Length: 503 feet 11 inches. Breadth: 69 feet 7 inches. Mean Draft: 24 feet 1 inch. Displacement: 13,680 tons. Machinery: 28,600 IHP; Niclausse boiliers (later Babcock Boilers were installed), 2 Vertical, Inverted, Triple Expansion Engines, 2 screws. Speed: 22.44 knots. Coal Bunker Capacity: 900 tons normal, 1,992 tons maximum. Batteries: Main Battery: four 8 inch, 45 cal. breech-loading rifles, fourteen 6-inch, 50 cal. rapid fire guns. Secondary Battery: eighteen 3-inch, 50 cal. rapid fire guns, twelve 3-pounder semi-automatic guns, two 1-pounder rapid fire guns, two 3-inch field pieces, six automatic guns, caliber .30, two 18-inch submerged torpedo tubes. Armor: Belt, 6 inches; turrets, 6 1/2 inches; barbettes, 6 inches; deck, 4 inches; Conning Tower, 9 inches. Complement: 41 officers, 850 men (921 as flagship). Built by: Newport News Ship Builders, Newport News VA Launched: April 18, 1903. Class: PENNSYLVANIA
A souvenir button from the 22 August 1903 Launching ceremony.
William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia laid down the Kiel of the Armored Cruiser No. 4, USS Pennsylvania on 7 August 1901. Pennsylvania was launched on 22 August 1903 and she was sponsored by Miss Coral Quay, the daughter of Senator Matthew S. Quay, and commissioned on 9 March 1905, with Captain Thomas C. McLean in command.
Of the 6 ships in her class she was the fastest and on an 88-knot course from Thatcher’s Island, off Gloucester, Maine to Cape Porpoise, Maine and then back again she obtained an average speed of 22.43 knots an hour exceeding her contract requirement of 22 knots. During 1905, her first year in commission the cost to maintain the Pennsylvania was $489,206 (1905 dollars).
USS Pennsylvania operated on the East Coast of the United States and in the Caribbean until 8 September 1906 when she cleared Newport News, Virginia for duty with the Asiatic Fleet. In the last week of October 1905 President Teddy Roosevelt was in New Orleans and took transportation back to Washington D.C. on board the West Virginia, which was Admiral Brownson’s flagship. The President aboard the West Virginia was convoyed through the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic East coast with the rest of the Armored Cruiser Squadron consisting of the Maryland, Pennsylvania and Colorado. On the 29th of October the Squadron was fighting a rough northwest gale off the South Carolina coast in which the seas were very high. Admiral Brownson decides that he should put his squadron out to sea to avoid the dangerous waters of the shoals near the coast. The squadron delivered president Roosevelt safely to his destination, although later than planned.
The boiler tubes of the Pennsylvania and her sister ship the Colorado, became part of a lawsuit levied by the United States Government on October 4, 1906. It was alleged by the Navy Department that thousands of boiler tubes were installed in the boilers of the Pennsylvania, Colorado, Maine and Georgia were never subjected to government tests. Many of the tubes, which were installed in these vessels was done so after the manufacturer of the tubes had rejected them and this fraud may have started as early as 1898. A man named Frank L. Emmett, of Sharpsville, PA, brought this fraud to the attention of the Navy Department. Emmett was at the time in charge of the shipping department of the Shelby Steel Tube Company, located in Greenville, PA.
During the latter parts of the summer and early fall of 1906 the Armored Cruiser Squadron, under command of Rear Admiral Brownson sailed to Mediterranean waters. Brownson’s squadron consisted of the Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maryland and his flagship USS West Virginia. It was reported that on October 9, 1906 all 4 cruisers were anchored in the harbor at Port Said, Egypt having made their voyage there from Phalerum Bay, Greece.
During 1907 Pennsylvania along with the cruisers Colorado, West Virginia and Maryland formed the First Division of the First Squadron, Asiatic Fleet, Commanded by Rear Admiral Willard H. Brownson. Her skipper was Captain Aaron Ward and he had a crew of 41 officers and 850 enlisted men. Captain Ward commanded the Pennsylvania from March 1907 through February 1908. On 2 September 1907 all 4 cruisers were at anchor in Honolulu, Hawaii. Pennsylvania returned to San Francisco, California on 27 September 1907 for west coast duty. A year later she was again cruising the waters of the Pacific visiting islands such as Samoa and on the 16th of September 1908 she crossed the equator.
In early May 1908 there was a great armada of the United States Navy assembled in San Francisco Bay, which was reviewed by Navy Secretary Metcalf. There were 44 Battleships, Cruisers and Destroyers assembled and lay at anchor in four long columns’ just a short distance off of Goat’s Island. Captain Frank A. Wilner was the commanding officer of the Pennsylvania at the time. On board the USS Yorktown, Commander J. H. Glennon transported Secretary Metcalf up and down the columns of warships where he reviewed each ship.
President Teddy Roosevelt had called for a cruise of the Great White Fleet to sail around the world to show good will and also a show of force to the far reaches of the world. And in so he wanted to have an additional force of ships in the Southern Pacific areas just in case his Great White Fleet of Battleship needed assistance if hostile conditions warranted. The Navy Department also wanted to have a fleet of smaller Torpedo Boat Destroyers that would be based out of Samoa and gave orders for Admiral Swinburne’s Cruiser fleet to tow 7 of these ships out to Samoa from San Diego. The tow lines were made of 10-inch ropes with a 1-inch steel cable embedded it the rope. Each towline was 450-yards long and the small destroyers during the tow would keep steam up in the boilers in case of an emergency, manned only with a skeleton crew. Once in Samoa they would be crewed with sailors and officers there.
Admiral Swainburne aboard his flagship the West Virginia towed the USS Preble, with the Maryland towing the USS Stewert, Pennsylvania towing the USS Perry, Tennessee towing the USS Hopkins, Washington towing the USS Hull, California towing the USS Truxtun and the South Dakota towed the USS Whipple. The USS Colorado was unable to join her sisters due to her still being repaired in Bremerton, Washington because of her recent grounding event of August 15 where she ran aground in Puget Sound at Lip Lip Point.
On 17 August 1908, Admiral Swinburne’s fleet of 7-cruiser towing their small destroyers for a cruise to Pago Pago, Samoa and Honolulu, left San Diego to start the cruise. About the 15th of September 1908 the fleet crossed the equator on their way to Navigators Island (Samoa). The crossing was made at 165° Longitude. After the Great White Fleet passed through the Southern Pacific areas the fleet headed eastward to operate in Central and South American waters. Fall battle practice for the cruiser fleet was then held off Magdalena, Bay, Mexico from October 23-December 4, 1908.
In excerpts of the Fo’csle Log of the Pennsylvania there are glimpses of how life was on an Armored Cruiser while on station in distant waters. It shows her on station at Callao, Peru with her fleet mates, and her crossing of the equator and the arrival of King Neptune on board.
Fo’csle Log USS Pennsylvania (Feb 8-14, 1909)
Feb. 8: Callao, Peru. A wireless message was received from Neptune Rex and he says that he will not be able to initiate any rookies on our trip north as “Willie Winkle” broke into Davy Jones Locker and took his [Neptune’s] crown and trident.
Feb. 9: Callao. The President of Peru was given a reception on board the Flagship West Virginia, all the ships illuminated for the occasion.
Feb 10: Callao. Both Squadrons left today at 4:00 PM for the Galapagos Islands, distance 1,021 miles. All hands happy as it means that we are nearing the good old U.S.A.
Feb. 11: At Sea. Squadrons maneuvering. A great concert was given by Wentzel’s and Sanford’s Dungaree Band at Stamps Sanitarium on the Boulevard De Galley.
Feb 12: At Sea. Judge Lucas of the Kangaroo Court sentenced Hermie the “Village Villain” to 4-days in the cold storage plant for eating Bill Harris’s pork chop while on watch.
Feb 13: At Sea. Turtle-shell, Souvenir hunters, Fishermen, Seine men and Nimrods of all sorts breaking out their gear as there is to be lots of liberty granted at the Galapagos Islands.
Feb 14. Chatham Island. Post Office Bay Galapagos Islands, Equator. We arrived here at 2:00 PM with the West Virginia and Colorado; other ships of the fleet went to other Islands in the group.
On the 3rd of July 1909 Captain Charles Fremont Pond became the Pennsylvania’s Commanding Officer, and he was also in command of the Pacific Reserve Squadron. In late summer 1909 Pennsylvania was in the navy yard at Bremerton, Washington making ready for her next cruise, according to Post Cards written from her crew to family members dated 4 August 1909.
She deployed westward with the Armored Cruiser Squadron and on 5 September 1909 the West Virginia, California, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Colorado and possibly the Maryland departed San Francisco, California and arrived on 11 September in Honolulu, Hawaii steaming 2,100 miles. Pennsylvania spent Christmas of 1909 anchored at Hong Kong, China. The force called on ports in the Admiralty Islands, Pago Pago on Tutuila Island on American Samoa, the Philippines, Japan, and China, before returning to Honolulu on 31 January 1910.
Oct. 25 1909: Nares Harbor, Admiralty Islands. Got underway at 6:00 AM for Manila, P. I. Glad to be on our way again.
Oct. 26: At Sea. Take up usual drills. Quite a few of the boys are nursing sore arms and backs, thanks to old Sol.
Oct. 27: At Sea. Battle maneuvers and sub-caliber practice. Drill boys drill we want the trophy. Passed Pellew Island about midnight.
Oct. 28: Encounter a few squalls. Visible signs of the recent vaccinations are in evidence.
Oct. 29: Sighted the Island of Samar about 3:30 PM Running close to land. Enter the San Bernardino Straights about 7:30 PM. Top Side dancing club is improving.
Oct. 30: Off the Island of Luzon. Captain’s inspection. Passed Corregidor at 3:00 PM drop anchor outside breakwater, manila at 5:00 PM.
Oct. 31: Manila P. I. Pat Day. Liberty for the Port watch. Profit by the Bumboat competition and remember a dollar is worth two so don’t get stung.
Dec. 6 1909: Olongapo, P. I. Firing Divisional practice 6-inch and 8-inch. Excellent work in forward turret. Started paying in afternoon. Got underway for Manila.
Dec. 7: Manila. Starboard watch liberty commencing at 10:00 AM Taking stores aboard and painting ship.
Dec. 8: Manila. Starboard watch returned at 8:00 AM loaded down with bundles, ribbons, horns, etc. Port watch left at 10:00 AM.
Dec. 9: Manila, Port watch returned at 8:00 AM. Three hundred tons of coal came alongside. Several men transferred.
Dec. 10: Manila. Commencing coaling at 5:00am finished by 10:55. Mail steamer arrived, but alias no mail for the fleet. Got underway for Hong Kong at 1:15 PM. Fleet separated to proceed on their different courses about midnight. Getting a little rough.
Dec. 11: At Sea. Several of the boys conspicuous by their absence from the breakfast table. Shorty Malis established a new record in surf riding when a big sea swept fo’csle.Dec. 12: Much calmer. Weather delightfully cooler after 3 months in Equatorial regions. Arrived Hong Kong at 11:30, Starboard watch liberty at 1:00 PM.
Dec. 13, 1909: Hong Kong, China. Painting ship. No liberty today.
Dec. 14: Hong Kong. U. S. Mail arrives via SS China at 11:45 AM Liberty party went ashore at 4 PM
Dec. 15: Hong Kong. Funeral party left ship at 1 PM to pay last respects to Boatswain F. Garvey. Third section on liberty.
Dec. 16: Hong Kong. Liberty boat seems to be well filled for this time of the month. Taking stores from Glacier.
Dec. 17: Hong Kong. Football team going ashore every day with promising results.
Dec. 18: Hong Kong. SS China leaves for the U. S. with mail. Two German Cruisers, Leopold and Scharnhorst came in about noon.
Dec. 19: Hong Kong. Quite a number of the boys going to take in the sights of Canton. Devine Services held on board at 2 PM.
Dec 20: Hong Kong. Mail arrived on the Aki Maru. Much powder in the air, owing to official visits.
Dec. 21: Hong Kong. HMS Bedford came in. Landing Force and Boat Drill. Liberty, Port watch.
Dec. 22: Hong Kong. Fire and Collision drill and bag inspection. Party attended West Virginia’s minstrel show ashore. Starboard watch liberty.
Dec. 23: Hong Kong. Battalion Drill. Steamer Cleveland arrived with 700 tourists. Liberty parties growing smaller every day, but watch them on payday.
Dec. 24: Hong Kong. Why all these glad and happy faces? Pay Day that’s why.
Dec. 25: Hong Kong. Christmas Day and a “big feed” Everyone aboard did full justice to it but the football team. Played the West Virginia baseball team in afternoon. Score: Baseball 9 to 6 and football 13 to 0 both in our favor. Oh you “Pennsy!”Dec. 26: Hong Kong. Very quiet on board, but ashore it’s different. The fun seems to increase at the time of departure draws near.
The cruiser squadron consisting of the USS Tennessee as flagship along with the Maryland, Colorado, California, South Dakota, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, took a cruise to Chinese and Japanese ports. The Squadron left Manila in December 1909 and assembled off Yokohama, Japan on January 19, 1910 for the start of the return trip. During the cruise it was ordered that no more than two of the ships of the fleet would be in port at any one time. The fleet reached San Francisco on February 1, 1910.
In the first week of February 1910 the USS Tennessee gave up her flagship status of the 8 ships of the Pacific Cruiser Fleet. Rear Admiral Uriel Sebree relinquished command of the fleet to Rear Admiral Giles B. Harber and he raised his pennant flag on the California as she took over flagship duties as the fleet was in Honolulu. On the 9th of February the fleet of 8 cruisers sailed for the U.S. West Coast. The California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia and Maryland sailed direct to San Francisco and the Tennessee and Washington sailed to the Bremerton Navy Yard for overhaul. The six cruisers arrived San Francisco and the crews were given several days Liberty before the fleet sails south for Magdalena Bay, Mexico for scheduled target practice.
After return from Far Eastern waters Pennsylvania saw South American duties and she cruised off Chile and Peru. In February of 1910 the Pennsylvania was under the command of Lt. Cdr. Waldo Evans.
It is known from letters written to love ones by members of the crew that Pennsylvania was on 2-3 May 1910 anchored at the Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington. During the later half of 1910 she underwent a refit and her original foremast was replaced with the new cage style mast, as did the other six ships in her class. In the December 4th, 1910 edition of the Washington Post, under the Movements of Naval Vessels section the USS West Virginia, Maryland, South Dakota, California, Colorado and the Pennsylvania all arrived in port at San Diego, California.
RADM Harber was given orders on the 13th of August 1910 to take a division of his cruisers to sail to Valparaiso, for the Chilean Centennial Celebration as representatives of the United States Government. At 2:00 PM on the 14th of August RADM Harber’s fleet consisting of the California, Washington, Colorado and the Pennsylvania sailed from San Francisco southward for Chimbote, Peru. This was a distance of about 2,600 miles, which was the first stop on their way to Valparaiso. During their stay in Chimbote the fleet replenished with coal. When finished the fleet sailed on another 1,515 miles to their final destination of Valparaiso. After the visit to the Chilean Centennial Celebration the fleet, with the exception of the Washington, was to return to San Francisco by October of 1910. The Washington was under orders to proceed to the Atlantic Fleet.
In late November 1910 the Japanese Imperial Navy was scheduled to visit the United States. The Japanese cruisers Asama and Kasagi were to enter the harbor in San Francisco on the 22nd of February coming from a stop in Honolulu. The United States Government wanted to pay respect to the Japanese Navy and also to have a show of superior force gave orders to have as many of our warships in port when the Japanese fleet came in. On the 21st of November the day before the Japanese ships arrived the California, Flagship of the Pacific Fleet along with RADM Berry’s Cruiser Division with his flagship the West Virginia and the Colorado, South Dakota, Maryland and Pennsylvania entered anchorage at San Francisco to prepare for the arrival of the Japanese ships.
During the winter of 1910-1911, a plane landed on and took off from a platform constructed on her afterdeck, opening the era of naval aviation. At the Mare Island Navy Yard, California in January 1911 she was fitted with a temporary wooden deck in preparation for Eugene Ely's airplane landing attempt. Upon completion of her flight deck Pennsylvania cruised to San Francisco Bay, California, where she anchored for the Eugene Ely's historic flight. Ely landed his Curtiss pusher biplane on board the ship on the morning of 18 January 1911, the first airplane landing on a warship. The landing deck, 120 feet long and 30 feet wide, was inclined slightly to help slow the plane as it landed, and had a thirty-degree ramp at its after end. She then sailed to San Diego Bay, California, and on 17 February 1911 additional test flights were conducted. Glenn Curtiss the designer of the Curtiss Hydroaeroplane was on board for these tests.
