Photo of the California with her original fore mast in Bellingham, Washington, 9 April 1908.
|Length: 503 feet 11 inches. Breadth: 69 feet 7 inches. Mean Draft: 24 feet 1 inch. Displacement: 13,680 tons. Machinery: 29,381 IHP; Babcock boilers, 2 Vertical, Inverted, Triple Expansion Engines, 2 screws. Speed: 22.20 knots. Coal Bunker Capacity: 900 tons normal, 1,929 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, 829 men (921 as flagship). Built by: Union Iron Works, San Francisco, CA Launched: April 28, 1904. Class: PENNSYLVANIA|
The second California (Armored Cruiser 6) was launched 28 April 1904 by Union Iron Works, San Francisco, California and was sponsored by Miss F. Pardee. On May 7, 1902 her keel was laid at the Union Iron Works shipyards. The hull of the California was launched April 28, 1904 almost two years after the keel was laid. On January 20, 1906 her dock trials began and on October 4, 1906 her sea trials began in the Santa Barbara Channel. The ship weighed about 15,000 tons fully outfitted and loaded for duty. Two steam-powered engines drove two eighteen-foot diameter propellers. These four cylinder engines were supplied steam by sixteen boilers and could produce 25,000-horse power. She was commissioned 1 August 1907, with Captain V. L. Cottman in command. Assigned to the Armored Cruiser Squadron, Pacific Fleet, California cruised off the west coast of the United States through August 1908. This Squadron consisted of the USS Washington under the command of Captain Theodoric Porter, the USS Tennessee under the command of Captain Albert G. Berry, the USS California under command of Captain V. L. Cottman and the USS South Dakota under command of Captain James T. Smith which, was almost completed with officers yet to be assigned. Rear Admiral Charles H. Stockton was in command of the Squadron and used the USS Tennessee as his flagship.
It was reported that on 5 January 1908 California sailed from Magdalena Bay, Mexico for San Diego. California joined the 2d Division, Pacific Fleet, and she took part with her sister ship Maryland in the naval review of 42 warships at anchor in San Francisco Bay, by Navy Secretary Metcalf on 8 May 1908. Aside from a cruise to Hawaii and Samoa in the fall of 1908, the cruiser operated along the west coast, sharpening her readiness through training exercises and drills. In the autumn of 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. 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. The Thirteenth Census of the United States was taken aboard the USS California on 4 May 1910 as she was moored in the Navy Yard at Mare Island, Vallejo, California. Captain Henry J. Mayo was in command and Flag Officer Admiral Giles B. Harber with his wife Jeannette was also listed aboard.
According to a post card written on the 8th of February 1911 by a crewman of the California, the California was anchored in San Diego. The California, South Dakota, West Virginia and Colorado arrived at Santa Monica on 7 October 1911 and then sailed for San Pedro. In early September 1911 she was dry-docked for routine maintenance and she exited the dry-dock on 11 September.
During December of 1911 she sailed for Honolulu, Hawaii for the opening ceremonies of the completion of the Pearl Harbor entrance channel. The Pearl Harbor Naval Station, across Quarry Loch, was authorized in 1908. Dredging of the Pearl Harbor channel entrance began in 1910 and, on December 14, 1911, USS California became the first warship to pass through the new channel into Pearl Harbor. As she entered the harbor the California and her crew were the gracious hosts to Queen Liluokalani.
USS California leaving the Dry-Dock on 11 September 1911.
Later in March of 1912 California continued westward for duty on the Asiatic Station. From the ships log of the California during mid April at Sea, en route to Olongapo, Philippines:
7 April 1912 Fair and pleasant. Steaming through San Bernadino Straights, speed 11 knots. Entire day continued in trip through straights and evening finds us with a few hours to go before striking the China Sea. Set clocks back 32 minutes.
8 April 1912 - Partly cloudy and pleasant. At 1:30 steamed into Olongapo Harbor and at 2:37 anchored off the town of Olongapo. Naval Station fired a salute of thirteen guns, which was returned by this ship (California) with seven guns. Official calls were exchanged.
9 April 1912 Fair and pleasant. Received in Pay Department 166 crates of potatoes and 11 crates of onions. Got underway at 12:11 and stood out of Subic Bay, en route to Cavite, P.I. Rigged ship for coaling. At 6:10 pm anchored off Cavite. Frank, C. E., this day reenlisted on board. Received two coal lighters alongside. Commenced coaling at 7:42 and finished at 11:10 pm. Total coal taken onboard 296.2 tons. Water barge Santolan came alongside.
10 April 1912 Partly cloudy and pleasant. USS Monadnock and Naval Station fired salutes, which were returned by this ship. Got underway at 12:57, anchored at target practice rendezvous at 3:35 and sent out sailing launches with targets mounted for night practice.
11 April 1912 Clear and calm. Got underway at 7:30 and stood out of bay for day practice runs. Manned the battery. Came inside again and anchored at 12:58. Sent out sailing launches and held night practice.
12 April 1912 Clear and pleasant. Got underway in company with USS Colorado at 7:52 for Olongapo. Pay Day, but our Manila Liberty is knocked in the head. Held man battery drills. Anchored in Olongapo Harbor at 12:12 pm.
13 April 1912 Fair and Pleasant. Commanding Officer inspected the crew. Commander-in-Chief called officially on Commanding Officer USS Monadnock. Liberty was granted for a few hours this evening.
On April 18 while at sea, Captain Charles H. Harlowe, a veteran of more than 30 years at sea, receives notice that he has been placed on the retired list. Captain Harlowe did this on his own request, and likely the old salt would think back fondly on his days of being a captain of the flagship of the Pacific Fleet. Captain Alexander S. Halstead would succeed Captain Harlowe as the next Commanding Officer of the California.
The California’s former Pay Clerk Charles A. Gibbons was arrested by Federal authorities in early April in Kentucky charged with the embezzlement of some $3,000 from the USS California, which had occurred sometime in the late fall of 1911. Gibbons had embezzled this money and then jumped ship while the California was in Santa Monica, California on October 7, 1911 and headed back east to his home area in the Eastern Kentucky area. After his arrest in Kentucky Gibbons was brought back to San Francisco and placed in the brig at the Mare Island Navy Yard on April 19, 1912 where he was ordered held until his court-martial, which likely would be conducted aboard the California in the Philippine Islands. Gibbons, on April 22 was then ordered held on the Independence, which was the receiving ship at Mare Island until transportation to Olongapo could be arranged. The Independence was a wooded hulled frigate built in Boston in 1812 and was at the time the oldest serving ship in the navy. The Independence by this time had her masts taken down and she was housed over to provide more room for new sailors yet to be assigned to a ship and also house naval prisoners. Then on April 24 the Navy Yard decided that Gibbons would be kept at Mare Island until the California arrived back to Mare Island in place of sending him out to the Philippines to meet the California.
