two sailors found that returning to the ship was not an easy task. On Wednesday July 21, 1915 the North Carolina had been in the dry dock but was re-floated and moved to the Flat Iron Pier and tied to the stonewalls of the quay for the evening. Later that evening two crewmen, Chief Boatswain’s Mate Charles Hutchinson and Boatswain Mate Third Class Peter Brusk where returning to the ship. As the pair was walking up the gangway from the quay it gave way and fell 25-feet into the water with Hutchinson and Brusk. The two fell 25-feet hitting the surface of the stone quay wall and the fallen gangway. Brusk fractured his leg and severely bruised his head. Hutchinson was bruised badly and severely sprained his back. It was fortunate that the two did not reach bottom before the gangway did or their injuries may have been much worse for them. Assistant Surgeon Waterhouse was summoned and treated both sailors.
After routine overhaul was completed in Boston 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 at sea. The experiments that the North Carolina would carry out while stationed at Pensacola would be the first building blocks of the naval aviation program that would one day lead to the development of the first aircraft carrier.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Roosevelt on November 6, 1915 had the pleasure of announcing to the public that the day before on November 5, the North Carolina had successfully launched an airplane from her after deck by catapult while under way, making her the first ship to do so in history. 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. She had installed on her fantail a device, which was a catapult developed by Captain Washington I. Chambers, USN.
In November of 1913 Captain Chambers made the first device at the Washington Navy Yard, which was purely experimental and crudely constructed, simply built to demonstrate the principle. Two successful flights were made from this first device. From the first device a second improved version was constructed and sent to Pensacola being first installed on a barge. There it was tested and the bugs worked out before it was installed onto the North Carolina. This catapult is basically a car propelled along a track with the airplane secured on top of the car until it reaches the end of the track. The car is stopped and the airplane is launched under its own power into the air. The track, which was about 50-feet long, could launch the plane at a speed of about 50-miles per hour. That day on November 5, 1913 several different pilots made several successful flights from the North Carolina while under way at 8 knots, but it was Lt. Commander Henry C. Mustin who made the first successful launch aboard his plane the AB-2.
Activities on the evening of June 18, 1916 at Pensacola had everyone thinking that the North Carolina would be deployed to Mexican waters for the first time with airplanes aboard. While there was no official reports that they had been deployed to Mexican waters it was known that several gunboats had ordered there days previous. Ten pilots were sailing aboard the North Carolina with six airplanes aboard. On the evening of June 18, 1916 the North Carolina was taking on stores and she would be under way the next day.
But as more and more German activity was taking place just off the U.S. East Coast the American Government became anxious and detailed several of the Armored Cruisers to Neutrality Patrols, the North Carolina being among those selected. British Cruisers patrolled beyond the three-mile limit watching for suspicious activities. On July 12, 1916 Lieutenant Godfrey de Chevalier was launched as the first pilot in action from the first catapult designed for shipboard use aboard the Armored Cruiser North Carolina. 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 performing became even more important during a recent event that took 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.
On July 29, 1916 the North Carolina with 4 destroyers who had been patrolling on “neutrality watch” just off the Virginia capes returned to Hampton Roads suddenly. No word as to why without notice she came in, especially being that during the night the USS Louisiana had reported that a British cruiser had come into United States territorial waters during the night. There were some tensions at the time over the German unarmed merchant submarine Deutschland that had been anchored in Baltimore for several days. The United States official position was an unarmed merchant vessel even if it was a submarine was to be treated as if it was an un-armed merchant ship and not a vessel of war. Britain and France did not see it that way and that may have been the reason the British cruiser entered the 3-mile limit on the night of July 29 looking for the Deutschland.
Deutschland had departed on her first voyage to the United States on June 23, 1916 commanded by Paul König, formerly of the North German Lloyd Company. She carried 750 tons of cargo in total, including 125 tons of highly sought-after chemical dyes, mainly Anthraquinone and Alizarine derivatives in highly concentrated form, some of which were worth as much as $1,254 a pound in 2005 money. She also carried medical drugs, mainly Salvarsan, gemstones, and mail, her cargo being worth $1.5 million in total.