Photo of Eugene Ely's Historic flight off the USS Pittsburgh January 18, 1911
The USS Pennsylvania in the Dewey Drydock at Olongapo, Philippines.
From 1 July 1911 to 30 May 1913, while in reserve at Puget Sound, Washington her duties were training of naval militia.
On the 16th of March 1912 orders were received for the California, Colorado and South Dakota to steam at best speed to the Philippines. The United States Government had become very alarmed with the situation developing in China between the growing threat between Russia and Japan. The United States State Department believed the evidence showed that Russia and Japan were going to divide China between the two countries taking advantage of the unrest in China. The United States felt it was prudent to have a military force in the area and that is why the California, Colorado and South Dakota were dispatched in a hurry. As soon as the Maryland could return to San Diego with Secretary of State Frank Knox and re-coal she too would sail at best speed to join her sister ships in the Philippines. The Pennsylvania was also under orders to proceed to join them as soon as she could. In addition the battleship Oregon and protected cruiser St. Louis and cruiser Raleigh would also sail to join the United States force assembling in the area. This force was under the command of Admiral Murdock aboard his flagship California, giving him the second largest force in the area next to the Japanese Navy.
Pennsylvania was renamed Pittsburgh on 27 August 1912 to free the name Pennsylvania for a new battleship. During late 1912 Pittsburgh lay in reduced commission at the Bremerton Navy Yard where the Pittsburgh was to serve as flagship of the Pacific Reserve Fleet under command of Rear Admiral Alfred Reynolds. During that time the Pittsburgh is under command of Captain Charles F. Pond, who served as her commanding officer from 1910 through 1912.
In Late May of 1913 the Pittsburgh, now under command of Captain William W. Gilmer, received orders to be placed into full commission once again. She was to take the place of her sister ship the Colorado, which was to go into reserve once the Pittsburgh relieved her. After returning from Mexican waters on May 28, 1913 the USS Colorado is officially placed in reserve status and her crew is disbursed to 9 different ships, the bulk of which went to the Pittsburgh where on the 30th of May she sailed south to Guaymas, Mexico from the Bremerton Navy Yard. Pittsburgh was patrolling off the waters of Guaymas, Mexico from mid May 1913 until relieved by the South Dakota in Early July 1913.
In June of 1913 the Pittsburgh and the USS Glacier were tied to the railroad pier in Empalme to evacuate refugees. But as the crews of the two naval ships soon found out, Emplame was not securely in the hands of the rebels. Shells began to fall in and around Emplame while the Pittsburgh and Glacier conducted evacuation operations under hurried conditions. Fortunately, there were no injuries to any of the refugees resulting from the shelling.
Pittsburgh was then under orders to proceed north to the target range off the Californian coast to rendezvous on August 11, 1913 with the USS California, then coming out of the dry-dock at Mare Island.
During times of relative calm in the life of a naval vessel there is ample time for the officers to host parties aboard ship, which in their course can produce blossoming romances between single bachelor officers and the available society single women. The Pittsburgh was typical of any ship in the fleet in as much as she had her share of bachelor officers whom were courting the society women of the navy. One such officer was Lt. Commander J. R. Freeman who was a typical dashing officer and gentlemen. He had once been in command of a fleet of six torpedo boats that steamed the treacherous waters from the Atlantic around Cape Horn and up the Pacific side of South America to Mare Island Navy Yard. In the navy circles he was a confirmed bachelor and in the summer of 1913 had taken up a romance with the lovely Miss Josephine Smith, who was very well known in the navy circles as she was the niece of the late Admiral Smith. It seemed that Lt. Commander Freeman thought the romance was progressing a bit faster than Miss Smith thought it was. On Saturday evening September 27, 1913 during a shipboard party held on the Pittsburgh as she is at anchor in San Diego, California, Lt. Commander Freeman announced to those in attendance that he would be engaged to Miss Smith. The following afternoon after hearing of the impending engagement Miss Smith emphatically denied her engagement to Lt. Commander Freeman. This caused quite a stir among the naval social circles and by that next Monday Lt. Commander Freeman had obtained permission to leave the Pittsburgh and travel to San Francisco to speak in person to Miss Smith about his announcement of engagement. It was not known what Miss Smith’s answer was to the Lt. Commander.
By October 1913 Pittsburgh under command of Captain Gilmer was helping San Francisco celebrate its Portola Festival. This was a festival that had started in 1909 in celebration of the founding of San Francisco by Don Gaspar de Portola and also to serve as a celebration of San Francisco’s rebirth after the devastating earthquake and fires. The navy was invited each year and the 1913 celebration saw the Pittsburgh, South Dakota, Buffalo, St. Louis, Charleston and the gunboat Yorktown along with eight other torpedo boats anchor just south of Yerba Buena Island about a half-mile from the waterfront. Chinatown was always a favorite place for the fleet to visit and each building in Chinatown was decorated with red and yellow, the colors of the 4-day festival.
Once again in full commission, Pittsburgh patrolled off the west coast of Mexico during the troubled times of insurrection which led to the American involvement with the Vera Cruz landing in April of 1914. In December of 1913 Pittsburgh skippered by Captain William W. Gilmer and Rear Admiral Cowles who was in command of the U.S. forces assembled off Mexico is in negotiations with the local Rebel forces about the two American’s who had been reported to be held prisoner of the Constitutionalists in Sinaloa, Mexico. On December 23, 1913 Rear Admiral Cowles and Captain Gilmer arrived via train to the interior city of Hermosillo to meet with Felipe Riveros for the express purpose of the safety and release of W. S. Windham and J. M. Dunn, the two Americans being held by the Constitutionalists forces. Admiral Cowles and Captain Gilmer were acting on behalf of the United States State Department to secure the release of the two men.
In late March 1914 the Pittsburgh was detailed to be the temporary receiving ship at San Francisco for the month until the USS St. Louis arrived from Bremerton. On March 24 the Pittsburgh sent a radio message to Captain Bennett the Commander of the Mare Island Yard, that she would not start her divisional target practice off San Diego until March 26 or 27. That meant that the Pittsburgh would not be able to relieve the Intrepid until April 5 at the soonest. By April 9 the St. Louis had relieved the Pittsburgh of her short-lived duties as temporary receiving ship at Mare Island. Pittsburgh was leaving Mare Island on April 10 for the Bremerton Navy Yard and on her trip she was instructed to transport several prisoners intended for the brig at Bremerton.
In the second week of May 1916 Pittsburgh is off San Diego Harbor at the target range. The exercise was torpedo defense and the Pittsburgh’s 3-inch guns made 47 hits out of 65 shots fired at the range of 1,800 yards, this was done during night firing and the conditions were said to be “approximating those prevailing in actual warfare." In July of 1916 Pittsburgh received on board Admiral William B. Caperton the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet where he raises his Admiral’s flag. Pittsburgh patrols the waters of the US east coast and also the east coast of South American waters.
As America struggled to stay neutral to the growing conflict in Europe in early 1917, the Commander of the Bremerton Navy Yard felt it his duty to be cautious. On February 2, 1917 orders were given for a three-pound gun to be mounted on a tug and it was detailed to patrol the waters of Puget Sound. Additionally orders were that civilians and vehicles were forbidden to enter the Navy Yard without proper permission. The Pittsburgh was in the Bremerton Yard at that time ready to sail to San Diego, but Admiral Caperton was ordered to keep the Pittsburgh in the yard until further orders. So as early as February the Navy was preparing for the coming conflict that they knew would happen soon.
In the days before America entered WWI, Pittsburgh took part in South American patrols in cooperation with the British, scouting for German and Austrian raiders and acted as a powerful deterrent against their penetration of the eastern Pacific. On 20 May 1917 the Pittsburgh along with the USS Frederick and USS South Dakota entered the Canal at Balboa transiting to join the Atlantic Fleet. From a report from the USS Stewart the Pueblo on 16 May, was moored to the dock in Balboa along with the USS St. Louis, USS Whipple and the USS Truxtun was in the dry dock. The next day the Pueblo went into the dry dock at Balboa for repairs from her fight with the German Raider. Finished with repairs on 21 May Pueblo comes out of the dry dock and the USS Pittsburgh entered the dry-dock. She joined Pueblo (ACR-7), and Frederick at Colon, Panama, on 29 May 1917 then proceeded to the South Atlantic for patrol duty operating from Brazilian ports protecting shipping, paying diplomatic calls to South American ports, and preventing the sailing of German and Austrian ships interned at Bahia, Brazil.
At Hampton Roads, Virginia on May 16, 1917, the USS Nebraska (BB-14) departed for Montevideo, Uruguay carrying the body of the late Carlos M. DePena, Envoy Extraordinaire and accompanied by Minister Plenipotentiary from Uruguay, with full honors. The Nebraska was joined by the Pittsburgh in South American waters and both ships arrived in Montevideo on 10 June 1917, where the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, came on board for the ceremonies and the body of the late Uruguayan Minister to the United States was transferred to shore with full honors. Nebraska departed Montevideo on 15 June for home and the Pittsburgh sails to join her fleet mates already in South American waters.
After returning from Montevideo the USS Pittsburgh along with the USS Frederick, USS Pueblo and USS South Dakota proceeded to the South Atlantic for patrol duty operating from Brazilian ports. On 23 July 1917 while steaming toward Buenos Aires, Argentina an accident occurred when a saluting charge exploded and injured several men, one of which died as a result of the explosion. Gunners Mate Clay Tenny Lyles died on the 23rd from injuries from the explosion. Gunner’s Mate Lyles was born on 17 October 1896 in Texas and was 20 years old when he died. According to an article in the 26 July edition of the Washington Post Gunner’s Mate Lyles body was buried at sea on the 25th of July, but other sources indicate that he is buried in the Lyles Family plot in Garland Memorial Cemetery in Garland Texas. The incident happened when a 3-inch saluting charge exploded and caught fire of some material on the deck. The fire now threatened to ignite the powder supply and that could have caused a devastating and possibly fatal explosion to the men as well as to the ship. As a result of the cool and heroic action of Commander Willis Winter Bradley, Jr. and Seaman Ora "Pappy" Graves who put out the fire, both men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions that day.
Pittsburgh was at anchor in the harbor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 17 August 1917 along with some British ships one of which was the HMS Glasgow. During January 1918 while the Pittsburgh was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil there was a murder on board and 5 crewmen were imprisoned. These five men along with several others who would be witnesses during the trial, were transferred to the Collier USS Cyclops for transportation back to the States where the military trial was to take place. The Cyclops sailed for Bahia, Brazil on 21 February and then on 4 March 1918 she sails from Bahia for Baltimore, Maryland and was never heard from again, lost in the famous Bermuda Triangle disappearances. The murder aboard the Pittsburgh was rumored to be due to the murdered sailor and his performing of sexual acts for “poggie bait.” It was also rumored that the 5 men involved in the murder of the sailor one was under the death sentence. An additional unconfirmed story was that this sailor with the death sentence might have been executed on board the Cyclops by orders of Lt. CMDR George W. Worley. But due to the mysterious loss of the Cyclops this can never be confirmed. Poggie Bait is a military slang word for candy, sweets or junk food used by sailors and marines. It is believed that during the investigation of the murder aboard the Pittsburgh it was found that he would perform sexual acts as quid pro quo for candy, or "poggie bait". It is not known exactly what the investigation found because it, along with five suspects, were lost with the Cyclops when she disappeared someplace between Bahia and Baltimore.
Around the end of June 1918 Pittsburgh and the USS Vermont were patrolling the waters off Antofagasta, Chile protecting American interests and preventing Austrian and German ships from sailing. It was during the last week of June that the US Navy cargo ship USS Radnor made port in Antofagasta, Chile on the 28th. But due to she being a US Navy ship tensions were high in Antofagasta and the Radnor was ordered out of the harbor by the German ambassador or she would be interned in port. Lt. Commander Marcus S. Harloe, Captain of the Radnor radioed for help and the USS Vermont and USS Pittsburgh answered the call. Radnor readied for sea in a hurry and Vermont and Pittsburgh arrived and escorted Radnor to safety before hostilities started.
During this time of interdiction of German Commerce raiders in the South Atlantic Pittsburgh was under the command of Captain George “Blackjack” Bradshaw. Captain Bradshaw was a graduate of the class of 1889 from the Naval Academy and was in the words of Admiral Caperton, a “very able seaman” but Bradshaw also had a stern side. Admiral Caperton also described Bradshaw as excessively “irritable” and that he “would prefer to have him serve elsewhere.” Once in 1914 Captain Bradshaw had been temporarily suspended for writing an “intemperate” letter to a superior officer.
As the summer of 1918 turned into the fall and early winter the Pittsburgh carried out her mission of search and destroy of German ships. But this mission was cut short as Captain Bradshaw was forced to return to the States due to a horrible outbreak of the Spanish Flu. The first recorded death of this outbreak was on October 13, 1918 when Seaman E. L. Williams died at 2:30 PM from bronchia pneumonia. In a letter written by Admiral Caperton to the Fleet Surgeon about the crew of the Pittsburgh he states, “On Board the ship the sick list reached a total of 663 (which was 80% of the crew on board), with a final death toll of 58. The efforts of all hands were devoted solely to the care of the sick, and practically the whole ship was given over to them.” If a German ship were spotted there would have not been enough men to answer the General Quarters call. So Captain Bradshaw abandoned his orders and headed home.
The conditions that the Pittsburgh now found her self in were not from pure bad luck as it may have been from the lack of action from Captain Bradshaw that brought them to return to the States with 58 of her crew dead from the flu. Spanish Flu had made its appearance in South America and arrived in Rio de Janeiro on the 17th of September brought there by the steamer Demerara. As the epidemic expanded in Rio, Bradshaw still allowed working parties to go ashore and liberty parties of the crew were not halted. On October 7th the first two flu cases occurred on board the Pittsburgh but the hasty response measures were too little and too late to stop the outbreak from taking its foothold on the ship.
The Flu epidemic of October-November 1918 had made a lasting impression on the crew of the Pittsburgh. Life long friends were lost as the flu took its toll on the crew. Lives would never be the same again, and in an attempt to remember their fallen crewmen, in the spring of 1920 with the help of RADM Henry F. Bryan, the senior member of the U. S. Naval Commission to Brazil, the crew of the Pittsburgh erected a white granite obelisk monument in Rio de Janerio. The inscription on the 20-foot granite monument reads: “Erected by the crew of the USS Pittsburgh, in memory of their shipmates who died from the influenza, October-November 1918.” Of those who died of the flu on the Pittsburgh 41 men were buried in Rio de Janeiro. From the only known photo of this monument at least 20 names can be seen. There are likely more names on the monument but these are the ones that can be seen:
G. C. McCoy, CBM, USN
E. C. Crudo, 1st MUS, USN
This photo was taken in May of 2017 by Gustavo Glielmo of Brazil who stopped and took the time to remember and pay homage to the fallen Pittsburgh Sailors. Gustavo shared it with me, stating “I took these photos while passing by the cemetery of Sao Francisco Xavier in Rio, Brazil.”
This photo is believed to be a view of two rows of crosses of the 41 men who died of the Spanish Flu. The names on the crosses in this photo match up to the names on the obelisk from Rio for the 41 victims of the Spanish flu buried there in that cemetery in Rio. It is also believed that the bodies were later removed and returned to the United States. Also in this photo standing next to the first cross on the right is a US Naval Officer dressed in a white uniform that appears to be an Admiral and could be Admiral Caperton or Admiral Bryan.
The Pittsburgh was serving as flagship for Rear Admiral William Caperton during this flu outbreak and towards the end of his career he wrote the following about this flu epidemic.