Gibbons was born about 1883 in the state of North Carolina and had been in the navy for several years prior to his embezzlement and going AWOL from the California. Gibbons had been a Yeoman serving aboard the USS Vicksburg, as his name appears on the 1910 Federal Census and he was married about 1908. The Vicksburg was a 1,010-ton Annapolis class gunboat built at the Bath Iron Works in 1897. It is not known how much prison time he may have served but it is known that by January of 1920 Gibbons was living in Lexington, Kentucky on East Maxwell Street working as a traveling auditor. He was married, his wife’s name being Edith who was 3 years older than Charles. Edith and Charles had one son named Clyde R. Gibbons who was 20-years old at the time. Clyde was born in California and so was Edith, but Charles and Edith would not have been married at the time Clyde was born but it is still likely that Edith gave birth to Clyde, likely out of wedlock.
Summer of 1912 found the California in Chinese waters, and she spent the 4th of July at Shanghai, China and then cruised to Japan later in July. After this service representing American power and prestige in the Far East, she returned home in August 1912, and was ordered to Corinto, Nicaragua, then embroiled in internal political disturbance. Here she protected American lives and property, by placing naval and marine forces ashore. On August 28, 1912 a force of 16 officers, 270 bluejackets from the ships company along with a marine detachment of 1 officer and 62 enlisted men were put ashore in Corinto, Nicaragua. This force was under the command of Lt. Commander George W. Steele, USN. A second force was sent ashore on September 20 under the command of Lt. (jg) R. T. Kieran, USN that consisted of 32 men sent ashore in Corinto for duty at Chinandega, Nicaragua.
On September 1 the California was at Balboa in the Canal Zone where she embarked Colonel Joseph H. Pendleton, USMC and his brigade consisting of 29 officers and 752 enlisted men and steamed for Corinto, Nicaragua, where they arrived on September 4, 1912. While the California was at Balboa one of the California’s sailors writes a post card home to a Miss Grace Monroe in Massachusetts. In fact as the post card stated California was ordered to Balboa, Panama to pickup 750 Marines that had been brought from the Philadelphia Navy Yard aboard the USS Prairie to Cristobal, Panama and then sent across the canal on a train. The marines were under orders to be taken to Nicaragua. The USS Denver had previously left a small marine detachment at a cable station located at San Juan del Sur, and some of the Marines being transported now aboard the California were to be landed there in order that the defenses of this important cable station be strengthened so as not to fall into the hands of the rebels. The California would have to sail 650 miles at top speed to land the force and San Juan del Sur and then to her final destination of Corinto, Nicaragua in 4 days time. She would land 500 Marines at Corinto with orders for them to patrol the 72 miles of railroad from Managua to the sea. With the addition of the California’s 500 marines, this brought the total US Military force to a strength of over 2,000 men on the ground in Nicaragua with an additional 2,000 Navy Bluejackets on ships off the coast if needed all under the command of Admiral Southerland.
On three separate dates between September 6 and November 3, 1912 California sent detachments consisting of 1 officer and 25 men ashore for duty in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. These landing forces were returned to the California by November 12, 1912. Once released from Nicaraguian duties California resumed her operations along the west coast of the United States. California, and kept a watchful eye on Mexico, at that time also suffering political disturbances that had troubled Nicaragua.
By the middle of November things had calmed down enough that on November 12 the last of the fleets forces in Nicaragua had returned to their respective ships. On November 14 at 4:15 in the afternoon the fleet consisting of the California, Colorado and Maryland sailed from Nicaraguan waters for San Diego. Rear Admiral William Southerland’s force along with Colonel Pendleton’s Marines consisted of 89 Marine Corps and Naval Officers and 2,282 Navy Bluejackets and Marines ashore in Nicaragua. During these actions in Nicaragua the Marines suffered 5 killed and 7 wounded. The Navy Bluejackets had 2 killed and 4 wounded. Among the officers 2 were wounded.
When released from duty in Nicaragua California then made a cruise to Honolulu meeting up with the South Dakota there. Fall battle practice for the armored cruisers of the Pacific Fleet was scheduled off San Diego to begin on September 9, 1912 and together the California and South Dakota steamed to San Diego to assemble with her fleet mates.
During the early months of 1913 disturbances along the western coast of Mexico warranted a show of force by the United States Navy in case they were needed to protect any Americans ashore that might be threatened by these rebels. Rear Admiral Sutherland aboard the California, his flagship, was first to arrive off the coast. Sutherland asked for the South Dakota and Colorado to also be sent to the area. By February 16, 1913 all 3 ships were in the area, but the situation ashore was calm and no action was needed by Sutherlands force. The force patrolled off the western Mexican coast for several months to insure nothing would happen. By March 31 they were still on station and Admiral Sutherland’s term of service was up. He was replaced while on station off Guaymas, Mexico in early April by Admiral W. C. Cowles where he hoisted his Admirals flag on the California as Sutherland had did before him.
By early summer 1913 California had returned back to the waters off the American west coast. In mid-July she participated in Seattle’s Potlatch celebration held each year in mid-July to celebrate the cities booming prosperity. After the Potlatch Celebration California sailed southward to San Francisco on orders to enter dry-dock at Mare Island. On August 5 in mid-afternoon she was steaming into the channel at Mare Island and was then towed into the dry-dock. Her routine repairs were to be completed quickly as Captain Alexander S. Halstead had orders in hand to meet the Pittsburgh then coming from Guaymas, Mexico for target practices off the Californian coast. Captain Halstead was to leave Mare Island dry-dock within 4 days time in order to be able to meet the Pittsburgh at the rendezvous point. The South Dakota relieved the Pittsburgh on station off Guaymas, Mexico, and when the target practice was completed with the Pittsburgh, the California was to sail south to relieve the South Dakota in Mexican waters. Upon completion of the target practice with the Pittsburgh, Captain Halstead’s term as commanding officer of the California was up, and the former skipper of the USS Mayflower the President’s yacht, Captain Newton A. McCulley, replaced him as skipper on September 1, 1913.
On the fifth day of November 1913, Navy Secretary Daniels announced that the California would remain in Mexican waters. She was to be relieved by the Pittsburgh, which was now on her way to Mexican waters from San Diego, but Daniels gave orders to keep the California on station with the other ships which made up the U.S. Naval force in Mexican waters. Along with the California were her sister ships the Pittsburgh and Maryland and the gunboat Annapolis and the supply ship Glacier.
By January of 1914 the California had returned from Mexican waters and went into the dry dock at Mare Island, San Francisco for routine maintenance from her Mexican cruise. Early in the morning on January 22 she was released from the dry dock and was moored along the quay wall where she stayed until January 29 when she left for San Diego.