Passing undetected through the English Channel she arrived in Baltimore about July 9, 1916 after just over two weeks at sea. During their stay in the United States, the German crewmen were welcomed as celebrities for their astonishing journey and even taken to fancy dinners. Deutschland stayed at Baltimore until August 2, when she sailed for Bremerhaven, arriving on there on August 24 with a cargo of 341 tons of nickel, 93 tons of tin, and 348 tons of crude rubber (257 tons of which were carried outside the pressure hull). Her cargo was valued at $17.5 million dollars; several times the submarine's construction costs.
Captain Mark L. Bristol, commanding officer of the North Carolina was ordered to take part in war games starting on August 7, 1916 just off the Rhode Island coast. The North Carolina with her airplanes would be used for the first time to hunt for submarines from the air. The only ship of the fleet equipped with anti-aircraft guns for use against the new weapon of the airplane was the battleship Pennsylvania.
The North Carolina was just off Pensacola, Florida on November 8, 1916 when First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham, USMC was hurled aloft in a Curtiss AB-2 seaplane by a catapult of the North Carolina. The plane flipped over and plunged into the Gulf of Mexico, and Cunningham was fished out of the water with an injured back that troubled him for the rest of his life.
When the United States entered World War I, North Carolina sailed north to escort troop transports plying between Norfolk and New York. She made nine trips escorting troop transports across the Atlantic during the war. The North Carolina along with the other Armored Cruisers carried out these escort trips without complaint. They were filled with endless hours of mind numbing boredom, and hours of teeth chattering bad weather, mixed with the occasional brush with the enemy. But always on these trips was the ever-present danger to the individual lone sailor standing watch. When a sailor is standing watch everyone is watching the surface of the water and not what is happening close at hand, a sailor could loose his footing and fall overboard never to be seen again. Such was the case on the North Carolina on once such escort trip. On September 20, 1918 Seaman 2c L. H. Hallenkamp falls overboard into the choppy sea. On deck an alert Seaman by the name of Florren Hobart Kennedy takes swift action and jumps into the sea to save his fellow sailor. Both Kennedy and Hallenkamp are plucked from the sea that day and live to tell of the experience. For his prompt and courageous actions in saving the life of Seaman Hallenkamp, Seaman Kennedy was given a Letter of Commendation from the North Carolina's Captain.
The first American Troop Convoy during WWI sailed in four groups. Their voyage set in motion a system, which continued to the end of the war. Thereafter all convoys leaving the United States were known as groups and were numbered consecutively, beginning with No. 5. The fifth group sailed on July 31, 1917 consisting of the transports Pastores, Tenadores, Henry R. Mallory, Saratoga and oil tanker Arethusa, which were escorted by the cruiser North Carolina.
On March 6, 1918 four troopships loaded with troops and cargo had anchored off Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, New York to await the cover of darkness and their escort before steaming out to sea. On March 7 at 4:38 in the afternoon the Mercury along with the Madawaska, Mongolia, and the Tenadores got underway, escorted this time by the USS North Carolina. This trip the weather was fine allowing the convoy to make easy zigzag courses to elude an attack by German U-boats. Smooth sailing was the order of the day and on March 18 at 7:58 in the morning the transfer point was easily reached. By 9:10 that morning the North Carolina had turned over escort duty to 7 destroyers. The four stacks of the North Carolina quickly faded away into the western horizon as the convoy pressed ever eastward.
During April of 1918 the North Carolina’s crew suffers 100 cases of influenza of a mild type while anchored at Norfolk, Virginia. Fortunately there were no deaths among the crew from the flu outbreak.
On April 23 the North Carolina picks up her next eastbound convoy that had already gathered just off New York. The assembled troopships were the Mercury, Huron, Aeolus, Henry R. Mallory, Siboney, Tenadores and Henderson, and when the North Carolina arrived the convoy headed eastward out into the dangerous waters of the Atlantic. The convoy was steaming east with relative ease until 8:30 in the evening on April 25, when suddenly two ships of the convoy collided. The Huron broke her steering gear and she collided into the Aeolus, which caused both ships to turn back to New York but the rest of the convoy continued on with out them. On April 29 the Mercury was able to tow a target for the Armed Guard crews aboard the Tenadores to practice on. This was a great source of entertainment for the Army troops aboard watching the guns of the Tenadores hit the target they were towing. On May 4 at 6:40 in the morning the recognizable little destroyers joined the convoy and the North Carolina turned over escort duty to the destroyers and she again turned back to the west.