And then there came upon us the most terrifying of experiences. On the fourth of October we had noted that the so called Spanish influenza, which had passed thru Europe had made its appearance in Brazil. Bahia and Pernambuco were then suffering lightly. On the arrival in Rio of the SS Dannemara from Lisbon and Dakar, Africa, the ship reported four deaths from the disease during the trip, and the existence of several new cases when she came into port. The local health authorities, notwithstanding these, made no effort to quarantine the vessel or her passengers. The result was not unexpected to us. When the HMS New Castle arrived in Rio from Bahia on the 6th, she had sixty cases on board, all of a benign type. By the seventh the Pittsburgh reported a few cases and the disease was incapacitating hundreds daily in Rio de Janeiro, while the Lage Brothers shipyard was almost shut down. The following day 33 cases in the flagship, with the numbers ashore increasing alarmingly. By the 9th, 92 cases had made their appearance on board and hundreds ashore were dying without medical attendance. Hospitals were crowded and coffins almost ceased to exist. In the early hours of the 10th, in accordance with the previous arrangements, and in view of the probability of the Pittsburgh going out upon the high sea patrol for an extended time, she entered the floating dry dock. With my staff that morning I attended memorial services ashore in the Candelaria church for the repose of the souls of over more than a hundred Brazilian sailors who had died of influenza in their squadron abroad.
During the day, while the crew was working feverishly upon the sides of the flagship in the dock, the Department advised me that the Brazilian Ambassador to the United States, Da Gama, was to be returned to his native land by battleship and that I was to have the Pittsburgh proceed to the West Indies and transfer the ambassador to her.
By the next day, the 11th, there were 418 cases of influenza in the flagship, so that her activities for any duty were becoming handicapped. The seriousness of the situation was cabled to the Department with the suggestion that the ship bringing the Ambassador continue on its way and remain for the 15th of November, for which Brazilian National Day ships from Uruguay, Argentina and Chile would be there. That would make it incumbent that our representation be adequate for the occasion. On the 14th of October 644 cases had been admitted to the sick list, with about 350 more light ones not listed. One man died the day before. On the 15th three had died, the Commanding Officer, his heads of department and two members of my staff were sick, while the disease raged unabated in Rio where conditions defied description. The Department, unaware of the seriousness and the rapidity with which the epidemic was spreading, directed me to have the Pittsburgh proceed to Bahia, as previously directed and there report her condition. Then, if unable to carry out the Department's order, the Pueblo [Armored Cruiser No.7 USS Colorado] would be ordered to Rio with Da Gama. But the proscribed cruise for the Pittsburgh was an impossibility. Of that I informed the Department, adding that I was holding her at Rio. Conditions in the ship were rapidly becoming worse. More than half of the hospital corps were ill, and help was commandeered from all ratings and from the junior officers of the line. And the drizzle and the rain which had set in during the early days of the epidemic continued fitfully, rendering it difficult to find room for the cots of the sick who had been kept on deck in the open, during the good weather. Ashore people died like flies, and many lay in the streets for two or three days waiting interment, even a hole in the corner of a trench. By the 18th, twelve of the 48 pneumonia cases had died in the Pittsburgh. Further caskets could not be obtained ashore, at any price, and the burial of our men became an urgent necessity.
Six more men died on the 20th, when the Brazilian Minister of Marine offered us fifty cots in one of their Army hospitals. Accompanied by the Fleet Surgeon and Flag Secretary, my only able bodied aids, we visited the hospital, decided to accept the courteous offer, and rushed down to the house of the Minister of Marine to advise him of our acceptance. He came down to the door of his house, still clad in his pajamas. This good natured and kindhearted Admiral Alexandrino de Alencar, with a flourish of his hands and a few vivid words in French, announced his pleasure at our decision. On the 21st of October 16 bodies were taken from the Pittsburgh and landed for burial in the Sao Francisco Xavier Cemetery. Notwithstanding the previous arrangement with cemetery authorities for the opening of 20 graves, the funeral cortege arrived at the cemetery and found no graves prepared.
Those destined for us had been used by others. Much haggling with the cemetery authorities resulted, until finally the army officer in charge of the prisoners detailed eight to dig the graves required by us. These men were of practically no assistance to us and we were finally compelled to dig the graves for our own dead shipmates. Conditions in the cemetery beggared description. Eight hundred bodies in all states of decomposition, and lying about in the cemetery, were awaiting burial. Thousands of buzzards swarmed overhead. In the city itself there were no longer medicines, or wood for coffins and very little food. Rich and poor alike were stricken. In the big public hospital which had the contract for burying the city's dead, hundreds of naked bodies lay thrown upon each other like cord wood and at least one instance was known of a live man being dragged out from the piles. The following day, thanks to the generosity of Mr. F.A. Huntress, the American manager of Rio Light and Power Company, arrangements were made for the proper transportation of those whom it was necessary to inter ashore.
My old Chinese cook, scenting the approach of death, went to the flag office and made out a will, leaving all his money and possessions to Uncle Sam, for as he said, the government had been good to him, and he had no relatives. Fortunately for us he survived.
Five more sailors were buried on the 23rd. During the afternoon forty patients were transferred to the Army Central Hospital by means of large streetcars, and the Fleet surgeon, Medical Inspector Karl Ohnesorg, tho ill himself, assumed charge there. The ship had been unable to secure milk or fresh eggs and no chickens could be obtained in the market at any price; while the contractors were hard put up to keep their contracts for the deliveries of fresh vegetables. The American women of Rio de Janeiro immediately offered their assistance and soon an adequate supply of fresh milk, eggs and chickens was available for the sick at the hospital, while sweaters and pajamas were sent off to the ship for the hundreds still in the throes of the disease. By the 24th, 654 men were on the list with influenza and 46 of the 102 pneumonia cases had died. Two members of my staff, seriously ill, were transferred to the Stranger's (British) Hospital in the city. The army authorized and then gave us one hundred beds in the hospital and the Pittsburgh transferred cooks and sufficient hospital corpsmen to care for the contingent ashore. The Rio Light and Power Company generously loaned us all manner of kitchen ware, glassware, ranges, mosquito netting, bed screens and other necessities for use in the hospital. The last days of the month found considerable improvement in the flagship. By the 31st of October there had been 58 fatal cases, but great improvement was shown throughout the ship and many men were returned to duty. Ashore, more than one thousand people died daily. Many of those whom we had known well and been fond of were carried off and the streets of Rio de Janeiro, generally gay and vivid with movement and color, were deserted and motionless. Here and there an occasional automobile was the only sign of life, while now and then some poor native with a miniature coffin on his head and followed by a sorrowful family trudged drearily to the nearest cemetery with his loved load. No description of the sorrows and troubles which attended us would be complete without suitable reference to the Brazilian officials, from the President of the Republic, his Secretary, the Ministers of War, Marine and of the Interior down to the lowliest of sailors, who did so much and spent so much of their time that every solace be offered our men and all possible assistance rendered to them. More nearly did they take to heart our sorrow than they did their own. And there was hardly a family ashore where the hand of death had not left its trace.
On the 5th of November the SS Corvello came in with fifty-one enlisted men for the Pittsburgh. These were immediately quartered on the Ilha des Cobras again with the insistence and courtesy of the Brazilians. Thus came and went that most terrible of experiences. The self-sacrificing spirit of our doctors and our men and the persistent kindnesses and consideration for our welfare shown to us by Brazilians in Rio have left with me and many an ineradicable memory. Suitable letters of appreciation and profound gratitude I later dispatched to the various civil and unofficial sources from which so much of our help had come, asking the Department at the same time to express to these people the Navy's thanks for their self-sacrificing interest in us.
Rear Admiral William B. Caperton
Before the flu outbreak the crew referred to the Pittsburgh as the “USS Madhouse” and they felt like they all were inmates aboard “Blackjack Bradshaw’s floating squirrel cage.” Captain Bradshaw was an able seaman, but it was his rigidity and stern temperament with crew and officers that fundamentally left him without the ability to react to adverse situations such as the flu outbreak. Captain Bradshaw was able to protect the Pittsburgh from an enemy ship but as a commander of an isolated command, such as a ship at sea, he had to also be ready to protect his crew from an attack from within her hulls.
The Pittsburgh in early March 1919 starts her voyage north for home. The crew decimated from the flu outbreak in the previous months likely is glad to be leaving the South American waters. It is a bittersweet time for the crew when on March 27, 1919 she crosses the equator at 40 degrees west longitude just off the Brazilian coast. Thoughts of the dead crewmen left behind buried on Brazilian soil from an enemy the crew was not able to repel. On the trip down months before these crewmen were participating in the ancient rites of the Crossing the Line celebrations with the remaining crew, so this crossing would be somewhat different that any previous on the Pittsburgh.
“A Happy Moment, Mail’O!” This is an undated photo of Mail Call on the Pittsburgh’s bridge.
The Pittsburgh as she enters a floating dry-dock in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil sometime during 1917-1918.
A Crossing the Line souvenir card of the March 27, 1919 crossing at 40 Degrees West Longitude.
Returning to the east coast, Pittsburgh, now under the command of Captain David Wooster Todd, prepared for duty as flagship for Admiral Mark L. Bristol, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in the eastern Mediterranean, for which she sailed from Portsmouth, N.H., on 19 June 1919. Cruising the Adriatic, Aegean, and Black Seas, she joined in the massive relief operations and other humanitarian concerns with which the Navy carried out its quasi-diplomatic functions in this troubled area. Pittsburgh was at anchor in San Marco Bay in Venice, Italy on March 14, 1920. On 26 April 1920 she left Broussa, Turkey for the Black Sea. In June of 1920, she sailed north to visit French and British ports and cruise the Baltic on further relief assignments before returning to decommission at Philadelphia on 15 October 1921. June 10, 1920 saw the Pittsburgh anchored in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France hosting a dinner for the French Prefect of the Department of Alpes-Maritimes and Rear Admiral Harry S. Knapp and his staff. That evening the Pittsburgh got under way and sailed from Villefranche-sur-Mer.The Pittsburgh was made flagship of Vice Admiral Henry McLaren Pinckney Huse on 24 June 1920 who was Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in European Waters. Pittsburgh visited Cherbourg, France on July 12, 1920, where Admiral Huse and French Naval Officials exchanged visits. While in Cherbourg, France on August 13, 1920 an accident occurred aboard the Pittsburgh where an explosion took place injuring 3 sailors. The most seriously injured man died the next day but the remaining two sailors would recover from their wounds.
In the 3rd week of August 1920, at the request of the United States State Department, Navy Secretary Daniels sends orders to Admiral Huse who was in command of the US warships then in the Baltic area to take his flagship the USS Pittsburgh then at Reval, Estonia to Danzig, Poland in order to protect the considerable number of Americans there in that port. Reval is the present day capitol city of Tallinn, Estonia located on the Baltic coast between the Paaskula and Pirita Rivers. There was some concern that tensions in the area were growing and the State Department thought it was a wise move to have the presence of a United States warship in the area. The Pittsburgh went to Cherbourgh, France where she met the French cruisers Gueydea and Marsellaise and then both French ships along with the Pittsburgh and two US Destroyers sailed to Danzig, Poland. But when the 3-ships reached Danzig on the 28th of August, the Polish soviets announced a “Blockade of Poland” and would not allow the French ships to dock. Tensions were high and the British Commissioner Tower stated, “that he would not be responsible for results if the [French] cruiser attempted to unload its cargo of munitions intended for the Polish army.
Post card of the Pittsburgh sent home from Paul L. Webb a sailor aboard the Pittsburgh. It shows the Pittsburgh while in Danzig before she went aground off Libau. Webb was onboard when she went on the rocks as he made note of that on the back of this post card. This post card was mailed in Lativia as the stamp on the front is a Latavian stamp.
Captain David W. Todd experienced something that ship commanders never want to happen to their vessel, running aground. At 10:20 P.M. on the night of September 9, 1920 the unthinkable happened when the Pittsburgh ran aground on some rocks about 3 miles off the port of Libau near the breakwater. This is the present day city of Liepaja, Latvia and Libau was the name used during the German occupations of WWI. In a dispatch from Admiral Huse the Pittsburgh was in “no immediate danger” but several sections of her double bottom were flooded. Captain Todd orders damage control parties to pump the flooded holds and to start throwing overboard 750-tons of coal in order to keep his ship as light as possible so she would not do more damage than was already upon her. As soon as the Navy Department was advised they sent a dispatch to the USS Frederick, which was then stationed in Antwerp, Belgium. She was carrying the United States Olympic rowing, swimming and running teams to the Olympic games being held in Antwerp. The Frederick was to disembark her passengers and precede at best possible speed to render assistance to the Pittsburgh. Frederick got underway at noon on the 10th of September heading down the Scheldt River. At 7:30 on the 14th of September the Frederick was just outside the breakwater off Libau where she found the Pittsburgh afloat with the HMS Dauntless standing by her. On the 18th the Pittsburgh off loaded her ammunition to the Frederick. That evening at 8:00 PM a smoker was held on the deck of the Frederick in which Vice Admiral Huse and his staff were the guests. Two three-round boxing bouts were held and the final bout was a six-round bout of Browne vs. Crosby, both of the Fredericks engineer force. Crosby was the winner. Movies were then shown on the quarterdeck.
On the morning of the 19th of September at 7:30 the Pittsburgh got underway steaming at 8 knots with the Frederick following astern acting as her escort. Both ships steamed to Sheerness, England where the Pittsburgh went into dry-dock for repairs. She reached Sheerness at 10:00 O’clock in the morning on the 23 of September 1920. In late November of 1920 a court martial was held on the Pittsburgh while she was at Chatham, England. During the court martial on November 26, Captain Todd was absolved of blame for the grounding, however the navigator and watch officer were to be tried for this incident.
While the crew of the Pittsburgh is repairing their ship in the dry-dock in Chatham, England there is time for leisure activities as well as small arms practice on a nearby firing ranges. One of these leisure activities is playing baseball. On October 12, 1920 the team from the Pittsburgh takes on a team of British naval officers at a local field in Chatham. The Pittsburgh routed the British officers by a score of 21 to 8.
During the time the Pittsburgh was being repaired at the Chatham Dockyards the ships officers and crew found the hospitality of the nearby Rochester Cathedral very inviting. Many friendships were formed with the church folks and the crew of the Pittsburgh, so much so that shortly before the Pittsburgh was repaired and was to steam out to sea again the Dean of the Rochester Cathedral held a special service at the cathedral for the officers and men of the ship. Both the national flags of England and the United States were hung from the organ casing in honor of the ship, her crew and the friendship between nations. A few days after this special service Captain Todd sent public letters to both the Chatham Dockyards praising the great work the dockyard had done on the ship and to the Dean of the Cathedral thanking him for the warm friendship he had extended to his officers and men.
During the autumn of 1920, the cathedral had been seeking funds for the ring of eight bells to be recast, and add two additional new bells. Sponsors were sought, and Captain Todd presented the money for one of the bells to be recast. It is now the number 3 bell at the cathedral and has the cast-in inscription "USS Pittsburgh, in memory of 1920" When bells are recast the original metal is reused with new metal added as required, therefore there is every reason to assume that the current bells contain the metal from all the original bells back to the time of Gundulf in the 11th Century. In 1960 the bells were re-hung again on a new steel frame by built by John Taylor.
Published in the local Chatham News on December 17, 1920 was the letter to the Dean of the Rochester Cathedral from Captain Todd of the Pittsburgh. In it he thanks the Dean for various events during the two and a half months that the Pittsburgh was in dry dock at Chatham. He encloses a check for £52, 10s to pay for the recasting of one of the bells and discusses the inscription.
Officers and Men Give a Bell to Rochester Cathedral.
The following letter sent this week to the Dean of Rochester, speaks for itself:
Dear Dr. Storrs,
Before the ship sails from Chatham, I wish to express to you our appreciation of the honor you have done us, in coming on board to address my officers and men, and for the special service, which you held for us in your Cathedral.
We are grateful for these kindnesses, and I beg you to thank Mrs. Storrs, and the ladies of Rochester, for their entertainment of our men in the Guildhall, Rochester.
I hand you herewith a check for £52, 10s, from Admiral Huse, the Officers and Men of Pittsburg, to cover the cost of re-casting a bell for the Cathedral chimes. I understand that it is agreeable to you to have the bell marked: “U.S.S. Pittsburgh, 1920.”
Please accept this as a token of our great appreciation of kindnesses received, and of our sincere desire that our two peoples may always happily associate and feel as kindly toward each other, as we do, to our hosts of the last two-and-a-half months. May the Pittsburgh bell sound from the Tower of your ancient city a sweet tone, a note of goodwill from us to you.