The California in 1914 flew the Spokane Trophy Pennant as her gun crews had the best marksmanship of any cruiser or battleship in the Navy. California was the sixth ship and last Armored Cruiser to win the Spokane Trophy; the USS Tennessee was the first ship to win the trophy in 1908. In 1907 the Spokane Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Victor Metcalf, then Secretary of the Navy in which the Spokane Chamber wanted to donate an annual award for Atlantic Fleet turret marksmanship. President Theodore Roosevelt and Secretary Metcalf decided that it should be awarded annually to the battleship or armored cruiser of either fleet that made the highest final merit with all of her turret guns. Trophy costs of $1,500 was paid for and donated by citizens of Spokane, Washington to be awarded to the best battleship or cruiser in the U. S. Navy Fleet. The Spokane Trophy has undergone several changes from 1908 and is still active today being awarded by CINCPACFLT to the surface combatant ship considered to be the most proficient in overall combat systems readiness and warfare operations.
California was renamed San Diego on 1 September 1914, in order that her name could be given to a new class of larger battleships. She served as flagship for Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, intermittently until the summer of 1915.
On Thursday morning January 21, 1915 the USS San Diego is steaming just off the coast of La Paz, Mexico in the Gulf of California near the southern end of the Baja Peninsula. Rear Admiral Howard has his flagship skippered by Captain Ashley H. Robertson, conducting a 4-hour full speed run where she is making 21.46 knots speed. While taking the half hour readings of the steam pressure at every boiler, Ensign Robert Webster Cary Jr. had just read the steam and air pressure on the No. 2 boiler. He had just stepped through the electric watertight door into the No. 1 fire room when the boilers in No. 2 fire room exploded. In the No. 2 fire room was Second Class Fireman Telesforo Trinidad, of the Philippines and R. E. Daly, along with one other man. Ensign Cary stopped and held open the watertight doors which were being closed electrically from the bridge, and yelling to the men in No. 2 fire room to escape through these doors, which 3 of them passed through. Ensign Cary held the doors open for a full minute with the escaping steam from the ruptured boilers around him. Fireman Telesforo Trinidad was driven out of fire room No. 2 by the explosion, but at once returned and picked up R. E. Daly, Fireman Second Class, whom he saw injured, and proceeded to bring him out. While coming into No. 4 fire room, Trinidad was just in time to catch the explosion in No. 3 fire room, but without consideration of his own safety, passed Daly on and then assisted in rescuing another injured man from No. 3 fire room. Trinidad was himself burned about the face by the blast from the explosion in No. 3 fire room.
For His extraordinary heroism Ensign Cary was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He would later retire with the rank of Rear Admiral. For his extraordinary heroism Fireman Second Class Telesforo Trinidad was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor also for this incident.
Captain Robertson orders his ship to the north at best possible speed and puts into Guaymas, Mexico at 2:00 AM on the morning of the 22nd of January for temporary repairs. Admiral Howard sent a wireless report to the navy base in San Diego, California informing them of the accident and in his words “A full investigation has been ordered. Am proceeding to Guaymas.” Soon after temporary repairs and her wounded were taken care of Captain Robertson steams for Mare Island Navy Yard, California where the San Diego undergoes repairs and is in reduced commission through out the summer of 1915.
The lists of dead and injured included in Admiral Howard’s report were:
Fireman Oscar J. Wyatt, El Centro, CA
Fireman Ambus J. Hardee, Joplin, MO
Fireman William F. Elliott, Brooklyn, NY
Fireman Clifford A. Western, Davenport, CA
Died Later of wounds:
Fireman R. B. Glidden (died aboard the ship on Jan. 30, 1915)
Fireman Benjamin H. Tucker
Fireman Darnell L. Varnardo
Fireman William H. Miller
Fireman Charles W. Peterson
Water Tender George Ohm
Seaman Emanuel A. Shippi
Coal Passer Patrick A. Merriman
But after Admiral Howard’s report as the San Diego is still undergoing temporary repairs in Mexico another of the severely burned men dies aboard ship. The death toll now stands at five dead and seven injured. Fireman Darrell L. Varnardo of Port Arthur, Texas dies of the burns he received during the accident. Varnardo’s body was sent back on the first ship sailing north to Mare Island.
350-miles south of Ensenada, Mexico on February 4, 1915 the Japanese cruiser Asama with 500 men on board struck an uncharted rock at the entrance to Turtle Bay, and began to break apart and sink. She sent out wireless distress signals for help, but details of the rescue efforts by the US Navy was kept secret in order that it may have been of some intelligence value to any German naval ships in the area. Admiral Howard on the 5th of February gave orders that the San Diego, then near Ensenada should sail for the wreck site to render aid. When the San Diego reached the Asama late on the 5th, she found the cruiser USS Raleigh standing by her. The Japanese sailors and officers were put ashore and the Raleigh and San Diego stood by the Asama until two Japanese ships, the Hisen and Idzuno came to take the Asama’s crew. As far as could be known no Japanese crew were killed or missing.
The crew has time to celebrate President George Washington’s Birthday with a feast, which was served aboard ship. On February 22, 1915 the ships cooks assembled a feast, which was enjoyed by all while the California was still in Mexican waters. The menu for the day consisted of Portage D’ Alemand, Sweet Pickles, Radishes, Celery, Filet de Boeuf, Sugar Cured Ham, Green Peas, Calwa Grape Juice, Roast Young Chicken with Giblet Gravy, Dressing and Mashed Potatoes. There was a Combination Salad with Mayonnaise and Apple Pie, Blackberry Pie Strawberry Ice Cream, Apples Wine Cake and Oranges. With Mixed Nuts and Raisins, followed by Cigars, Coffee and Cigarettes.
On November 6, 1915 San Diego rescues forty-eight passengers from the wreck of the Ft. Bragg. A few weeks later, elements of the 4th Marine Regiment were again heading toward familiar waters. Civil strife caused by Mexican revolutionaries and Yaqui Indians necessitated the sending of an American force to the vicinity of the disturbances. On the 25th of November, Regimental Headquarters of the 1st Battalion, and the 25th and 28th Companies of the 4th Marines, went aboard the San Diego then at anchor off Mare Island and sailed two days later from San Francisco. As ordered, the San Diego anchored off Topolobampo, Mexico thus placing pressure on Mexican authorities to act to end the threat to American lives and property. The turmoil ashore, however, had subsided sufficiently by mid-December to allow for the recall of the San Diego and her Marines. The Marine regiment, upon transferring to the USS Buffalo, preceded north to Guaymas, Mexico and then on to San Diego, California.
About the second week in May 1916 the San Diego was known to be in the Canal Zone area. San Diego returned to duty as flagship through 12 February 1917, when she went into reserve status until the opening of World War I. Navy recruiters were busy scouring the surrounding towns around the San Francisco area in towns like Vacaville in Solano County, looking for recruits to fill the needs of the Navy. The California Naval Militia was called into active service on 6 April and was mobilized aboard the ships USS Oregon, USS San Diego and the USS Huntington then at Mare Island. The California Naval Militia was mustered into Federal Service on 3 May 1917.
The USS San Diego was placed in full commission 7 April 1917, where she operated as flagship for Commander, Patrol Force Pacific Fleet, until 18 July, when she was ordered to the Atlantic Fleet via the Panama Canal. On July 16, 1917, two days before she was ordered to steam for the Atlantic, Seaman Second Class William A. Reider comes to the aid of a drowning shipmate and saves his life. The exact circumstances of the event are unknown but Seaman Reider receives a Letter of Commendation from the Captain for rescuing the drowning shipmate.