On May 26, 1918, the North Carolina and a destroyer proceeded to the rendezvous point to wait on the assembling of the convoy she was to escort across the Atlantic. Once the Mongolia, Henderson, Siboney, America, Henry R. Mallory, Tenadores, Mercury, Huron, Ulua, and Von Steuben had assembled the group headed out with the North Carolina as the lead escort ship. Aboard these transports were 662 Officers and 16,310 enlisted troops bound for the fight in France. The job the North Carolina was entrusted too was indeed very important for each officer and enlisted men would have an important role to perform once landed in France.
Aboard the troopships life was much the same as the previous trips across, with daily drills. With the warmer months comes calmer seas and smooth sailing again was with them. The first real excitement of the trip happened on June 1 when the convoy held target practice for the armed guard gun crews. In the early morning hours the Mercury towed a target for the Huron to fire at and then later in the morning the Huron towed a target at which the Mercury’s gun crews shot at. Life returned to the daily drills until the next event occurred on June 4. At 5:53 in the morning one of the ships in the convoy broke down and being it was dark and still not in the danger zone the disabled ship turned on her boat deck lights so as to be seen in the crowded formation of the convoy. This was greatly appreciated by the officers in the wheelhouse of the Mercury as they skillfully maneuvered the Mercury around the stricken vessel narrowly avoiding a collision with the disabled ship. By June 6 the convoy had reached the transfer point and at 6:50 that morning the first of the escorting destroyers were sighted. By 11 o’clock that morning all nine of the destroyers were with the convoy and the North Carolina made her turn back west alone.
On August 26, 1918 a U-boat attacked a large eastbound convoy that the North Carolina was escorting. The ships were about 1,000 miles out at sea from New York when the attacked took place. One of the American vessels of the convoy dropped behind formation due to a minor breakdown. The North Carolina circled back to stand by the vessel and signaled for the rest of the convoy to proceed on. With in a short time the vessel was again steaming at good speed and the North Carolina dashed at full speed to take her place at the head of the convoy. This was just about sundown on August 26 and as the North Carolina had nearly gotten back to her position ahead of the group when a German U-boat attacked. A torpedo was seen streaking towards the transport De Kalb, but the German missed his mark and the De Kalb escaped injury. Steaming directly behind the De Kalb was the Sobral, and her gun crew was right on top of the situation and opened fire with two of her deck guns. The Armed Guard crews aboard the Sobral were on their marks and the U-boat immediately vanished under the surface. Quickly there was seen an oil slick on the surface of the water and it was assumed a hit was made. By the time the North Carolina was on top of the last position of the U-boat there was no signs of the intruder. It was not known if this was a kill but it was safe to say there was no more sighting of the U-boat after that.
On the morning of October 31, 1918 the transports America, Mount Vernon, Von Steuben, and Agamemnon, sailed for France. The North Carolina, and the destroyers Terry and Duncan escorted this grouping and for more than a week, the passage was uneventful. Then, on the 7 November, Von Steuben struck Agamemnon while zigzagging. The excitement caused by the collision of these great ships was greatly increased when the Von Steuben sent out a signal that a submarine was sighted. The ships in the convoy dispersed on signal, only to draw together in formation once more when the "enemy" failed to materialize. All vessels resumed their stationsall, that is, except Von Steuben whose bow was open to the sea from the damage suffered in the collision. Von Steuben was able to rejoin the convoy the following afternoon. The North Carolina had managed to deliver all her ships to safety in Brest, France, although not unharmed.
On November 28, 1918 the men aboard the North Carolina celebrated Thanksgiving. Aboard ship there was a feast that consisted of pickled beets and eggs, oyster fritters, chicken salad, cold roast loin of pork, baked spiced ham, roast turkey and southern style sweet potatoes.
Between December 1918 and July 1919, she brought men of the AEF home from Europe. During 1919 the North Carolina was under the command of Captain William Dugald MacDougall.
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. The Charlotte’s last skipper was Captain Julius Frederick Hellweg. He served as commanding officer of the ship from October 1920 through her last day in commission on February 18, 1921. Hellweg later retired at the rank of Rear Admiral. The Charlotte along with her sister ships the Missoula, which was the former USS Montana and the Huron the former USS South Dakota, would remain moored at the Puget Sound Navy yard for the remainder of there days until broken up by the scrappers torches. The Charlotte 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.