Sincerely and respectfully yours,
This is the number 3 bell hanging in the Rochester Cathedral showing the dedication to the USS Pittsburgh. “USS Pittsburgh In Memory of 1920” This bell diameter is 30-inches in diameter. Martin Rushton who lives near the Cathedral, and helps with the ringing of the bells took this photo on January 23, 2014. Martin tells how the bells ring out for an hour and a half on Thursdays for practice night. “We ring for an hour before Sunday service, and about once a month there will be a 'quarter peal', that is 45-minutes of continuous ringing. We also ring for weddings and occasionally for funerals. The Pittsburgh Bell is therefore not some half-forgotten memorial, but a living, speaking, part of the City's life.”
The USS Pittsburgh at Villefranche, France on Christmas Day, 1920. The officers and men entertained about 200 French children to a Christmas dinner on board , afterwards presenting them with presents . Excited poor French children waving American flags and admiring their presents on board.
USS Pittsburgh in the harbor of Venice, Italy.
Another view of the Pittsburgh in Venice.
This is a photo from Paul L. Webb who was a sailor serving on the Pittsburgh while she was in Venice. This photo taken by Webb shows an airship as it passes over-head.
While the Pittsburgh’s crew is enjoying the leisure activities of playing baseball there were also those sailors who were enjoying getting to know some of the local Chatham women. One such sailor was Chief Boatswains Mate Michael James Matthews who got to know Susannah R. Kitching.
She was a 19-year old woman from Hartlepool, England being born on June 5, 1901 and Chief Matthews was then a 40-year old sailor who was born on September 28 of 1880 in Jacksonville, Florida. The two fell in love and in December of 1920 while the Pittsburgh was still in Chatham, England they were married. Matthews was a career sailor and had served during the Spanish-American War, WWI and would also serve in the Navy during WWII.
Chief Matthews during the 1930’s returned to civilian life for a time living in Brooklyn with his wife Susannah or Susan, as she was more commonly known. Michael then worked as an engineer in the steel business and the couple never had any children. In 1930 Michael and Susan owned a home in Brooklyn, which was valued at $15,000 where they had 6 other lodgers living in the home. Michael Matthews would pass away on March 16, 1955 in Brooklyn, NY and his wife Susan would live on another five years. She would pass away on August 19, 1960 and today both she and Michael lie next to each other buried in the Long Island National Cemetery in Section L, sites 20946 and 20947.
In April of 1921 Pittsburgh still serving in European waters, was under the command of Captain Joseph Mason “Bull” Reeves. His command of the Pittsburgh only lasted until October 1921 when he was re-assigned as Commander, Navy Yard, Mare Island, California. Reeves later would retire from the Navy at the rank of Admiral and distinguished himself by serving in the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII and it was largely through Admiral Reeves foresight that the foundation of modern carrier striking forces are based on today.
In the early months of 1921 the Navy Department had recently withdrawn two older battleships, the Florida and Utah from the first line of the Atlantic Fleet. They were looking for other duties for these two aging battleships and the Utah was though as a suitable replacement for the Pittsburgh as flagship European Forces. But the Pittsburgh proved to be the better-suited ship and this was never done and the Pittsburgh would still serve the fleet for many years to come.
At Cherbourg, France on January 15, 1921 Vice-Admiral Henry McLaren Pinckney Huse relinquishes his command of the American Naval Forces in European Waters. His flag is hauled down from the flagship Pittsburgh and Vice-Admiral Albert P. Niblack, hoisted his flag replacing Huse as the new Commander-in-chief of American Naval Forces in Europe. Vice Admiral Huse then traveled to Paris for a week and then took transportation back to the United States where he took command of the Third Naval District in New York. At that time his rank was reverted back to Rear Admiral.
While the Pittsburgh is visiting Rome on April 1, 1921 the Pittsburgh’s Chaplain and a small group of her sailors received an audience from Pope Benedict XV. This would not be the only time small groups of sailors and marines from the Pittsburgh met with the Pope. In 1925 Pvt. Rollie C. Holliday, USMC was among another group from the Pittsburgh that met Pope Pius XI.
July 3, 1921 the Pittsburgh is anchored in English waters. Admiral Niblack and his wife are guests of Colonel George Harvey the American Ambassador to England. On the afternoon of July 3 there is held a baseball game between the American Army of Occupation baseball team and the Pittsburgh’s baseball team at the Stamford Bridge Grounds in London. A crowd of over 4,000 attended the game and Ambassador Harvey threw out the first pitch. The game was said to have been extremely exciting but in the end the Pittsburgh team was defeated 2 to 1 by the Army of Occupation team.
On July 20, 1921 Captain Reeves brought the Pittsburgh with Vice-Admiral Albert P. Niblack to Le Harve, France where they would participate in the French Navy Week celebrations. Admiral Niblack was to represent the American Government and to be present for several receptions and naval maneuvers of the French Navy. In early October 1921 when her duties were completed in European waters the Pittsburgh headed home to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She would reach the Navy Yard at Philadelphia on October 15, 1921 and then entered into an extended overhaul period to ready her for her next assignment.
Members of the USS Pittsburgh's landing force in a boat, off Shanghai, China, in 1927.
This photo shows crew of the Pittsburgh's landing force out side the Battilion Headquarters building in Shanghai during 1927
The sign above the door reads: "Battilion Headquarters Landing Force, USS Pittsburgh."
Re-commissioned again the following year in October of 1922 for duty in the Mediterranean, Pittsburgh left the Philadelphia Navy Yard at 10 O’clock in the morning on October 2, 1922. On board was an extra detachment of marines, which brought her total complement to 1,000 officers and men. Additionally she received on board a young Engineering officer by the name of Lt. (jg) Daniel V. Gallery. He had transferred to the Pittsburgh and serves aboard from 1922-1924. Gallery would become famous during WWII as the commander of a Task Force that captured the German U-boat U-505 with her secret enigma-decoding machine, which was so very important to the invasion of Europe in 1944. Also on board the Pittsburgh when she steamed out of the Philadelphia Navy Yard that October morning was a new Seaman named George John Patt (d. 1983 age 77), who as it turns out was only 16-years old at the time. Patt had used his brother’s birth certificate to get into the navy, but the navy did not find this out and Seaman Patt would cruise with the Pittsburgh until she returned in October of 1924. It was said that Patt loved the navy life and collected several tattoos while visiting the 81 ports of call they made during that 2-year cruise. In fact Patt would remain in the navy until honorably discharged at the rating of Coxswain on July 1, 1926.
Pittsburgh returned to European and Mediterranean waters, as flagship of the Commander Naval Forces Europe, and the Pittsburgh’s commanding officer was Captain John V. Klemann. As flagship she would from October 1922 until October of 1924, log 37,064 miles steamed and visit 81 ports of call in 61 different countries. Vice Admiral Long in the fall of 1922 replaced Vice Admiral Andrews as Commander Naval Forces Europe. Admiral Long had been using the USS Utah as his flagship but in early November 1922 Admiral Long transferred his flag back to the Pittsburgh because the Navy Department issued orders for Admiral Long to proceed at once to Constantinople, Turkey due to the renewed crisis in the Near East. Captain Klemann had orders to take the Pittsburgh to Gibraltar by the way of the Canary Islands where they would transfer the Admirals flag at Gibraltar. Once the transfer of flag from the Utah to the Pittsburgh had taken place she left Gibraltar on November 8, 1922 and was expected to arrive in Constantinople with in four days and would remain on station for at least two years. She actually arrived in Constantinople on November 16, which was eight days after she left Gibraltar according to the Associated Press.
Captain Klemann had the Pittsburgh steaming at half speed up the Bosporus River where they passed the Spanish flagship anchored there. As they passed the Band on the Spanish flagship struck up the Star-Spangled Banner, with her entire crew standing at attention. Very quickly the ship bands of the French, British and Italian warships, which formed a line of more than a mile, took up the Star-Spangled Banner as the Pittsburgh passed each ship. Captain Klemann maneuvered Vice Admiral Long's flagship through the maze of allied ships and dropped anchor within the shadow of the Sultan's Palace. The arrival of the Pittsburgh was hailed with deep satisfaction not only by Americans, but also by the allied authorities, which felt that they have the moral support of the Americans in the present crisis. With the arrival of the Pittsburgh the United States had twenty-one warships in that area, giving everyone a greater sense of security.
As the Pittsburgh is anchored in Constantinople on Christmas day 1922 Mrs. Elsie White of Grinnell, Iowa who was then an American Relief Worker gathers up several hundreds of refugee orphans in the streets of Constantinople in order to bring them some American Christmas cheer. Lying at anchor in the Bosporus River is the Pittsburgh and eleven US Destroyers all decorated in Christmas trimmings. The officers and men of these warships were hosts to Mrs. White’s gathered refugees and turkey dinners were served to them and gifts were handed out from the assembled fleet. Tens of thousands of people that Christmas evening were gathered at the waterfront to see the illumination of the fleet in the river.
The Navy Department directed that the Pittsburgh as flagship of American Forces in Europe should represent America at the Swedish-American exposition held in June of 1923 at Gotenburg, Sweden. In early June Pittsburgh was to meet the fleet oilier USS Patoka at Gibraltar and then to proceed to Gotenburgh on June 20, for the exposition. While in Sweden the Pittsburgh was summoned to steam for the Island of Sicily due to an eruption of the volcano Mt. Etna. On June 21, 1923 it was reported that the town of Casazza, Sicily was completely submerged in the lava flow and that neighboring town of Languagiossa was surrounded almost as if an island her self with the river of lava. The city was evacuated except for a few soldiers and the Pittsburgh was dispatched to aid in the relief efforts of evacuation.
By July 10, 1923 Pittsburgh was in the harbor at Cherbourg, France to disembark 3 officers and 60 enlisted men of her Marine Detachment. They were detailed to travel to the dedication of the Belleau Woods National Monument to the American Troops. Belleau Woods was where the US Marine Corps made a famous stand during the Allied Campaign of 1918.
The Pittsburgh was flagship for two of the Commander-in-Chief’s, US Naval Forces European Waters, Admiral Philip Andrews in 1924-1925 and Vice-Admiral Roger Welles 1925-1926. Both Andrews and Welles had as their assistant Chief of Staff a future WWII famous Admiral. The then Commander Raymond A. Spruance served as Assistant Chief of Staff on the Pittsburgh from 1924-26 to both Commander-in-Chief’s. Spruance would during WWII wear four stars on his collar and was known as the Vicar of Midway and was commander of the US Fifth Fleet.
While performing her duties as Flagship of the Commander, US Naval Forces in European Waters, the Pittsburgh had continually been on the move for over a year. And as such Captain R. L. Montague, USMC, the commander of the Marine Detachment aboard the Pittsburgh had not had his Marines on the firing line in quite some time and was overdue for rifle qualifications as set forth in the Marine regulations. As it turned out the Pittsburgh was able to obtain dry-dock time during March of 1924 in the port of Bizerta, Tunisia at the northern tip of Tunisia looking out on the Mediterranean Sea.
Bizerta is known as the oldest and most European city in Tunisia being founded in 1,000 BC by the Phoenicians from Tyre. When the French occupation of Tunisia in 1880, France gained control of the port of Bizerta and built a large naval harbor in the city. During the Russian Revolution of 1917 the western unit of the White Russian Fleet had been interred in Bizerta and it was only in 1924 when France officially recognized the new Soviet Union Government and turned over the ships of the White Russian Fleet. But being that the ships were old and obsolete they were never moved and eventually sold for scrap where they were anchored.
As the Pittsburgh was dry-docked in sight of the rusting Russian Fleet, Captain Montague saw the opportunity to finally get his Marines on a target range. Montague sought out the local French officials and gained permission to use a target range on the plains near the famous city of Carthage. This area was famous for it was said that Hannibal had drilled his troops on that same ground training his troops for his campaign on Rome nearly 2,000-years before. Often regarded as the greatest military tactician and strategist in history, Hannibal’s sprit must have been with the Pittsburgh’s Marines because in spite of the heavy rains and high winds 75% of Montague’s Marines were able to achieve qualifying as Marksmen or better.
On April 3, 1924 Vice-Admiral Philip Andrews has the Pittsburgh anchored off the coast of Barcelona, Spain where the Admiral was welcomed ashore by the locals. Admiral Andrews was on his way to Cartagena, Spain to place wreaths upon the graves of Spanish Sailors killed at Santiago and Cavite during the Spanish-American War. Later on May 8, 1924 Admiral Andrews visits the widow of Spanish Admiral Cervera in Cadiz, Spain as the Pittsburgh is anchored at Gibralter. Admiral Cervera had been the fleet Admiral of the Spanish Navy during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
During 1925-1926 Pittsburgh was under the command of Captain Frank Taylor Evans, USN. Captain Evans was the son of Rear Admiral Robley D. “Fighting Bob” Evans of Spanish-American War fame. Pittsburgh was relieved of her duties as Flagship European Forces in early summer 1926 and was ordered home to prepare for her next duties. She was to replace her sister ship the USS Huron, then on duty as Flagship, US Asiatic Fleet. Pittsburgh arrived in New York on 17 July 1926 where she under went a refit for her Asiatic duties and her fore stack was removed changing her to a 3-stack design. She was the only ship of her class to be so modified. Gun directors were placed on the bridge just abaft of the mainmast and one large ventilator installed just aft of the bridge area.
The Pittsburgh, under command of Captain Frank Taylor Evans, accomplished what few ships and crews could… that of hoisting both the Gunnery Trophy and the Engineering Trophy at the same time. On September 1, 1926 President Calvin Coolidge awarded to Captain Frank Evans and the Pittsburgh the Gunnery and the Engineering Trophies. While the Pittsburgh was at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on September 1 she hoisted the Battle Efficiency Pennant, something that few ships of the line have accomplished.
After her re-fit Pittsburgh steamed to San Diego, California where she would make final preparations before sailing on to replace the Huron as flagship. As the Pittsburgh was replenishing for her trip to the Orient a young Ensign was reporting aboard having received orders that he was to become a “China Sailor.” This Ensign was Joe Warren Stryker, who would retire from the navy at the rank of Rear Admiral. Ensign Stryker’s first impression of the Pittsburgh was less than impressive. In his words, “As we steamed into San Diego Harbor early in the morning after the overnight trip from Los Angeles I saw her [Pittsburgh] moored alongside the Navy Pier at the foot of Broadway. She was a four-stacker cut to three, squarely built and downright ugly. Built in 1904, the year I was born, she not only looked archaic in comparison with the sleek British cruiser that lay nearby she was.”
Now under the command of Captain George W. Steele, Jr. and Executive Officer, Commander Ezra Allen, Pittsburgh sailed from San Diego bound for Honolulu on October 16, 1926 with several hundred fresh recruits bound for the Asiatic Station. These new recruits were absorbed into the crew of the Pittsburgh where most got their first taste of Navy life. On her way to Honolulu, Pittsburgh came to the help of the HMS Wakakura, a British Minesweeper also bound for Honolulu. During a storm the Wakakura had broken down and was floundering in the heavy swells. Pittsburgh changed course to come to her aid and when they found the Wakakura the wind was still blowing hard. It was determined that engine troubles caused the Wakakura’s problems and the Pittsburgh took aboard one of the Wakakura’s engine room mechanics with the broken parts. While the parts were being machined the storm grew steadily worse and the parts and mechanic could not be sent back to the disabled Wakakura. The commanding officers decided a tow would be the best course of action and so a towline was rigged and the Pittsburgh commenced towing the British ship.
In light of the many new green sailors aboard the Pittsburgh, Ensign Stryker describes the events of towing the Wakakura, “I relieved the Junior Officer of the Watch shortly before midnight. ‘Now remember,’ I heard the skipper say to the Officer of the Deck, ‘we have a ship of the Royal Navy on the towline. It’s your job to see that every action of ours reflects nothing but good seamanship to our cousins astern.’ Now I know that our guns were poor, our engines mediocre and our electronic equipment primitive, but our ship’s bell was the loudest in the fleet. When the bell was struck each half hour, the time was known by all ships of a formation as by the men in the Pittsburgh’s deepest holds.”
All hell broke loose when, at midnight, twelve single bells boomed slowly forth, instead of the time-honored eight struck in pairs. “Where’s the fire?” shouted the Captain, racing to the bridge. (The ringing of single strokes had always been a fire signal.) “What damn fool struck those bells?” bellowed the Officer of the Deck. The culprit was a new “boot” from the training station. He was a sickly gray when he came before the Captain. “Sir, I ain’t had much experience striking them bells,” he said hesitantly. This explanation did little to placate the skipper. He turned to the Exec and growled, “I only hope those Britishers think we did not have a fire.”