On July 29, 1917 San Diego enters the Atlantic Ocean for the first time and would never return to the waters of the Pacific again. Reaching Hampton Roads, Virginia on 4 August, she joined Cruiser Division 2, and later broke the flag of Commander, Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet, which she flew until 19 September. On August 19, 1917 Captain Harley H. Christy is given command of the San Diego. Captain Christy would be her last captain.
Based out of Tompkinsville, New York, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, San Diego's essential mission was the escort of convoys through the first dangerous leg of their passages to Europe. During one of these convoy escort trips she stopped at the port in La Croisie, France. Operating in the weather-torn, submarine-infested North Atlantic she safely convoying all of her charges under her watchful eyes. It is known that she escorted a convoy during November of 1917 and among the ships in the convoy was the troopship USS Madawaska making her first trip across with 1,671 passengers and the destroyer USS Rowan (DD64). In early July 1918, San Diego had some of her 6-inch guns removed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
On June 15, 1918 the German submarine, U-156, left its homeport with 77 crewmen. It passed through the North Sea, around the north end of the British Isles and into the Atlantic Ocean towards New York's Long Island where she laid mines in the area where the San Diego was lost. On its cruise to North America, the U-156 sank 36 vessels and is credited with sinking the USS San Diego.
On Friday 19 July 1918, bound from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, San Diego steams to New York to meet up with a transatlantic convoy. The day dawned warm and hazy with the cruiser steaming along the South Shore of Long Island in a state-of-battle readiness. At about 10 a.m., a lookout spotted a small object moving on the surface. Thinking it might be a submarine periscope the gun crews fired several rounds until the target disappeared. It was the first time that the San Diego's guns had been fired at a suspected enemy. The ship was cutting through the calm sea at more than 15 kts when an explosion rocked the hull violently, and a column of water erupted along the port side. The San Diego immediately listed 10 degrees. It was 11:05 a.m. and the San Diego had less than 30 minutes to live.
Most of the crew of the San Diego feels a dull thud, which originated from the port side engine room. The explosion blew a hole in the hull at the port engine room, killing two seamen instantly. Another crewman oiling the port propeller shaft was never seen again. Just after this occurred, residents on Fire Island's Point O' Woods heard a rumbling noise at sea. The noise was the San Diego being jarred to the keel by a violent explosion on the port side just aft of the forward port engine room, later established as contact with a floating mine. The crew that worked in this area must have experienced a large explosion as bulkheads were smashed in. The ocean rushed in and flooding was unstoppable and within 28 minutes the USS San Diego gently rolled over and was gone. Three men died at the instant of the explosion, three died while in the water, and three were injured. Captain Christy rang for full speed on the undamaged starboard engine and turned toward shore, hoping to beach his ship. But the rush of water into the hole flooded the remaining engine and left the San Diego without power, preventing an SOS message. Although the U-156 was already off the New England coast, crewmembers again thought they saw a periscope and began firing at it.
C.E. Sims, an 18-year-old seaman, wrote maritime historian Henry Keatts years later that he heard the explosion while he was on the bridge. "I looked aft and saw a huge column of smoke about a hundred feet high. There was no panic. There was an officer who stood on the ladder with his hand on his holster. I remember he said “If anyone jumps before abandon ship is given, I'll shoot him.” When the captain gave the order, the crew struggled to launch the lifeboats manually. As the ship heeled, the smokestacks broke loose, one of them fatally crushing a sailor in the water. Another crewmember died when a life raft fell on his head. A sixth sailor drowned after becoming trapped inside the crow's nest.
The names of the six men killed in the sinking are:
Blain, Clyde Chester, Engineman Second Class, USN
Davis, Thomas Everett, Fireman First Class, USN
Harris, Paul John, Seaman Second Class, USN
Munson, Andrew, machinist Mate Second Class, USN
Rochet, James Frances, Engineman Second Class, USNRF
Thomas, Fraziee, O. Machinist Mate Second Class, USN
At the moment of the explosion men throughout the San Diego begin to perform duties with coolness and great courage in a time of danger. Up on the bridge with Captain Christy was Lt. Commander Gerald Bradford. Captain Christy sent him below to inspect the ship and report back to him. Lt. CMDR Bradford went below and found out just how bad things were and made his report back to Captain Christy in a way that conveyed the seriousness of the situation to Christy. After Captain Christy gave the order to Abandon Ship, Lt. Commander Bradford directed the evacuation plans and only went over the port side of the ship, without a life preserver on, as the lower bridge deck took water. Captain Christy in his after action report made specific mention of Lt. Commander Bradford’s coolness and presence of mind and devotion to duty in a time that was of great peril and danger to all.
Still other men were working with equal coolness as Lt. Commander Bradford had displayed. One such man was Carpenter David Easdale whom Bradford found alone in a compartment on the Berth Deck tightening the dogs on a watertight door that led to a flooded compartment on the other side.
In the Engine rooms Lt. (j.g.) C. J. Collins who was serving as the senior Engineer Officer was taking all measures possible to determine the extent of the damages to the machinery and ship, even after the Abandon Ship order was given. Lt. Collins was also looking after his men in the engine rooms and as a result of his devotion to his duties no lives were lost in the fire rooms. Also down in the engine rooms was Lt. J. P. Millon who happened to be on watch when the explosion took place. Millon took all measures possible to keep the effects of the explosion localized and was able to keep his machinery in operation until it was rendered useless when it was submerged by the rising water. Lt. Millon kept at his post and only left when ordered to do so by the Engineer Officer.
In other parts of the ship equally heroic efforts as what was taking place down in the engine rooms was also going on. Pay Clerk J. D. Gagan, who was the acting supply officer on account of the supply officer being absent on leave at the time, took one such effort. Gagen went to the ships safe and quickly removed all the paper money from it and took charge of the money in a canvas bag he had hastily found. Once the Abandon Ship order went out Gagen headed up on deck and jumped overboard holding the moneybag in one hand and his life preserver in the other hand. He succeeded in reaching a lifeboat and saved the government money, which amounted to $20,000.
Up on deck ships Boatswain Alva Henderson was acting with great forethought when he cut loose a pile of lumber that was stowed on the boat deck. As the San Diego settled deeper and deeper into the sea this pile of lumber was now floating and Boatswain Henderson quickly constructed a floating raft, which probably resulted in the saving of life. His coolness under fire inspired confidence in those men who were about him in the water while constructing the raft.
On the after parts of the San Diego Ensign J. P. Hildman, who recently was commissioned and was the acting Ordnance Gunner, showed great fore thought when he rushed to the depth charge racks on the after quarterdeck and doubly secured the forks in order to prevent the explosion of the depth charges as the ship sank. This would have caused many casualties among the men in the water had the dept charges went off as the ship sank deeper into the sea.