When dawn turned the skies a murky gray the Pittsburgh was still fighting through heavy seas with the Wakakura on the towline. Suddenly there was a sound like an explosion. The Marine Sentry who was standing on the cleats that secured the towline to the Pittsburgh’s deck was flung into the air. The line had parted and realizing what had happened somehow the Marine managed to fire a warning signal from his Verys Pistol before his feet hit the deck. The Captain skillfully maneuvered the old Pittsburgh alongside the Wakakura and the Boatswain fired a line-throwing gun to start the passing of a new towline. Once secured to the skipper’s satisfaction he headed back to the bridge, but just as his revived hopes in the future of the United States Navy were raised they were blasted as he looked aloft and saw the just hoisted Stars and Stripes flying upside down. Words failed him, his jaws worked, but he could only stammer and point. The next few minutes were hectic. The Quartermaster, the Boatswain’s mate and Ensign Stryker all ran for the halyard bent on one thing, to rectify this notice to the world that the Pittsburgh was in distress.
Ensign Stryker relates, “I knew the Skipper’s humiliation was acute for he left the bridge with his head in his hands. I suppose he knew that the excuse would be the same as before no experience.” Fortunately Captain Steele was adaptable, as he had to be. Before the Pittsburgh arrived at Guam with the submarine S-33 they were escorting from Pearl Harbor, he was able to take a messenger’s report, “Sir, some marine is dead in the head,” with perfect equanimity. The fact was that no marine had passed on in the crew’s toilet and washroom. The Iowa farm boy had confused the issue in an effort to repeat the Officer of the Deck’s order, “Report to the Captain that the submarine is dead ahead.”
On 23 December 1926 Pittsburgh meets her sister-ship the Huron and transferred the Admirals flag and took her place as flagship. When Admiral Clarence S. Williams, Commander in Chief of the Asiatic Fleet, transferred his flag from the Huron to the Pittsburgh the Huron’s career came to an end. Deemed obsolete by the Navy Huron was ordered home for the last time. But just as obsolete as the worn out Huron was, so was the Pittsburgh. One example of this was the bug infestation that the Pittsburgh had. It seemed that the cockroaches and bedbugs were just a bit out of hand on the old Pittsburgh. The old wooden furniture gave good homes to the bugs and on the way to Manila the Pittsburgh’s Officers quarters were fumigated but within 24-hours the bugs emerged again. Once in Guam one officer had heard that the local Guam gecko like lizards were sure death to these bugs so he caught a cigar box full of them. Once back on board ship he took them to the infested room and let them go. This worked but a day later the geckos also disappeared, but the problem was really never cured. It was common for sailors to be out drinking with fellow sailors from other ships when a drinking partner would reach out and pick a bug off of the uniform of a Pittsburgh sailor and say, “Oh I see your from the Pittsburgh.”
Once the Admiral and his staff were aboard the Pittsburgh life aboard ship continued as if he was not even there. Only simple little quirks broke the routine like his daily naps he took for an hour from 12:30 to 1:30. The Admiral was so adamant about this that he would not be disturbed that he did not allow any work that might disturb him and he even gave orders that no one was to even tiptoe across the quarterdeck above his cabin during this time. The crew of the Pittsburgh solved this problem by ordering all hands to turn in at the same time as the Admiral.
Admiral Williams did not have much time to familiarize himself with his new flagship as on 22 January 1927 he and the Pittsburgh were anchored off Shanghai, China directing the evacuation of Americans in China. There were general Anti-Christian factions and Nationalists forces struggling within China to gain control of power. Many American and British citizens were in the interior of China and were in danger and needed to be removed before harm befell them.
The United States government was using several means to help its citizens in China. They sent a detachment of United States Marines from Guam to the Philippines to be staged there should they be called on to act quickly. Mr. Mac Murray the American Foreign Minister to China was sent to Peking to do what he could to calm things there. The U.S. Destroyer Pillsbury had just evacuated 60 Americans from Foochow to safety in Manila. These were mostly women and children and Admiral Williams dispatched another destroyer to Foochow to take the Pillsbury’s place there.
On 22 January 1927 Admiral Williams reported that over 1,000 American and British citizens were evacuating from Hankow, China. President Coolidge was doubting that the central government of China could guarantee the safety of Americans then in China, and so that is why he ordered the military on alert. Coolidge gave express orders to Admiral Williams that he was to act swiftly if it was deemed that American lives were in danger. Anchored off Shanghai in late February 1927 with the Pittsburgh, Asheville, Sacromento, Edsell and McCormick were over 30 foreign warships with troops numbering well over 10,000 men poised to act if the situation warranted. This was a fact that both the factions struggling for power in China were well aware of and they did not desire this force to become active against them.
Aboard the Pittsburgh Admiral Williams holds a conference with the British Vice-Admiral and the Japanese Rear Admiral to discuss what actions they might take or what they should refrain from doing. But down in Nanking things were a bit more volatile than in Shanghai. The U.S. Navy Admiral there, Admiral Hough, saw things a bit differently than Admiral Williams did in Shanghai. Admiral Williams as the ranking officer sent a message to Admiral Hough in Nanking stating Williams and the British and Japanese Admirals thought that Admiral Hough should avoid drastic actions. But Admiral Hough saw it as if Admiral Williams and the other two admirals did not completely understand the situation at hand in Nanking. Admiral Hough was ready to shell the city of Nanking unless those that the Chinese held were released and bring Chiang under control.
Admiral Hough may have been reacting aggressively in light of the recent event where one of Hough’s ships, the destroyer USS William P. Preston, was fired upon while escorting a refugee boat from Nanking to Kiangwan. The crew of the Preston returned fire from their machine guns and then the Chinese forts along the river opened fire on the Preston. This brought an order from the Preston’s commanding officer to open up with the 4-inch guns on the forts. There were no casualties reported from this event, but perhaps this was influencing Admiral Hough’s temper at the time.
At least once on March 27th the Marines from the Pittsburgh were rushed ashore because the Chinese were thought to be preparing to demonstrate in the streets of Shanghai. But the tensions quickly settled down and the next day on the 28th of March Admiral Williams recalled his Marine Detachment to the Pittsburgh. Brigadier General Smedley Butler, USMC already had a force of 1,500 Marines in the city under his command and the lack of violence the Pittsburgh’s marine detachment was not needed.
Admiral Williams had at his disposal the entire 4th Marine Regiment numbering 1,200 officers and men who had just arrived on station aboard the USS Chaumont from San Diego. By the end of March 1927 Williams along with the Pittsburgh had 21 U. S. Navy warships assembled in or near Shanghai. Admiral Williams now had 5,600 Marines and Bluejackets ready to send ashore to protect Americans if required.
By April 1927 the Nations of the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands had assembled 172 warships in Chinese waters. The U. S. Navy had 3 Admirals as well as the British in their fleets. Great Britain had the largest number of ships in Chinese waters numbering 76 ships followed by Japan with 40 ships, The United States with 30 ships, France with 10 ships and Italy with 4 ships followed with Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands with one ship each. This gave quite a large military force that could be brought to bear against the Chinese if required.
Life aboard the Pittsburgh was routine during the times she was in Shanghai and was only broken by unique and strange collections of events that made for excitement. For example on April 12, 1927 there was an exciting event that happened in the Junior Officers Quarters. While the Pittsburgh was in the river the portholes of the staterooms were only about 9 or so inches above the waterline. These portholes were left open for air and that morning a Junior Officer ran into the mess with shaving cream still on his face claiming there was a snake on his shaving mirror. Several others investigated and soon found two snakes, one of which was in the officers bunk. There was a cry for the Chinese coolies, “Ah soy, Ah soy, get swab handles and brooms!” and soon enough the attacking officers and coolies produced no fewer than six snakes from the stateroom. That night each of the Junior Officers slept topside on the quarterdeck. Due to the arrival of Chiang Kai-shek's troops in the city Captain Steele had standing orders for the night that the crew was to be kept aboard. Just before midnight one of the sleeping Ensign’s topside was awaken by the sounds of what he thought was firecrackers. But soon he realized that they were sounds of gunfire. Dull thuds began hitting the barbettes of the turret near where the Junior Officers were sleeping. Alarms were sounded and the Junior Officers headed for their staterooms, which had been evacuated that night due to the snake incident earlier that day. One Officer stated, “not back to the snake pit for me! I’d rather get a bullet in my tail!” The United States was strictly neutral and could not return fire, which brought a frustrated response from one of the bewildered Junior Officers, “My God! Bedbugs, cockroaches, snakes, and now bullets, what a way to make a living”
Among the junior officers who had survived the attack of the bedbugs, cockroaches, snakes and Chinese bullets was an Ensign who was in his third year aboard the Pittsburgh. Ensign Richard George Voge had graduated from the Naval Academy with the class of 1925 and had come aboard the Pittsburgh when she was in European Waters as Flagship of European Naval Forces. Now in his second year of duty with the Pittsburgh as she was serving as the Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, Ensign Voge got his first exposure to action on Chinese soil. Voge served with the landing forces from the Pittsburgh ashore during April and March of 1927 defending the American's in the International Settlement area of Shanghai. Later in his naval career Voge rose to the rank of Rear Admiral and on November 25, 1966 a new Garcia Class fast frigate was commissioned with the name of USS Voge (FF 1047) in his honor.
The end of September 1927 brought changes again to the Pittsburgh. This was when Admiral Clarence Williams transferred his powers of Commander in Chief of the Asiatic Fleet to Admiral Mark L. Bristol, due to the retirement of Admiral Williams on October 7, 1927 at the age of 64 years. Admiral Bristol made his base of operations in Chefoo, China aboard the Pittsburgh still serving as Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. Admiral Bristol’s Chief of Staff was Captain Kenneth G. Castleman, and Assistant Chief of Staff was Commander William Baggaley. This was Admiral Bristol’s second duty aboard the Pittsburgh, as he had used her as his flagship in 1919 as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in the eastern Mediterranean.
When Chiang Kai-shek's Cantonese Army won control of Shanghai, Pittsburgh resumed operations on patrol and exercises with the Asiatic Fleet. On 28 March 1928 Pittsburgh was in Hong Kong, China according to post cards mailed from the ship and cancelled with a Hong Kong postmark. Captain Steele was relieved of command later in 1928 where he was assigned duty as the US Naval Attaché in Paris, France. The Pittsburgh on May 3, 1928 left Shanghai bound for Yokohama, Japan on a 10-day good-will stop. Now that China had calmed down Admiral Bristol had time to perform some diplomatic visits with Japanese officials.
In June of 1928 there was a new Gunnery Officer assigned to duty on the Pittsburgh. His name was Thomas Joseph Keliher, Jr. and would retire from the navy at the rank of Rear Admiral on June 1, 1949. As Captain during 1944-1945 Keliher was in command of the battleship USS Indiana (BB58) and under his command the Indiana saw much action in the Pacific Campaign.
The Pittsburgh Pirates professional baseball team were the 1927 National League Champions, and as it turns out they were not the only team known by that name that were also champions. The baseball team from the USS Pittsburgh was known also as the Pirates and they to were champions. It seems that the Pittsburgh’s baseball team won the championship game in the China coast when in July of 1928 they beat handily an all-star team from Shanghai. Admiral Mark Bristol was something of a baseball fan and had put up a cup as a trophy for the winning team. Admiral Bristol was present for the game and keeping to tradition the United States Consul-General E. S. Cunningham threw the first ball to start the championship game that day.
In Yokohama, Japan on December 4, 1928 there was held before the newly enthroned Japanese Emperor Hirohito a great naval review of over 180 naval ships of the world. There were ships from Great Britain, United States, France and Italy and Japanese ships assembled. Admiral Mark L. Bristol aboard his Flagship Pittsburgh represented the United States. Among the Japanese ships there that day were two Aircraft carriers Kaga and Akagi, which both in 13-years time would launch planes from their decks on the morning of December 7, 1941 and decimate the United States Battleships moored at Pearl Harbor.
In the book “The Sand Pebbles” by Richard McKenna, which was also made into the famous movie by the same name starring Steve McQueen there is a passage that refers to the USS Pittsburgh. McKenna wrote this book, which tells the story of the men in the US Navy known as “China Sailors” of 1926. This was also the beginning of the start of the Pittsburgh’s tour as Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet from 1926-1931. It refers to something that happened while in South America several years previous, which is likely to be the murder that took place on the Pittsburgh during January of 1918 while the Pittsburgh was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In those days “China Sailors” were clearly regarded in a poor light. In the movie “The Sand Pebbles” Jake Holman played by Steve McQueen tells Shirley Eckert (Candice Bergen) “nice American girls don’t talk to China Sailors.” Even the local Chinese mock them and their superior officers treat them badly and the people whom they protect regard them as an embarrassment. McKenna reminds us in his book that the US Navy of the 1920’s was not necessarily seen as a career (except by the officers), but often as a means of escape or even punishment for the lowly China Sailor.
This may help explain the following reference from McKenna’s book, in which the implication was that the Pittsburgh had a bad reputation, with one character saying “I would rather have my sister in a whorehouse then have my brother serve on the USS Pittsburgh.” A second sailor replied, “I would rather have your brother.” In the book, the next day the second sailor received a warning in the form of a scrap of canvas with a pile of wet sand on it. This canvas warning likely refers to the old tradition in the navy known as “cobbing” or being beaten with a stocking filled with wet sand. There was no doubt that to the sailor who received the sand on his bunk that this was an old seagoing warning and that the message was very clear.Murder on navy ships of the line is not a new thing as life within the hulls of any ship is a small sampling of the larger population and so we should expect that this would happen from time to time. An example of this would be the murder that happened onboard the USS Columbia in 1921 in which two crewmen did not get along and one man killed the other in a fit of rage.
While the Pittsburgh is in Shanghai a young Seaman named Benjaman Blythe of Elyria, Ohio dies aboard the Pittsburgh from Smallpox on June 18, 1929.
The Navy Department on 7 August 1929 gave notice that 10 of its cruisers, many now with well over 20 years of constant service, would be targeted for removal from the navy rolls. Only 6 of the 10 cruisers were still on active service and the oldest of these cruisers being the Rochester having been laid down in 1890. Among the list of 10 cruisers was the name of the Pittsburgh, a name that her crew likely did not want to see but they knew that the end must come sometime. Within a short time the crew would be broken up and life long friends would be split up. For the crew this was something they dreaded but accepted. Of the 10 cruisers on the list only the Olympia would be spared the slow death by the scrappers cutting torches. As a Spanish-American War Memorial, the 70th Congress slated her for preservation, over strong protest of President Coolidge’s program of Government economy.
Within 5-months of the decision of the Navy Department to retire the Pittsburgh she was again called on to protect American Lives. Even as her days were numbered she still had uses and to the crew this was likely their last chance to make their marks in the annuals of the history of the United States Navy.
In December of 1929 China again was in turmoil as it was in 1927, when the Pittsburgh was there to protect American lives. Rebellious forces within China had gained a foothold in several districts and the fall of Canton was thought to be near at hand. The Navy Department gave orders on 9 December 1929 to Rear Admiral Charles B. McVay, Jr. to take his fleet from Manila to Shanghai with all haste to protect American life if necessary as they had done 2 years previous.
McVay issued sailing orders for 6 destroyers (McCormick, Bulmer, Simpson, MacLeish, Edsall and Parrott) to sail on the 10th as soon as possible and his flagship the Pittsburgh, under command of Captain Halsey Powell, would follow later that same day. Within 2 days steaming time the force would arrive in Shanghai to, in the words of Admiral McVay “That whenever American life and property were endangered, the routine duty of the navy was to protect them.” As in 1927 British and Japanese governments also dispatched naval ships to protect their citizens along with McVay’s forces.
The rumor mill began to work at a faster speed in January of 1930. As early as January 21, 1930 it was unofficially being reported that the Pittsburgh’s days were numbered as Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. The rumor was that she was to be replaced by the new cruiser USS Houston, but no official word or orders had been given to the Pittsburgh. So life continued as it had before for the crew of the aging Pittsburgh.
Even as the rumor mill had the old Pittsburgh as good as retired new officers were being assigned to duty aboard the old ship. David Rowan Nimmer was one such officer, who at the height of his career retires as a Major General of the U. S. Marine Corps in 1947 after a 32-year career in the Corps. In late 1929 Nimmer was assigned as commanding officer of the Marine detachment aboard the Pittsburgh. He would serve in that position until early 1931 when he was attached to the U.S. Legation in Peking, China, and assigned to a station in Harbin, Manchuria, for the purpose of studying the Russian language.