On the forward part of the ship 1st Division Officer Lt. F. G. Kutz showed exceptional poise in directing the Abandon Ship operations in his part of the ship. Then while he was in the water Lt. Kutz took charge of getting the boats that had floated clear of the quickly sinking San Diego, gathered, filled and in working condition. His coolness served to inspire and calm the men who were near him in that area of the sea. Additionally Captain Christy mentioned Lt. Paul T. Shortridge for his leadership in launching the lifeboats at a time when the deck was fully submerged and his assistance in getting the boats organized while afloat.
Captain Harley Christy jumped from the tilting bridge, descended a ladder to the deck, slid down a rope and then walked over the slowly rolling hull as if he were a lumberjack on a floating log, stopped for a moment to salute his vessel, then dropped eight feet into the Atlantic. In keeping with tradition, the captain was the last man to leave his ship. As a lifeboat picked up Christy, the crewmembers in boats, on rafts or in the water cheered their skipper. And as the San Diego sank stern first into the flat sea, the men sang The Star Spangled Banner and My Country 'Tis of Thee.
Christy dispatched a small boat to shore to contact the Navy. Two hours later, it sailed through the surf at Point O' Woods. Rescue vessels were soon on their way to help survivors and search for the sub. The ships dropped depth charges on a target that turned out to be the San Diego.
The Fire Island Radio Station telephoned stating that they had picked up a very faint SOS from a naval vessel. The Navy Yard was notified and boats were sent out from Oak Island and Fire Island. Over 1100 men were in the water clinging to wreckage when the boats arrived. Four officers and 28 men were carried to the shore of Point O' Woods and the others were transported to Hoboken, NJ.
Saturday night July 20 policeman Patrick Corcoran walking his beat near Ninety-sixth Street and Broadway in New York finds 30-40 sailors who were aboard the San Diego when she sank wandering around not knowing where to go or where to report to find a place to stay for the night. After they were rescued and taken to shore they did report to the Brooklyn Navy Yard but strangely enough they were turned away because there was no place for them to sleep for the night. They went to the Ninety-sixth Street area because the San Diego would anchor there at the Ninety-sixth Street landing so they knew the area. The other survivors of the San Diego sinking were taken care of by several organizations but this small group of 30-40 sailors fell through the cracks and just wandered around.
But it was Policeman Corcoran who got the watchman of the Riverside Theatre at Ninety-sixth Street to open up and let the sailors in to the smoking room of the theater. Patrolman Corcoran then made a sweep of the area restaurants and returned with sandwiches and hot coffee for the men. The group of sailors spent the night at the Riverside Theatre and in the morning Patrolman Corcoran was still looking after them. He took them out and got each one of them breakfast from some of the restaurants in the neighborhood. The local citizens in the morning who began to learn of Patrolman Corcoran’s goodness towards the sailors informed Mayor John Francis Hylan and later Police Commissioner Richard Edward Enright gave a commendation to Patrolman Corcoran for his actions.
A few months later, on its way back to Germany, the U-156 hit a mine between Scotland and Norway. Within a few seconds, the German U-boat, U-156 met the same fate as the San Diego and disappeared from the surface of the ocean.
The USS San Diego today lies upside down about eleven miles southeast of Fire Island inlet, Long Island, New York at Loran 26543.4 / 43693.2 in 115 feet of sea water. She was the only major warship lost by the United States in World War I. The weight of the massive armor belt along with the hull and its contents crushed the superstructure into the sand soon after she sank. The hull is relatively intact, its keel is at seventy feet and the sand is at around 115 feet. The ship rests upside down with a list to the port side. This angle allows for more light on the starboard side, which is commonly called 'the light side'. The port side is called 'the dark side' because of the shadow in which it resides. The sand line is higher on this side because of the list. The stern has started to collapse, but the propeller shafts, which are the diameter of 55-gallon drums, hang out into space at the seventy-foot mark. The propellers were removed in the early sixties, however one was lost while on its way to Staten Island, New York. A bilge keel on each side on the hull runs a good length of the ship. These were attached to give the ship stability. They now give divers a line of reference for navigating the wreck. Along 'the light side', the 3-inch guns can be found sticking out from their mounts in the hull. Many holes exist at various locations around the hull. These can give advanced divers the opportunity to investigate the San Diego's dark interior. The inside doesn't resemble a ship, but rather a junkyard of collapsed machinery, bulkheads, and ship stores. Penetration of the wreck requires special skills and equipment. Hallways and rooms ranging in size from small to very large can quickly silt out, reducing visibility to zero. Six divers have died on this wreck. It is the most popular dive site in New England, attracting hundreds of divers every year.
ARA Post card of the USS San Diego "Gone but not forgotten"
LOSS OF CRUISER OFF N.Y. STILL A MYSTERY AFTER 42 YEARS
By: Herb Grossman (The Copley News Service) This news article was evidently published in 1960.
After 42 years, mystery and contradictions still shroud the World War I sinking of one of the U.S. Navy’s proudest ships - the armored cruiser San Diego that went to the bottom a scant 50 miles off Long Island. Did the proud ship hit a mine, was it torpedoed, or is there another answer? More than 1,000 men survived the sinking, but none were certain what caused the blast that sank their ship on July 19, 1918.
There was nothing about the sea that July morning that indicated danger ahead. Capt. H. H. Christy and the men knew what troubled waters could be like. They had taken their ship through many crossings of the stormy, U-boat-infested North Atlantic. But on this day, the sea was calm, the air warm. The San Diego was proceeding to New York City from Portsmouth, N.H., where she had been dry-docked 16 days after a strenuous seven months on Atlantic convoy escort duty.
San Diego’s slim bow cut through the Atlantic at an easy 15 knots, zigzagging as a precaution against the German U-boats which were harassing coastal shipping as well as ocean convoys. The calm was broken at 10 a.m. when lookouts spotted a “fast moving” barrel close at hand. The ship’s gunners pumped some shots into the swells and the barrel disappeared. For the next hour, San Diego proceeded without further interruption. About 11 a.m. the big cruiser was 10 miles south of the Fire Island lightship, about 50 miles from the New York harbor entrance.
Suddenly, at 11:18 a.m., the San Diego rocked with a violent explosion. Water poured in through a gaping hole in her port side, rapidly flooding the engine rooms. Christy, suspecting the ship had been torpedoed, ordered gun crews to fire at the direction from which the torpedo would have come. The gunners kept firing until the water reached their gun barrels on the fast sinking ship. Then they dove overboard. Thirty minutes after the explosion, the San Diego sank.
An alert Navy pilot had spotted the disaster and had flown to shore to report. His station started rescue ships, heading for the sinking. Residents of Point O’Woods, a small New York resort area, heard the explosion and saw a white flash of fire. They were on hand when the two ship’s boats reached shore in the early afternoon. They quickly provided assistance to the exhausted boat crews and relayed the request for rescue vessels.
Three merchant ships answering the short-sent SOS signals soon arrived at the sinking scene. Working heroically, the three - Maiden, Bostonian, and S. P. Jones - pulled the 1,156 survivors out of the water. In a rapid sinking that could have been disastrous in terms of lives, only six crewmen were lost and another six injured.
The real question, however, was: What sank the San Diego? Many of the surviving crewmen thought the ship had hit a mine. Others blamed an internal explosion. Still others, including Christy, were convinced they had been torpedoed. The torpedo theory was backed strongly by some of the crewmen, who believed they had sighted a submarine, and by the barrel incident. It was discounted, though, by the fact that the three unarmed rescue ships had worked unhampered by any enemy submarine activity.
A British Admiralty report, after the war, indicated that German U-boat 156, according to German records, had torpedoed and sunk the San Diego. Strong evidence pointed to a mine as the explosion cause. Navy ships exploring the area spotted six mines the day after the sinking. The official Navy Court of Inquiry concluded the sinking had been caused by the external explosion of a mine.
Ironically, it was reported the day after the sinking that one of the officers had anticipated the incident. Only an hour before the San Diego left for the Atlantic, services ran a news story pointing out a ship officer’s warning at the launch, and told a group of bystanders?
“Take a good look at the gallant old ship. I don’t think you’ll ever see her riding off anchor again in this harbor.”
The Atlas Werke in Bremen, Germany built the German U-boat U-156 and her hull was laid down on 29 November 1916. She was launched 17 April 1917 and commissioned on 22 August 1917 under the command of Konrad Gansser who commanded her until 31 December 1917 when on 1 January 1918 Richard Feldt took command. Feldt was in command when the U-156 hit a mine in the Northern Passage. Her crew of 77 was lost on 25 September 1918 when she did not report that she had cleared the Northern Passage. During her career U-156 sailed on 2 war patrols from 28 August 1917-25 September 1918 with the Kreuzer Foltilla and had 56 kills to her account. Her 56-ship total included war ships and totaled 63,795 tons of shipping sent to the bottom.
As I find information on the USS California/San Diego's crew I will list them here in this section. If you have a family member who served on this ship please let me know and I will add it to this list.
George Dewey Neal
Mendy Hufstedler shared this about her Great Grandfather who was a crewman on the USS San Diego when it sank. His name was George D. Neal, born 8 February 1898 and passed away on 2 April 1985. She shared this short excerpt from his writings about the war and the sinking of the San Diego.
San Diego crewman George Dewey Neal
In January, 1914 he was detached from the USS California for duty on the USS Intrepid.
Beverly Gould shared the following about her grandfather, Robert Bruce Scott of Cisco, Texas.
Robert Bruce Scott was born May 6, 1898 in Joplin, Missouri to William Wallace and Eldora Stone Scott. Bob, as he was called, was raised in Cisco, Texas. Bob enlisted in the Navy on April 10, 1917, about a month before his nineteenth birthday. He received training at the Great Lakes Training Station from April 11-20 before being assigned to the USS San Diego on April 20, 1917 as an Apprentice Seaman. He was rated Fireman First Class at the time the San Diego was sunk on July 19, 1918. He later told his son, who was my dad, his memories of the watertight doors closing behind him and the other men as the ship was sinking. Bob was next assigned to the USS Powhatan where he served until his discharge on September 6, 1919. After the war, Bob returned to Cisco, Texas where he worked as a house painter, married my grandmother, Annie Laurie Boon and raised three children. Bob passed away October 6, 1968 in Brownwood, Texas.
Jim Keane contacted me about his great-uncle, (who he is named for), who was a steam fitter aboard the San Diego when she was torpedoed or mined off Long Island during WWI. His great-uncle was from New Haven, CT, which is where Jim Keane now lives. Jim relates about his great-uncle; " he passed away in the 1970s, in his 90's. My father and I heard many stories about the sinking from him, which he believed it was a torpedo attack. Great uncle Jim served in the navy for some years after the war, including service on one ship that supported US forces in Murmansk, which he called "The Russian War". In civilian life he traveled the country as a steam fitter and builder to large steam projects and eventually returned to New Haven, CT and worked on the New Haven Fire Department inspecting and maintaining the system of fire hydrants throughout the city.
PO 2c Moyar was a crewman on the San Diego on the morning of the 19 July as she steamed to New York to meet up with a transatlantic convoy. As the waters rushed in to doom the San Diego that morning when it came time to abandon her PO 2c Moyar gave his life vest to another sailor named Ed Echolin, in the galley and Moyar used a coffee storage bin to stay afloat in the Atlantic for over 6 hours before being picked up by a civilian tanker or freighter. After PO 2c Moyar was rescued and the war ended he came home to raise a family and he spoke many times to his grandson David Moyar, who shared this story with me, that the explosion was not a torpedo or a mine, but was sabotaged with a bomb on board. It has never been proven that this was the case but there has been claims that a German spy who was captured by the Russians had admitted to setting a bomb onboard the San Diego. There is mention of this at this web site.
Telesforo Trinidad was born on November 25, 1890 in New Washington, Capig, Philippine Islands. In 1909 Telesforo immigrated to the United States and joined the Navy. It is likely that he became a U.S. Citizen when he joined the Navy likely in the Philippine Islands. Telesforo was a fireman second class aboard the USS Mindoro serving in the Philippine Islands in June of 1910.
The USS Mindoro was a 142-ton gunboat, built in Hong Kong, China in 1886 for the Spanish Navy warship under the same name. Stationed in the Philippine Islands, she was taken as a prize of the Spanish-American War and was purchased by the War Department in 1899, transferred to the U. S. Navy and placed in commission in June 1899. During the last half of 1899 and the first quarter of 1900 Mindoro was employed off northern Luzon. She operated in the southern Philippines from late 1900 to September 1901, taking part in combat operations against local insurgents. Laid up at the Cavite Navy Yard for nearly three years, Mindoro was again active in the southern Philippines from mid-1904 until early 1906 when she was then loaned to the Army for service in Manila Bay. After spending 1907 and 1908 in decommissioned status at Cavite, she returned to service in May of 1909 for another tour in the waters south of Luzon. Decommissioned in April 1911, USS Mindoro was stricken from the Navy list in June 1911 and sold in April 1912.
Sometime after his duty on the Mindoro, FM2c Trinidad was transferred to the Armored Cruiser USS San Diego where he was still a Fireman Second Class. On the 21st of January 1915 Telesforo Trinidad was on duty in the No. 2 fire room along with R. E. Daly, and one other man. A boiler explosion occurred and several men were killed and injured. Telesforo Trinidad help save several men with disregard to his own safety that day. For his extraordinary heroism Fireman Second Class Telesforo Trinidad was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor also for this incident.