On the 29th of August 1930, Pittsburgh was in Tsingtao, China according to a post card sent back home from a crewman. While anchored in Tsingtao on October 30, 1930 the radio operators of the Pittsburgh received the one message they dreaded. The message was from the new Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral William V. Pratt, and it announced the new reorganization of the fleet. This was the message of doom the crew of the Pittsburgh knew was to come but now it was official. She was indeed to be replaced by the USS Houston as flagship. Now the crew, many of who were life-long friends would be split up and their home would be sent to the cutting torches. Not a fitting end for the good ship Pittsburgh. In total the Pittsburgh was among the 49 ships that would be sent to the scrap yards by this order.
Closing her long career of service, Pittsburgh conducted a farewell tour on behalf of the Governor General of the Philippines, Dwight F. Davis. For the past two years Governor Davis had been busy in Manila and was recently joined there by Vice-Governor George Charles Butte. Being that Butte was now available to help with the workload Governor General Davis felt that he now had and or needed the time to travel. Davis’s reason for the travel was to promote goodwill, to study French, British and Dutch Colonial administration, and to encourage new trade.
Governor Davis had known that the Pittsburgh was going to be relieved by the USS Houston as Flagship and would be scrapped soon thereafter. It was probable that he may have fond memories of the now 26-year old Pittsburgh and wanted to give her this farewell tour as a gesture of her service. And so Davis pulled some strings and was able to secure the Pittsburgh to carry him, his daughter Cynthia and his son Dwight, Jr. on a tourists dream cruise to such ports as Saigon, Bangkok, Singapore, Belawan Deli, Batavia, Surabaya, Bali, Makassar, and Sandakan. With a fresh coat of paint the Pittsburgh cleared Manila for Saigon in the last days of February 1931. To the millions of native peoples and the white folks of the East Indies a visit from the Big White Governor was big news and a welcome distraction to their daily lives and made for many lavish festivals to be planned in his honor.
Pittsburgh made anchorage in Singapore where the ship and governor Davis were saluted by the locals and every kind of British Naval ship in the harbor. It was doubtful if Davis learned anything about the British Colonial rule of Singapore during his 3-day stay there. After clearing Singapore the Pittsburgh sailed for the Dutch port of Medan where representatives from the Goodyear Rubber Company met Davis. Much discussion took place about the rubber plantations of Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Goodyear and United States Rubber during his stay in the Dutch Islands.
The first days of April 1931 the Pittsburgh was hoisting the Jolly Roger from her mast as she was crossing the Line. During this crossing many Polliwogs were preparing for the ancient rites of the sea as the Pittsburgh crossed the Equator for the last time. The Number one Polliwog was Miss Cynthia Davis and being that her father Governor Davis was a Shellback asked King Neptune if he could be ducked in his daughters place. This request was granted and the Governor General was again dealt with as a polliwog once more. Davis after being a shellback for the second time cleaned up and went ashore in Batavia to meet the Local Dutch Viceroy. After a tour of the island of Java, Davis rejoined the Pittsburgh at Soerabaya. Next the Governor stopped on the Isle of Bali for a 3-day stay. Pittsburgh left anchorage in Bali and steamed for Dutch Makassar and British North Borneo stopping only a few hours at each port.
Pittsburgh retuned Governor Davis back to Manila on 15 April 1931. While the Pittsburgh was in Manila she relinquished her duties as Flagship, Asiatic Fleet to the newly commissioned 10,000-ton cruiser USS Houston. Six days later on the 21st of April Pittsburgh steamed on her last voyage via the Suez Canal, Mediterranean Sea and across the Atlantic Ocean one last time bound for Hampton Roads, Virginia where she arrived on 26 June 1931 for her final decommissioning. At Mid-night on the 21st of April, almost as if she did not want anyone to see her leave, she lifted her anchor from the muddy bottom of the bay in Manila to start the long and bittersweet journey home. Her crew knew that when they got home their home aboard the beloved Pittsburgh would be no more. Life long friends would be separated and memories would be just that, memories of fond times on the old Pittsburgh, she would only live on in stories of old. She was finally being retired after more than 26-years of service to her Country.
Pittsburgh was decommissioned for the last time on 10 July 1931 and by October of that year, the navy in some bombing experiments as a target used her stripped out hulk. Not a fitting end for the old ship but what was learned from her demise was something that helped the United States in winning the Second World War.
Naval aviation and the Army Air Corps were in desperate need of an accurate and practical bombsight. Carl L. Norden had been working on perfecting his bombsight through out the 1920’s and by 1931 he had his Mark XV version honed to a point that he needed to show the US Navy that he had the bombsight they needed. On October 7-8 the navy gave him that chance, a live target. The target was the old hulk of the USS Pittsburgh. By that time Pittsburgh had been stripped of her essential equipment and weapons. She made a good target for Norden’s bombsight and was towed to the target range and anchored in place.
Norden’s Mark XV bombsight was placed in an airplane with live bombs. The bomb runs were conducted from an altitude of 5,000 feet and it was noted that 50 percent hits were recorded with his new version. This was a great improvement over his previous versions, which could only manage a 20 percent hit rate. So impressed was the navy that they classified the tests as secret and would not allow the Army Air Corps to even talk with Norden. But the Army found a way to place orders from Norden for his bombsights. Both the Navy and Army would use his sights and the Norden Bombsight went on to be one of the most closely guarded secrets of WWII.
Pittsburgh was sold for scrapping under the terms of the London Treaty to the Union Shipbuilding Company of Baltimore, Maryland on 21 December 1931.
Above is a 1927 Christmas post card for the folks back home. She was on duty on the Asiatic Station at the time. Of note is the rare view of the Pittsburgh in her re-configured 3-funnel design. She was the only ship in her class of six Armored Cruisers so modified.
Her final chapter was written as the decommissioned USS Pittsburgh was used in bombing tests on 8 October 1931. This photograph shows the explosion of the first 500-pound bomb in the test series. Also in this photo she is in her modified 3-funnel design.
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 Pennsylvania / USS Pittsburgh please e-mail them to: Joe Hartwell
He was born on March 26, 1884, to Isaac and Jemina Campbell Kidd of Cleveland, Ohio. On appointment from his native state, he then entered the U.S. Naval Academy, from which he graduated as a Passed Midshipman on February 12, 1906. Passed Midshipman Kidd first served on USS Columbia, which carried the Marine Expeditionary Force to the Canal Zone. On May 17, 1907, he reported to USS New Jersey. During this tour, he completed the two years at sea then required before commissioning and was commissioned an Ensign, USN, on February 13, 1908. He transferred on May 2, 1910, to USS North Dakota, where he served until June 1913, except for target practice and training duty at Annapolis during the winter of 1911-12. He then joined USS Pittsburgh on June 30, 1913, and during the Mexican trouble of 1914-16 he served as First Lieutenant. Following this tour, he served as Aide and Flag Secretary on the staff of Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, aboard the flagships Pittsburgh and San Diego. He returned to the Naval Academy in August 1916 and was serving as an instructor on the Academic Staff when the United States entered World War I.
In September 1938, Capt. Kidd assumed command of the battleship Arizona, serving until February 1940. He was then designated Commander Battleship Division ONE and Chief of Staff and Aide to Commander Battleships, Battle Force, with the accompanying rank of Rear Admiral. RADM Kidd was serving in that billet when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In the attack, RADM Kidd became the first flag officer to lose his life in World War II, and the first in the U.S. Navy to meet death in action against any foreign enemy. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, with citation as follows:
"For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese Forces on December 7, 1941. He immediately went to the bridge and as Commander Battleship Division ONE, courageously discharged his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat until the USS Arizona, his Flagship, blew up from magazine explosions and a direct bomb hit on the bridge, which resulted in the loss of his life."
In addition to the Medal of Honor, RADM Kidd was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal. He previously had won the Cuban Pacification Medal (USS Columbia), the Mexican Service Medal (USS Pittsburgh), and the World War I Victory Medal, Atlantic Fleet Clasp (USS New Mexico). He was also entitled to the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one engagement star; and the World War II Victory Medal.
USS Kidd (DD-661) and USS Kidd (DDG-993) were both named for Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr., one of the first American naval heroes of World War II.
Willis Winter Bradley was born in Ransomville, Niagara County, New York, on June 28, 1884. He moved with his parents to North Dakota in July 1884 and attended the public schools. Willis attended Hamlin University, St. Paul, Minneapolis, before attending the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Graduated from the Naval Academy in 1906; during the First World War served as gunnery officer and as chief of the Explosives Section, Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department. Willis Bradley was awarded the Medal of Honor for action while serving on the USS Pittsburgh when he saved his ship on July 23, 1917, from considerable damage by extinguishing burning material near a large powder supply. He later became the military governor of Guam, 1929-1931; captain of the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, 1933-1935; attached to the Board of Inspection and Survey, Pacific Coast Section, 1940-1946. In 1946, Commander Willis W. Bradley, Jr., retired from the U.S. Navy because of physical incapacity incurred in line of duty. He took up residence in Long Beach, California, in 1931 and was elected as a Republican to the Eightieth Congress (January 3, 1947-January 3, 1949); assistant to the president of the Pacific Coast Steamship Co., 1949-1952; member of the State assembly from 1952 until his death on August 27, 1954 in Santa Barbara, California. Bradley was interned at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego California; Plot: Section O Grave 2925.
Seaman Ora "Pappy" Graves, U.S. Navy, was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism on 23 July 1917, while on board the USS Pittsburgh. A 3-inch saluting charge exploded and he was blown to the deck, but soon recovered only to find burning waste on the deck, which he put out, knowing there was more powder there that might explode; Birth: July 26, 1896; Death: September 28, 1961; Plot: Section W Grave 1208, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.
Chief Joseph C. Chambers, USN
|Joseph Charles Chambers was born in June of 1886 in the state of New York. He was the son of Charles Smith and Genevieve “Jennie” (Ideson) Chambers. Joseph C. Chambers like his father who served in the Union Navy during the Civil War, also felt the call of the sea and joined the navy at some point in his life and was according to the 1920 Federal Census on the armored cruiser USS Pittsburgh. His name appears on the census rolls that were taken on the first day in April 1920 while the Pittsburgh was anchored in Venice, Italy. At that time his rate was Chief Motor Machinist and he was 33 years old and he listed his home of record as Honeoye Falls in Livingston County, New York. Joseph Chambers would rise through the ranks and retired from the United States Navy as an Officer.
Previous to his service in the navy Joseph Chambers bought out the Ashery in North Bloomfield, New York, which was first begun by a Mr. Goodrich. At the Ashery, potash was extracted from regular paper and wood ashes, and combined with animal fats to produce household soaps. It was said one could purchase everything from clocks to coffins in his store. In 1893 the flow of the Honeoye Creek was reduced and that forced a slump in business relying on the flow of water in the creek. This may account for Joseph having to seek other work and why he ended up in the navy.
In the Friday May 26, 1933 edition of “The Victor Herald” there is an article about Joseph Chambers, which reads:
In an unidentified and undated newspaper article there is this about Joseph C. Chambers;
And again another undated article but likely when he was attached to the Pittsburgh while she was flagship, European Forces. It reads as follows;
Not much of Joseph Chambers life story is known after 1933 but he may have passed away in the Bath, New York Veterans Hospital at an unknown date. From cemetery records compiled by Helen Shepard of Veterans buried in the North Bloomfield, Ontario County, New York cemetery Joseph Chambers name appears in the veterans from WWI. Joseph Chambers father, Charles Smith Chambers was also in the navy and was a veteran of the Civil War and lived to the grand old age of 93. Charles Chambers had a varied and interesting life and the following tells the story of his life.
Sea Dogs, Young and Old Mark Navy Day
This above newspaper clipping appeared in an un-named newspaper from October 27, 1926, and reads as follows.“From Charles S. Chambers of Honeoye Falls, who captured blockade runners off the southern coast during the Civil War, to Ralph S. Conner, recruit from Shortsville, tars of all ages, celebrated the U. S. Navy Day yesterday in Rochester. Chief Machinist’s Mate J. C. Chambers, son of the 79-year-old sea dog, behind the navy recruiting stand shown above, is officer in charge of the Rochester Navy Recruiting Station in the Federal Building. Those in the picture are, left to right: E. Chemeleuski, C. L. Shannon, Chambers, Chambers senior, and Conner.”
Ellen Dickers Pearce and Joseph Charles Chamber on their wedding day in July of 1920
Charles Smith Chambers pictured in a home made Civil War Navy Uniform
The father of Joseph Charles Chambers, Charles Smith Chambers was born in Victor, New York on December 14, 1847. His family moved from Victor, New York to Honeoye Falls where he attended Public Schools there. His first job at age 12 was as a helper in his uncle's general store in Honeoye Falls. At 16 years of age Charles ran away from home and after an eight-mile trudge over rough roads from his home to Fishers, New York he boarded a train for New York city where on July 18, 1864, he enlisted in the Navy.
He served under the command of Rear Admiral Porter in the blockade of the Confederate stronghold of Fort Fisher for five months, and as powder boy, participated in a joint Army-Navy operation under Rear Admiral Porter and Major General B. F. Butler of the capture of the fort on Christmas Eve, 1864. Following hostilities he served two years on the sloops of war Susquehanna and Rhode Island, spending the winters in the West Indies and the summers in cruising along the Atlantic coast as far north as New Brunswick. On July 2, 1867, Charles S. Chambers received his discharge from the Navy.
|“Mr. and Mrs. Charles Chambers of North Bloomfield attended the 3rd annual reunion and outing of the Monroe County Civil War Veterans Association at Seneca Park, Rochester, on Saturday. They report a very pleasant time. The exhibition of the Women's Relief Corps and other organizations of the ladies were especially enjoyed. About 600 veterans were present.”|
Charles Chambers was an active man well into his 80’s as was evident in excerpts from an article from “THE VICTOR HERALD” December 1933.
|Charles Chambers, A Native Of Victor, Walks Miles At 86
“Charles Chambers, who was born in Victor, New York on December 14, 1847, celebrated his 86th birthday at his home in North Bloomfield, Thursday, in the enjoyment of such good health that he likes to walk a few miles for exercise, and not only plants and cultivates his garden each season, but also spades the ground.” “Mr. and Mrs. Chambers have two daughters, Mrs. B. S. Carmichael, of Rochester, and Mrs. Don Braisie, of Michigan, and two sons, Horace, of North Bloomfield, and Joseph Chambers, a retired officer of the Navy, now at the home of his parents. The late Mrs. Elvira VanDenbergh of Victor, wife of John W. VanDenbergh, was a sister of Mr. Chambers, who now has a niece and nephew, Miss Estella, and Ray C. VanDenbergh, living in Victor, the town of his birth. Mrs. R. Milton Hanley, of Canandaigua, is a great niece of Mr. Chambers.”
Chambers family photo taken about 1925
|The wife of Charles S. Chambers was named Genevieve “Jennie” Ideson and she was born in 1857 in the state of New York where she was keeping house according to the 1880 Federal Census. Both of Jennie’s parents were born in England. Charles and Jennie were married in 1878 and when the 1880 Federal Census was taken on the 19th of June Charles and Jennie was living in the town of Lima, New York.
In a Newspaper article from 1935 Charles at age 88, was still active by placing flowers on the graves of Civil War Veterans. “Of Course I'll do it,” He says of the task, “Of course I'll do it.” As the last survivor of Lewis Gates Post, GAR, Charles won’t let younger hands place Memorial Day flags and flowers on veterans' graves in North Bloomfield. For more than 10 years, this part of the annual preparations for Memorial Day services was the task of Veteran Chambers, who was still hale and hearty despite his age. But he doesn't confine his activities alone to memories of comrades in arms, but travels Western New York without asking assistance of anyone. On Tuesday, December 14, 1937, was the 90th birthday of Charles Chambers who was the last Civil War veteran in the Honeoye Falls area. He spent his anniversary in doing the usual chores about his farm home, preferring his regular routine to a celebration.
Charles Smith Chambers, naval veteran of the Civil War and last remaining member of the G.A.R. forces in the Honeoye Falls, New York area, died Monday afternoon, December 16, 1940 in his home in North Bloomfield after an illness of several days. He turned 93 years old two days previous on the 14th of December. His wife had passed away about one year previous and he was survived by two sons, Horace and Joseph, and a daughter, Mrs. William Carmichael, all of North Bloomfield, and another daughter, Mrs. Don Brasie, of Flint, Michigan, also six grandchildren and a great grandchild.