Later in April of 1915, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniel awarded FM2C Telesforo Trinidad his Congressional Medal of Honor and $100 in Washington, D.C. The Congressional Medal of Honor citation of FM2c Telesforo Trinidad reads as follows:
Rank and organization: Fireman Second Class, U.S. Navy. Born: 25 November 1890, New Washington Capig, Philippine Islands. Accredited to: Philippine Islands. G.O. No.: 142, 1 April 1915. Citation: For extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession at the time of the boiler explosion on board the U.S.S. San Diego, 21 January 1915. Trinidad was driven out of fire room No. 2 by the explosion, but at once returned and picked up R.E. Daly, fireman, second class, whom he saw to be injured, and proceeded to bring him out. While coming into No. 4 fire room, Trinidad was just in time to catch the explosion in No. 3 fire room, but without consideration for his own safety, passed Daly on and then assisted in rescuing another injured man from No. 3 fire room. Trinidad was himself burned about the face by the blast from the explosion in No. 3 fire room.
Born at Kansas City, Missouri, August 18, 1890, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1914. He was awarded the Medal of Honor while serving as Lieutenant Commander aboard the USS San Diego on January 21, 1915. He died on July 15, 1967 and was buried in Section 6 of Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Jane Christian Cary (February 4, 1897-October 8, 1969) is buried with him.
|His Medal of Honor Citation Reads:
For extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession on the occasion of an explosion on board the U.S.S. San Diego, 21 January 1915. Lt. Comdr. Cary (then Ensign), U.S. Navy, an observer on duty in the firerooms of the U.S.S. San Diego, commenced to take the half-hourly readings of the steam pressure at every boiler. He had read the steam and air pressure on No. 2 boiler and was just stepping through the electric watertight door into No. 1 fireroom when the boilers in No. 2 fireroom exploded. Ens. Cary stopped and held open the doors which were being closed electrically from the bridge, and yelled to the men in No. 2 fireroom to escape through these doors, which 3 of them did. Ens. Cary's action undoubtedly saved the lives of these men. He held the doors probably a minute with the escaping steam from the ruptured boilers around him. His example of coolness did much to keep the men in No. 1 fireroom at their posts hauling fires, although 5 boilers in their immediate vicinity had exploded and boilers Nos. 1 and 3 apparently had no water in them and were likely to explode any instant. When these fires were hauled under Nos. 1 and 3 boilers, Ens. Cary directed the men in this fireroom into the bunker, for they well knew the danger of these 2 boilers exploding. During the entire time Ens. Cary was cool and collected and showed an abundance of nerve under the most trying circumstances. His action on this occasion was above and beyond the call of duty.
Pat shared with me about her father, Louis Patrick Haack, told me the story about this incident, which happened when he was in the Navy, when I was very young. Both he and his brother (my Uncle Bill Haack) were on this ship and survived the sinking. He was always very impressed that the Captain stayed on the ship until it sank - he was evidently the last to leave. My father’s mother (Nana) told the story about having a vision of this incident, even before it was reported by the press (in those days, it evidently took several days for such news to be made known). She woke up the morning that it happened and told my Aunt Anna what she thought had happened (that she had a dream that her two sons were in the water and that their ship sank) - days before they actually heard about it.
Beverly Gould shared the following about her grandfather, Robert Bruce Scott of Cisco, Texas. He was almost 19-years old when he was assigned to the USS San Diego on April 17, 1917. Scott was aboard the day of the sinking and survived, being one of the last to leave the engine room compartments before the water-tight doors were closed.
George Sanderson, a quintessential example of a Chief in the United States Navy at the early part of the 20th Century. This photo came from the collection of Vice Admiral Newton A. McCully (1867-1951) and was inscribed on the reverse with these words from the Admiral.
From this short description we can draw a picture of Chief Sanderson. From the Admiral’s words we can see that George Sanderson as a man was tough and weathered, able to stand on his feet with other men and when called on he would be there to lead his men when they needed him, just the sort of man to have by your side in battle at sea. And it is likely that while shipmates on the Armored Cruiser USS California, McCully relied on the Chief many times. Admiral McCully and Chief Sanderson served together on the California from 1907-1910 but it is not known what their ranks were at that time.
Chief Sanderson proudly displays on his arm, ten service stripes, which represents 40 years of service in the United States Navy. Chief Sanderson is a man who is very proud of his service as can be seen from his pose and also you can see it in his eyes, his cigar tells us that he is a seasoned old “Sea-Salt” and likely has served on every kind of ship the navy had, under sail and steam both.
It is not known the exact date of this photo and it may have been given to the Admiral upon Sanderson’s retirement from the navy as a gift to the Admiral later after they both served together.
It is known that George Sanderson was born in England about 1862. George Sanderson’s father was born in Scotland and his mother was born in England. It is not known exactly when the Sanderson’s came to America but it was likely sometime between 1879 and 1882. He would have been about 18 at the time and that may also be the same time he joined the navy. So if this may be the earliest date at which George joined the navy then with the service stripes in his picture this would date it to about 1920.
During the time Chief Sanderson and Admiral McCully served together from 1907-1910, Sanderson’s rating was as a Boatswain mate and may not have been a Chief yet. As on the 1910 Federal Census that was taken on the USS California then at anchor in the Navy Yard at Mare Island, California, Sanderson is listed as “Boatswain mate” and was 48 years old at the time. McCully’s name does not appear on the Census form so by the time the Census was taken on May 4, 1910 he may have been transferred off the ship. George would serve many more years in the navy and was serving on active service during WWI.
On January 9, 1920 Sanderson was still in the navy serving at the Brooklyn Navy Yard at the rating of Chief Petty Officer. At the time Sanderson was living on Ft. Green place in Brooklyn with his wife, 42 year old Minnie H. Hutchings. She was born in the state of Maine as were her parents. In the home with George and Minnie was Minnie’s father, Hauson Hutchings who was 76-years old and was widowed at the time. Also from the 1920 Federal Census it states that George Sanderson immigrated to the States in 1879 and became a Citizen in 1919. This was also the same year he and Minnie were married.
George and Minnie lived in New York because their daughter, Margaret was born there in 1921. Sometime after Margaret was born and the taking of the 1930 Federal Census in April of 1930 the Sanderson’s moved from New York to California.
By 1930 George Sanderson who was now 68-years old had retired from over 40-years active service in the navy. He and his wife Minnie were now living in Richmond, California. George owned a home valued at $5000 located at 300 Bissell Ave in Richmond.
Nothing more is known about Chief Petty Officer George Sanderson other that he did find some good in someone, his wife Minnie and his daughter Margaret. The tough old “Sea-Salt” retired as a husband and father and served his Country to the fullest and he deserves to be remembered as such. Rest Ye Oars Chief Sanderson.
Walter William “Dock” Shaw was serving on the USS San Diego as a cook when she went down in 1918. He survived the sinking. Walter William Shaw was born on January 7, 1896 to Jefferson Davis Shaw and Mattie Virginia Shaw. Walter was known by his nickname of “Dock” through out his life. Walter died on April 9, 1950 in Texas. He is buried at Laural Land Cemetery in Dallas, Texas. His wife’s name was Gladys Everette Drummond and she is buried next to him. Together they had 3 sons: Charles Franklin Shaw, James William Shaw, and Roy Douglas Shaw. Both Charles and James served in the US Army during WWII.