Information on Joseph Charles Chambers and Charles Smith Chambers was shared by Joseph Chambers first cousins, twice removed Ron Hanley
Paul L. Webb was born about 1895 in the state of Arkansas. His father was born in the state of Mississippi and his mother was born in Indiana. Little is known of his early years but at age 24 he was in the United States Navy serving on the Armored Cruiser USS Pittsburgh. According to the 1920 Federal Census, which was taken on the 1st- 10th April on board the USS Pittsburgh, Paul Webb was 24 years old and single and his home of record was listed as Cabot, Arkansas. His rank was listed as SC1c, which I believe is Ships Cook First Class.
Paul Webb was on board the Pittsburgh when she ran aground on some rocks 3 miles off the port of Libau, Latvia near the breakwater during the night at 10:20 P.M., September 9, 1920. Paul had sent a post card with a photo of the Pittsburgh while at Danzig and he did not mail it until the Pittsburgh reached her next port of call in Libau, Latvia. He writes on the reverse of the post card:
“Some money from different places. Some I guess you have never seen. I will tell you the value when I come. I hope to see you soon. Yours sincerely, Paul” and as a post script he also writes this notation: “This ship went on the rocks. Sept. 9th 1920 at 10:20 P.M. just about 3 miles off the coast near Libau, Latvia.”
Paul Webb spent over ten years in the Navy, as on the 1930 Federal Census he was still a sailor. On the 7th of April Mrs. Maude MacArthur recorded the Census information on Paul and his wife who were then living on Logan Street in San Diego, California. Paul and Florence Webb lived in a rented home, which the monthly rent was $27.50 and this may have been on the grounds of the Convent of Perpetual Adoration as that is the place where the census was taken. Logan Street may have been a street inside the Convent. Paul and Florence were married about 1923 when he was 28 years old and she was 30 years old. Florence was born in North Carolina and her father was born in the state of Virginia and her mother was from North Carolina. Paul Webb was listed as being a sailor on the USS Yarborough, which was a destroyer and Paul Webb would have been her last crew as Yarborough was decommissioned on 29 May 1930 about a month and a half after the census was taken where Webb was listed as being on the ship.
Also as noted on the 1930 Federal Census was the Paul Webb was a veteran of the First World War. So if he was in the Navy as early as 1917 then he would have been in the navy for 13 years or more at the time the Census was taken in April of 1930.
Information on Paul L. Webb was shared by David Carmical who is Webb's relative. Webb was David's Great Grandmother's brother, and he doesn't remember ever meeting him.
As the United States Navy was being called into its wartime strength in April of 1917 many of her ships were manned with peacetime crew strengths. Consequently each ship needed to add to her crew. Clayton Frederick Martin is an example of this additional force of men.
Clayton Frederick Martin was born on September 20, 1899 in Oregon to Adolph F. and Alice S. Martin. The family lived in a home on Jefferson Street in La Grande, Oregon, which is in Northeast Oregon. Adolph was born in May of 1863 in Wisconsin to German and Irish parents. Clayton’s mother, Alice was born in January of 1872 in Missouri and her parents came from Tennessee. Clayton’s father Adolph worked as a house painter to support his family.
By 1910 the family had moved to east 17th Street in Vancouver, Washington, where Adolph still was working as a house painter. The family then consisted of Adolph who was 46 years old, his wife Alice aged 37, eldest son Clayton F. age 10, Stella age 8 and Harold D. age seven.
This is Clayton F. Martin’s Crossing the Line document he received on June 4, 1917 when the USS Pittsburgh crossed the Equator at 36 degrees, 6 minutes West bound southward. The Pittsburgh was traveling southbound for Montevideo, Uruguay. Together with the USS Nebraska the Pittsburgh was transporting the body of Carlos M. DePena who was a Uruguayan Envoy. The two ship convoy reached Montevideo six days later on June 10, 1917.
Two generations later the grandson of Clayton Frederick Martin found out that his grandfather had served in the navy during WWI and on the Armored cruiser USS Pittsburgh. Clay Janer, the grandson of Clayton Martin has a Certificate from when his grandfather crossed the Equator aboard the USS Pittsburgh. The crossing took place on June 4th 1917 while the Pittsburgh and the USS Nebraska were southbound to Montevideo, Uruguay with the body of Uruguayan envoy to the United States, Carlos M. DePena who had passed away while in the United States. So by this Crossing of the Equator certificate Clayton Martin must have been in the Navy early in 1917, and likely joined the Navy before being drafted. His rank while in the navy was Engineman Second Class. Seaman Clayton Martin would have been on board the Pittsburgh when the explosion occurred on the 23rd of July 1917 that killed one man and injured several other men. As a new recruit Seaman Martin would have witnessed his first burial at sea when on July 25, 1917 Gunner’s Mate Lyle, who was killed in the explosion was buried at sea.
According to family stories Seaman Clayton Frederick Martin is said to have met his future wife Irine at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Irine was born about 1898 in New York to parents from Hungary and Germany. According to the 1920 Federal Census taken on board the USS Pittsburgh on the 3rd of April 1920 as the Pittsburgh was at anchor in the harbor at Spalato, Austro-Hungary (Split, Croatia) Engineman 2c Clayton F. Martin was listed aboard as a 20-year old and single. So he and Irine would have married after he was out of the navy.
But the 1930 Federal Census tells a slightly different story. It tells us that in April of 1930 Clayton and Irine were living in Brooklyn, New York on Albany Avenue, where Clayton was working as a Carpenter. The Census form states that they were married when Clayton was 17-years old and so that would date their marriage to 1917. And the first child born to Clayton and Irine was a son named John W. born sometime during 1917. So clearly they were married soon after Clayton joined the navy. In 1919 a daughter named Ethel T. was born, and both children were born in Brooklyn.
The home on Albany Avenue was owned by a Jewish couple, named Samuel and Mary Thactor. This was a large home in which two other families rented from Samuel and Mary. The address was 760 Albany Avenue and the two families were the Martin’s and James and Mary Mitchell. Samuel Thactor worked as a carpenter and so it is likely that he and Clayton Martin worked together. The rent that Clayton and Irine paid to Samuel Thactor was $68 monthly, while the rent for James and Mary Mitchell was $55 monthly.
Clayton and Irine lived in New York the rest of their lives. Clayton died sometime during the 40’s while still in New York.
On the 1920 Federal Census taken aboard the Pittsburgh on April 4, 1920 shows that she was anchored in Spalato, Dalmatia (Croatia). Among the men listed is the name of Seaman Floyd H. Elliott. He is a 20-year old single male and listed his home of record as Decatur, Illinois.
From this information it is likely that when Floyd Elliott joined the navy he may have been 19-years old and likely came on board the Pittsburgh in the early spring of 1919. The Pittsburgh was then under command of Captain David W. Todd and left Portsmouth N. H. on June 19, 1919 for duty in the Mediterranean as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Henry McLaren Pinckney Huse, Commander, U. S. Naval Forces, European Waters. Seaman Elliott likely served on the Pittsburgh through1919-1922, which would have been the end of a four-year term. It is not known for sure how long he did serve in the Navy or if the Pittsburgh was his only ship. But when he did leave the navy hi did live in California. It is known that from the Federal Social Security Death Index that his Social Security card was issued to him in the State of California before 1951. Floyd H. Elliott passed away on October 26, 1989.
Thomas William Larson discovered that his grandfather, Thomas William Katzung, had served aboard the USS Pittsburgh on a two-year tour. This was discovered in a family photo album noted from the period from October 2, 1922, to October 2, 1923. In the album was an news article from The Record, the local Connecticut newspaper dated October 16, 1922 where the article spoke about Thomas Katzung being assigned to the Pittsburgh as part of the Marine guard and had received special training for this assignment. At that time the Pittsburgh was being sent to the area of Gibraltar where she met up with the USS Utah where Vice Admiral A.T. Long came aboard to make the Pittsburgh his flagship.
Thomas William Katzung was born on Sept. 25, 1900, and was the son of William and Mary (Strang) Katzung of Collinsville, Ct. Thomas Katzung married Vera Sabottke of New Britain, Ct. on April 29, 1929. Together Tom and Vera had a daughter named Barbara June Katzung who was born July 1, 1931. After leaving the Marines Thomas served in the 169th Battalion, Company I, of the Connecticut National Guard. He died in New Britain on November 30, 1939, and was buried with full military honors.
Sgt. Thomas W. Katzung, USMC
Sgt. Katzung, USMC aboard the Pittsburgh
A group of the Pittsburgh's Marines from Sgt. Katzung's collection.
On 15 August 1902 Rollie Crumpton Holliday was born in Alabama. Rollie was raised in the down home Alabama ways through his early years and as he became of age he would travel far from his home and see the far reaches of the world, something he may have only dreamed about as a small boy back in Alabama. At the age of twenty-two, Rollie enlisted into the United States Marine Corps, which he found an adventure of a lifetime and Rollie found a home in the Marine Corps.
Pvt. Rollie C. Holliday, USMC
It was the middle of July 1924 that Rollie went to Birmingham, Alabama, to board the train where it would take him to the Marine Barracks, Training Station, Parris Island, South Carolina where on 22 July 1924 he enlisted into the Marine Corps and under went Basic Training. He was placed into Battalion B where he started his training where he remained until September 1924 when he was moved to Battalion C. On 11 September 1924 he was qualified with his rifle on the target range and finished his Basic instruction. On the 13th of September he was transferred to the Sea School Detachment at the Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia. There he learned the skills of a Marine stationed with the fleet. On 11 October 1924 Pvt. Rollie C. Holliday graduated from Sea School and was ordered for duty with the fleet aboard the Armored Cruiser USS Pittsburgh.
Pvt. Holliday boarded the transport USS Henderson and sailed for his intended duty station aboard the USS Pittsburgh. On 2 November 1924 he reported aboard the Pittsburgh for duty. The Pittsburgh was then serving as Flagship of U. S. Naval Forces, Europe sailing in European and Mediterranean waters. The first recorded mention of Pvt. Holliday was from the Marine Muster Records aboard the Pittsburgh then stationed at Antwerp, Belgium, where he was listed as a Private with the Marine Detachment aboard ship and was detailed as a Messman for the month of August, 1925. He was detailed as Messman throughout August- October 1925. From 1-15 October 1925 he was detailed as a Cook 3rd Class, and then on 16 October 1925 this duty was revoked due to change of orders.
While the Pittsburgh was visiting many European, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ports of call, Pvt. Holliday was getting the adventure he dreamed about as a boy. One such adventure was when the Pittsburgh was visiting Rome and the Pittsburgh’s Chaplain had arranged for an audience with Pope Pius II. Pvt. Holliday was among the men who were given the privilege to greet the Pope. They got special dispensation to wear the Marine Dress Blues for the audience with the Pope instead of the usual prescribed morning clothes required by the Vatican. As the Pope passed each of the Marines knelt and kissed the ring of St. Peter.
By September of 1926 the Pittsburgh had finished her European tour and was now back in American waters at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. At that time the Pittsburgh’s Marine Detachment was transferred to the Marine Barracks at the Navy Yard. Within the month Pvt. Holliday was transferred to the Guard Company at the Marine Barracks, Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey where he remained until April of 1927. That month Pvt. Holliday was transferred to the 81st Machinegun and Howitzer Co., 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment. He would remain in this unit until May 1927 when he was moved to the 80th Co. 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment, 3rd Marine Brigade.
The 80th Company was then detailed to duty in China, and in late May 1927 was stationed at Camp Butler in Shanghai, China. By July the 80th Company was moved to Tientsin, China. The 80th Company remained on station in China and Pvt. Holiday remained with them until September 1927 when he again was transferred back to his previous unit, which was also now in China. Now back in the 81st Machinegun and Howitzer Co., Pvt. Holiday remained based out of Tientsin, China, until March of 1928. Pvt. Holiday was now detailed to return to the States and on 1 March boarded the transport USS Henderson. Arriving in San Francisco, California on 4 May 1928 he disembarked the Henderson on 5 May and was quartered at the Marine Barracks at the Naval Ammunition Depot, Mare Island.
In June of 1928 Pvt. Holliday again boarded ship this time it was the United States Army Transport Cambrai for transportation to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, via the Panama Canal. July of 1928 was the end of Pvt. Holliday’s four-year term and he was awarded Character Excellent and the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal #84181 when he was discharged from the Marine Corps.
Shortly after Rollie Holliday left the Marines he married, Lois and Rollie were both 25-years old when they married. Lois was from New York and in April of 1930 they lived in Moscow, Alabama with their 11-month daughter Laurie. At the time Rollie was working as a farm laborer. Sometime in 1934 Rollie took a job with the TVA as it was being started. Once a Marine always a Marine was something Rollie lived by and in June of 1942 while still working for the TVA Rollie gave his notice to quit the TVA in order to join the Marine Corps again. On his exit interview with the TVA was this notation, “Mr. Holliday feels he can best serve his Country by Re-enlisting in the Marine Corps.” But due to his age and the fact that he now had four children and a wife to support he was turned down. Rollie did get his old job back with the TVA where he worked for the rest of his life.
While Rollie Holliday was visiting in Volusia County, Florida during April of 1966 he passed away. At the time his home was in Mobile, Alabama. Many years after Rollie had passed away, one of his daughters, Sara Hair, was visiting the new Marine Corps Museum located on the Marine Base in Quantico, Virginia. She had remembered how her dad was always so proud of being a Marine and she purchased a memorial brick in Pvt. Rollie Holliday’s memory to be placed on the grounds of the museum.
Pvt. Holliday on the left, unidentified on the right.
Pvt. Holliday in Dress Blues
A view of the Pittsburgh at anchor in the harbor in Villefranche, France.
Pvt. Holliday writes “One half mile on top of the mountain”
Josiah Arthur Gibson was born on March 17, 1897 in Jefferson County, Alabama to George and Effie Gibson. Josiah was the third child to George and Effie, who had been married about 1892. George was born in November of 1863 in Mississippi and Effie was born in December of 1864 also in Mississippi. They both graduated from Blue Mountain College, Mississippi where they both taught. When they moved to Woodlawn, a section of Birmingham, Alabama, George became a builder and owned the Vance Construction Company in Birmingham. Besides owning construction equipment, he owned a small railroad in the area to transport materials. Effie was an oil painter who had studied in France.
All four of their children were born in Woodlawn. In September of 1892 the first child, a daughter named Louisa, was born. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College second in her class and worked for the Navy Department as an aircraft designer. The next child was born September 1894, a son named George, Jr. who graduated from Harvard as a mechanical engineer and who became an inventor. The third child was Josiah or “Joe” who was born on March 17, 1897. He graduated from the University of Alabama. His younger brother, William, was born in 1906. William graduated from Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA) with a degree in civil engineering.
Josiah Gibson later in his life gave to his granddaughter, Kim Wilson a ring that he had made while serving in the Navy aboard the Armored Cruiser USS Pittsburgh. Kim relates of this coin ring: “...my grandfather had given me a silver ring he’d made while on the ship. It was made from a South American coin. All the lettering on the coin was preserved on the inside of the ring. When I checked it, it was from Uruguay, 1917, the year that the Pittsburgh returned the body of US envoy & Uruguayan Carlos De Pena to his home country. I had previously been unaware of the significance of that coin.”
Josiah Gibson enlisted in the navy April 10, 1917 in Montgomery, Alabama. He was attending the University of Alabama when the war started and was one of the first students to join up. He was an Electrical Engineering major and probably in his junior year. We know he returned to the university after being in the Navy and graduated in 1919.
The discharge paper (No. 145718) shows that he was honorably discharged in October of 1919 in New Orleans as Seaman , service #160-72-09 from a Receiving Ship. However, stamped at the top is “Jan 4 1921Victory button issued Recruiting station 34 East 23rd St., N.Y.” On the War Service certificate, it lists the USS St. Helena, Receiving Ship at Norfolk; USS Hanover Receiving Ship at New Orleans. He was a signalman on the Pittsburgh. His daughter believes that he signed up for an additional 6 months or so to cruise from San Francisco around South America.
Since he enjoyed photography, “Joe” Gibson made a little extra income while at sea with a postcard camera, taking pictures of other sailors on board which they could send home.
Photos of Josiah Gibson courtesy of Kim Wilson
This is the camera Josiah Gibson used aboard the Pittsburgh to take photos for his postcard business aboard ship. He developed them on board and printed them on special photographic post card stock, then sold them to his shipmates. It says on the back:
No. 5 A AUTOGRAPHIC KODAK USE FILM NO. A-122
A photo of the ring made by Josiah Gibson from a Uruguayan 50 cent coin. To the right of the word, "Uruguay" is the year 1917 upside down, which was the year in which the Pittsburgh anchored there for the transfer of the body of the late Uruguayan dignitary Carlos M. DePena. The words inside the ring are: "CON LIBERTAD NI OFENDO NI TEMO ARTIGAS 50 CENTS" AND "REPUBLICA ORIENTAL DEL URUGUAY 1917" Translation: "With liberty and without offense or fear ["Artigas" is a Uruguayan national hero] 50 cents" and "Eastern Republic of Uruguay 1917."
After Josiah was discharged from the navy and finished college, he went to New York City and worked for Western Electric. In his spare time he studied art at the Art Academy. One day a coworker of his told him that he was going to quit and start a real estate business, and would Joe like to work with him? “Sure,” Joe said. He turned in his resignation that day. Unfortunately, the next day, he heard from this coworker that his wife had nixed the idea and so he’d be staying on after all! With no other prospects, Josiah went ahead and established his own Real Estate business.
On December 24, 1929 he married Edna (aka Gladys or Carolyn) Luchesi, the daughter of his friend Edward Luchesi, who owned a plumbing business next door to his Real Estate office. The Luchesis were from the Bronx. At the time they were married Josiah was 32 and Edna was 18. In April of 1930 Josiah and Edna rented an apartment located on Benedict Avenue, Bronx in New York. The rent for the apartment was $58 per month. Josiah and Edna furnished it with antiques from the Gibson home and also one of the few luxuries of the time, a radio set. Their only child, a daughter, Althea Carol, was born on December 1, 1932.
Josiah Arthur Gibson Passed away at his home in Hackensack, New Jersey in October of 1977.
Freelin Hison Reaves, USN
Freelin Hison Reams was born on September 20 1887 in Arkansas. His parents were Huston Daniel Reams (1849-1915) and Elizabeth Miller (1853-1918) who were farmers. Freelin a medium built man with brown eyes and black hair was sometimes known as “Freel” or “FH” during his later life.
At about the age of 17-years Freelin left Arkansas his home and joined the United States Navy. Family members have a photo of him in a navy uniform, which, was said to be dated about 1904 and was aboard the USS Pennsylvania. This would likely make Freelin one of the original crew members of the Pennsylvania. It is known from his WWI draft Registration card from June 5, 1917 that Freelin served a 4-year term in the navy.
It is very likely that Freelin would have been aboard the Pennsylvania in October of 1905 when the cruisers Pennsylvania, Colorado and Maryland escorted President Teddy Roosevelt aboard the West Virginia up the east coast of the United States on a return trip to Washington DC from New Orleans.
While aboard the Pennsylvania Freelin may have been a Boatswain’s Mate. He likely would have at the end of his 4-year term left the Pennsylvania when she returned to the west coast of the United States in late September of 1907.
After being discharged from the navy Freelin would return to the farm country of Arkansas where his family lived. Freelin at the time he registered for the WWI Draft on June 5, 1917 he was single and was farming for himself. At the time he lived on a farm near Springtown in Benton County, Arkansas and in the home also lived his mother and two small children. Freelin was then a widow and his former wife was named Martha O. Crane (1887-1914) and the two children listed on the Draft Card were a daughter Larue Reams (1911-1995) and a son named Leo L. Reams (1913-1989). Freelin and Martha were married about 1910 in Benton, Arkansas. When the Federal Census was taken at the Reams farm in January 1920 there was living in the home Freelin who was farming, his 7-year old daughter Larue, his 5-year old son Leo, Freelin’s 22-year old sister Nettie and her 4-year old son Burl.
Freelin would remain single until he was 39-years old when he re-married in 1925 to Lizzie Mae Hendrickson (1906-1985). Together Freelin or “Freel” as he was sometimes known, and Lizzie had one daughter named Betty Jean Reams and they made their home in Benton County, Arkansas.
Freelin Hison Reams would pass away at the age of 72-years on October 29, 1958 in Springdale, Washington County, Arkansas.
|Chief Gunner Orbia Peterson shown on the deck of the USS Pittsburgh while the ship is anchored in Venice, Italy in March of 1920. In the background can be seen the Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale. This was the residence of the Doge of Venice who was the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice. Behind the palace can be seen St. Marks Bell Tower in St. Marks Square.||Orbia Peterson shown on the left in an early, undated photo when he was an enlisted sailor. The photo seems to be of oriental design and this suggests this was taken when he was serving in the Pacific. The sailor on the right is unidentified. Unfortunately the sleeve ratings or the ship name on the hatbands cannot be determined.|
When the Pittsburgh was at anchor in Venice, Italy in March 1920, the ranking Chief Gunner aboard was Chief Gunner Orbia Orval Peterson. Chief Gunners carried the same rank as an Ensign but were after Ensign’s in rank. In 1920 Chief Gunner Peterson was the 12th ranking Chief Gunner in the navy, and his signal number was 12294. Peterson would retire from active service in the navy on August 31, 1921.
Orbia Orval Peterson was born on November 16, 1887 in Missouri to parents of Swedish ancestry. Orbia sometimes also went by the first name of Joseph, and he joined the navy at an unknown date but was prior to 1915. He began to rise through the ranks and held the rating of Gunner in 1917 and by 1918 was now a Chief Gunner.
After the end of the First World War, Peterson served aboard the old cruiser USS Olympia, the famous ship of Admiral Dewey during the Spanish-American War. At the end of the war the Olympia steamed across the Atlantic making stops in Portsmouth, England and then sailed to the Mediterranean Sea. In December of 1918, the Olympia became the flagship for the American naval forces stationed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. While on this assignment, she continued in her old role of showing the flag and conducting goodwill visits in various Mediterranean ports. This included a period of policing duty in the Adriatic Sea from January 21 through October 25 of 1919, as the Dalmatian coast was in a state of turmoil following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the war. On August 18, 1919, the Olympia steamed into the Black Sea to aid the return of refugees from the Balkans who had fled during the war. The Olympia was back in the Adriatic Sea by September 19, and four days later had to deploy a landing party to prevent an incident between Italian and Yugoslav forces.
Chief Gunner Peterson was then transferred to served aboard the USS Pittsburgh, which was then also serving duty in the Mediterranean Sea. Peterson would serve aboard the Pittsburgh until his retirement in 1921.
At an unknown time during his duty with the Navy while serving in the Pacific he met Rufina Wilson of Guam. She was a mestizo, which is a term used to describe people of mixed and foreign ancestry. They married and together they had four children. A 1920 Census report places Rufina in Guam with her mother and four children Fred b.1909, Elmer b.1911, Mabel b.1913 and Annie b.1915, all with the Peterson last name. Orbia was not in the household in the 1920 Census from Guam as he was serving aboard the Pittsburgh. Not much after 1921 is known about Orbia and his death occurred in 1932.
Family traditions of serving our country run deep and in the Peterson family serving in the United States Navy has special meaning. Orbia Peterson’s son, Fred had a son named Fred Castro Peterson who was born in 1938. Young Fred Castro Peterson took after his grandfather in serving in the Navy. Fred Castro after receiving a G.E.D. high school diploma entered into the United States Naval Academy and graduated with the Class of 1955 becoming a Commissioned Officer in the Navy. Had his grandfather Orbia lived to see Fred Castro Graduate from Annapolis he would surly have been very proud.
The armored cruiser USS Pittsburgh served as the Flagship of United States Naval Forces in European Waters from 1922 through out 1924. She would log some 37,064 miles and visit 81 ports of call in 61 different countries. The Pittsburgh during those years was home to many men, and one such man was an enlisted man named F. S. French.
French was a single man, and like all sailors aboard a ship he had to find ways to pass the many hours of idle time. While aboard the Pittsburgh on her tour of European waters as Flagship Seaman F. S. French kept a scrapbook of life aboard the ship. Like most single men in the navy he liked pretty girls and his scrapbook contained many clippings of women and cartoons of a somewhat risqué subject matter. French was a typical sailor aboard the Pittsburgh, but 88-years later Seaman French’s scrapbook survives. When you look at his scrapbook and the yellowed and tattered pages the question of just who, as the scrapbook states “Property of F. S. French,” really was.
A typical page from Seaman Frederick S. French’s USS Pittsburgh Scrapbook 1922-1925
F. S. French was in fact Frederick Shelden French born on September 21, 1889 to Emma and Frederick S. French Sr. in Providence, Rhode Island.
Frederick S. French Sr. was born in Rhode Island in August of 1858 and on September 18, 1888 he married Emma F. Barker. Almost a year later on September 21, 1889 the couple had a son, which they named Frederick Shelden French, Jr. Young Frederick lost his mother when he was only a few months old, Emma passed away at the age of 24-years old on January 24, 1890 in Rhode Island. The elder Frederick was now left to raise his son alone and he eventually went to live with his mother Mandy M. French in Warwick, Rhode Island. Mandy M. French in June of 1900 was herself a widow and she and her son Frederick and grandson Frederick Jr. lived with Mandy’s daughter Ella, who was married to William B. Blauchard who was a somewhat well to do man who was a manufacturer.
William B. Blauchard was born in December of 1849 and was French Canadian by birth having immigrated to the States at one year old. Together William and Ella had 4 children 3 of which were living in June of 1900. They were sons Howard E. born in November 1882, and Basil B. born in May of 1886, and daughter Maude E. born in August of 1888. Along with the 5 Blauchard’s in the home were Mandy French and her son and grandson. William and Ella employed in the home a domestic servant by the name of Martha Davis who was English by birth. She was born in December of 1865 in England and immigrated to the States in 1897. Frederick French Sr. was at the time working as a pencil maker.
At the age of 13 young Frederick S. French Jr. lost his father. Frederick French Sr. passed away on January 4, 1902 and it is assumed that young Frederick continued to live with his aunt Ella Blauchard in Warwick, Rhode Island.
At an unknown age Frederick French felt he must strike out into the world and enlisted into the United States Navy. French was documented to be aboard the Battleship USS Minnesota (BB-22) when the Atlantic Fleet took part in the historic around the world cruise set forth by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1907-1908 known as the cruise of the Great White Fleet. Fireman First Class Frederick S. French would serve aboard the Minnesota from at least 1907 through at least 1910.
Ten years later French was still serving in the navy. On January 15, 1920 when the Federal Census was taken at the Portsmouth N.H. Navy Yard Motor Machinist First Class Frederick S. French is listed. He was then serving aboard the USS Chewink (AM-39), which was a Minesweeper commissioned in early 1919. MM1c French would have been among her first crew serving under the command of Lt. (j.g.) James Williams. The Chewink sailed from Boston, Massachusetts in May of 1919 for Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, arriving in early July. Her mission was to help clear the vast North Sea minefields laid during WWI.
By at least 1924 French had been transferred off the Chewink and was now serving aboard the USS Pittsburgh in European waters. It was aboard the Pittsburgh that Seaman French began to compile his scrapbook. By the end of the cruise aboard the Pittsburgh in 1925 French likely had been in the navy for at least 20-years. It is very likely that when he was discharged from the Pittsburgh he also may have mustered out of the navy, because in 1927 Frederick French married. According to the 1930 Federal Census French and his new 21-year old wife named Georgiana lived in a rented apartment at 18 South Elliott Place in Brooklyn, New York. Frederick was listed as working in a Bank. But this marriage was to be somewhat short lived and ended in divorce.
On November 20, 1936 before Probate Judge Dean F. May, Frederick S. French married Dulrena D. Silvia. She was also on her second marriage having been divorced from Joseph Perry Silvia. Joe Silvia and Dulrena Dorothy Gorham were married on April 21, 1921 when Dulrena was just 16-years old. Joe Silvia was a shoemaker and together they had one son named Arthur Perry Silvia born about 1924. Dulrena was the daughter of Jonas and Blanche (Linley) Gorham of Farwell, Michigan. This marriage between Joe Silvia and Dulrena may have only lasted a little over a year because by 1925 she and Frederick had a daughter together.
But when Frederick and Dulrena were married in Summit County, Ohio on November 20, 1936 Frederick listed his occupation as a “Retired Navy man.” He and Dulrena listed the same address of 208 Denver Street in Akron, Ohio so they must have been living together before they were married. Frederick then adopted Dulrena’s son Arthur.
By 1940 He and Dulrena were living at 717 Morgan Avenue in Akron, Ohio where they owned the home, which they had been living there from at least April of 1935. Frederick was working selling magazines to support his family, which had now grown to include three daughters; Pauline B. born about 1925, June J. born about 1927, Blanche P. born about 1930, and son Alvin Paul born about 1931, all having been born in Akron, Ohio.
By 1942 the life of Frederick Shelden French takes another turn. During WWII Frederick French registers for the draft as he is required to do and he is listed as being born in Providence, Rhode Island on September 21, 1889. Frederick lists his address as the Johnson Trailer Camp located at Euclid Ave. in Wickliffe, Ohio. He was working for a company known as Bardon and Oliver, Inc. from Cleveland, Ohio. On the draft form there was a question asking for the person who would always know where you were and Frederick listed Leona Allen of 1912 Cole Ave., in Akron, Ohio as that person. It is curious why he did not list Dulrena his wife? Perhaps they had divorced by 1942, but that is only one possibility.From this point nothing more is known of Delrena or Frederick French, but Arthur Perry Silvia, Frederick’s adopted son followed in the footsteps of Frederick and joined the United States Navy in 1942 serving through 1946 and again from 1948-50. Arthur P. Silvia would serve on the USS Antaeus (AG-67), MTB Squadron 16, USS Tuscana (AKN-3), USS Stickell (DD-888), and the USS Des Moines (CA-134). Arthur Perry Silvia would pass away on February 18, 2000 in Nevada. Frederick and Dulrena’s youngest son Alvin Paul French was born on July 24 1931 in Ohio and would live his life out never leaving Ohio, passing away on January 23, 2011.
Lynhurst Clair Mather served aboard the USS Pittsburgh during WWI, which was discovered from Michael and Christina Godack when they found Mather’s old navy uniform while cleaning out his attic many years after his death. Christina Godack is the granddaughter of Lynhurst C. Mather. Sadly the uniform was in such poor shape it could not be saved, but the hat with the ships name on the hat ribbon was saved and that was enough of a clue to start the Godack’s to research Lynhurst’s history.
Lynhurst was born in Essex, New York on December 5, 1899 to John and May A. (Tucker) Mather. The Mather family lived on a farm in Essex where John farmed. He and May had 4 sons: John, Jr., Frank D., Vaughn R., and Lynhurst.
Likely at age 18 Lynhurst enlisted into the United States Navy and served on the USS Pittsburgh, being one of the youngest aboard. It is not known how long he would have served aboard the Pittsburgh or how long he was in the navy. It is assumed that he would have served until about 1921 or 1922. This assumption comes from the fact that he married Clair N. Townsend about 1922.
Family stories related about the marriage of Lynhurst and Clair state that Lynhurst was away from home more than he was at home and that seemed to be ok with Clair as she lived with her world traveled sister Gertrude quite often. In 1929 Lynhurst and Clair had a daughter named Carol who is Christina Godack’s mother.
In 1930 Lynhurst and Clair were living together in Essex, New York where Lynhurst worked as a fireman on a stationary engine. This was a job where he fed the fires of a stationary boiler that likely powered an electric generating plant or a water pumping station. Clair his wife was a schoolteacher and later in life was a professor of Latin at Columbia University.
Lynhurst loved to tinker with things and it was told that he hooked up a system of pulley’s and ropes to open a door and window in his garage to let his dog Midnight outside without Lynhurst getting out of his bed.
It was also known that Lynhurst was a mariner and during WWII he served aboard the Standard Oil tanker SS William G. Warden as a wiper. A wiper is the most junior crewmember in the engine room of a ship. The role of a wiper consists of cleaning the engine spaces and machinery, and assisting the engineers as needed. Being that family stories stated that Lynhurst was away more than he was at home may lend credence that he was a merchant mariner and may have served aboard several other ships. The SS William G. Warden was a 9,114 gross ton tanker built in 1917 for the Standard oil Company, and she was 500-feet in length with a 68-foot beam.
In March of 1980 in Fairfax County, Virginia Lynhurst Clair Mather passed away.
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