Information and photos were shared by Wendy Craig the Great-granddaughter of Walter William “Dock” Shaw
Walter William "Dock" Shaw
“Dock” Shaw on the right side
with fellow sailor Pete Winsor.
Naval Training Station San Diego, California.
“Dock” Shaw is pictured front row, circled.
Aboard the armored cruiser USS California on September 20, 1910, a 21-year old Coal Passer by the name of William Carl Henkel writes a post card to Miss Josephine Koch. She is an 18-year old from Henkel’s hometown area in Lancaster, Nebraska. Later in life Josephine Koch would become the sister-in Law to William Henkel’s sister Alma Henkel. Alma being married to Fred Koch, Josephine’s brother. Josephine was near the same age as William and so it is not surprising he and Josephine were friends. William Henkel writes,
“Dear Friend, How are you still getting along? I am well. We are still in Valparaiso Chile, are going to stay here 3-weeks. This is the first day of the Exhibition, are having fine weather. Hope this card will reach you the same as it leaves me. Your Friend, W. C. Henkel.” Seaman Henkel like any sailor looks forward to getting mail from the girls back home and he ends his writing with “Ans. Soon”
William Carl Henkel would spend several years in the navy and his story begins in Nienburg, Germany on May 24, 1889 the day and place he was born. This is known from family information gained from William’s baptismal records. In mid March of 1894 in Bremen, Germany William Carl Henkel along with his mother Sophia (née Wiechmann) and sister Alma boarded the SS Aller bound for New York. Sophia and the children were sailing to join her husband August Henkel who had already been in the States. August had previously sailed to America and would send for his family once he had obtained work to support his family.
The Aller was a Norddeutscher Lloyd Line ship built by the Fairfield Govan Company, Ltd. of Glasgow, Scotland at their yard No. 310, and was launched on January 12, 1885. She was a passenger liner used on the Bremen-Southampton-New York run. The Aller was 4,966 gross tons with a length of 438-feet, with a beam of 48-feet, she was a single screw steamer making 17-knots.
On March 24, 1894 the Aller arrives in New York harbor and was in sight of the Statue of Liberty, where that same day the Henkel family sets foot on American soil for the first time at Ellis Island. After being processed through Ellis Island the Henkel family settled on a farm in the Campbell, Nebraska area. Campbell is a small village in Franklin County located along the state line in south central Nebraska. August and Sophia once in America later added to their family with the birth of Frederick, Dorothea, Rudolph and Mathilda.
After William finished school in the Campbell area he joined the Navy at an unknown age and date. But what is known is that on May 5, 1910 as the Armored Cruiser USS California was in the navy yard at Mare Island, California, the Federal Census was taken aboard ship. On the Federal Census form is the name of Henkel, Charles W. But it is obvious that Cliff A. Jones who was the enumerator that day made a mistake on his first name. It is in fact William C. Henkel who was born on May 24, 1889. Another mistake unknown to Mr. Jones as he writes down the information on Seaman Henkel is the place of birth Henkel tells Mr. Jones who records that he was born in Nebraska. But the fact of the matter is, that due to reasons known only to Seaman Henkel he prefers to keep the fact that he is German born hushed and tells Jones he was born in Nebraska. At the time 21-year old William Carl Henkel’s rating was a Coal Passer.
During WWI Henkel was still serving in the navy but not known on what ship. This is known from a notation on the 1930 Federal Census where it is marked “WW” in the veteran section, which denotes service in World War One. After WWI Henkel was still in the navy and was according to the 1920 Federal Census, stationed aboard the destroyer USS Ward DD139, with his present rating of Chief Machinist Mate. The Ward had the distinction of sinking a Japanese midget submarine at the entrance to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 prior to the air attack.
On the 1920 census taken aboard the Ward Henkel, now 30-years old, was single and listed his home as Campbell, Nebraska. Sometime between 1920 and 1930 Henkel was discharged from the Navy and he put his machinist skills to use in civilian life.
It is known that during 1924 Henkel married a woman named Catherine T. Callahan (née White) who had been previously married and had two daughters named Catherine and Agnes, ages 10 and 9. By About 1926 William and his wife Catherine had their first child a daughter named Jean. By April of 1930 the Henkel family was living in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania and likely were living there before their daughter Jean was born in 1926. In 1938 Catherine and William had their second daughter together, named Patricia. There in Upper Darby William was working as a machinist for an oil company, which may have been the Atlantic Refining Company. This company William listed as his place of employment on his WWII Draft Registration Card. He registered for the Draft on April 27, 1942 and the Henkel family was then living at 630 S. 55th Street in Philadelphia, PA.
William and Catherine Henkel would live the rest of their lives in the Delaware County, Pennsylvania area. William would pass away in January of 1967 and his wife Catherine lived until May 31 of 1988. Both are buried in the Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey.
On July 19, 1918 as the USS San Diego is sinking Chief Carpenters Mate Herman George Froehlich was finding his way off his mortally wounded ship. Froehlich would survive the sinking and go on to serve in the navy for years to come.
Herman George Froehlich was the eldest of four children of Herman and Rosalie Froehlich. Herman was born in Denver, Colorado, 1894.
Herman enlisted in the US Navy as a plumber and steamfitter at $49.50 per month on Oct 24, 1912. Family story was that he and a friend were off to help build the Panama Canal, but got as far as Salt Lake City where his friend chickened out and Herman Froehlich then joined the US Navy instead.
His first assignment was in Puget Sound, Washington at the Bremerton Navy Yard. Froehlich was a ship fitter first class from December 1914 to August 1917. One of Froehlich’s first ship assignments was aboard the USS Chattanooga. The Chattanooga had been in reduced commission at Puget Sound and was placed in full commission 21 April 1914, for duty in Mexican waters and as such Froehlich was aboard when the Chattanooga sailed south to Mexican waters. Through 1915 and 1916, Froehlich remained on the Chattanooga as she cruised to protect American interests from the disorder of the Mexican Revolution.
In August of 1917 Froehlich was promoted to chief carpenters mate and may have transferred to the Armored Cruiser USS San Diego. What is known is that Froehlich was aboard on July 19, 1918 when the San Diego was sent to the bottom just off Long Island, New York by mines from a German U-boat.
After the sinking of the San Diego Herman Froehlich was assigned to the Naval repair unit at La Harve, France where in March of 1918, he was promoted to Aviation Chief Carpenters Mate. In March 1919 he again served aboard ship this time it was the USS Santa Teresa, a troop ship, which carried the 113th Field Artillery of the 30th Division, AEF troops home from St Naziare, France to New York City. He may have just sailed on the Santa Teresa to return home from France as by October of 1919 he was stationed on North Island at the Naval Air Station, San Diego, California. On the 1920 Federal Census there is a name of Froehlich, Herman G. aged 28-years listed serving at the NAS, San Diego.
While living in California Herman met a woman and fell in love and married. Her name was Mabel and in 1921 they were married. On the 1922 Voter Register of San Diego County, California there is the name of ‘Froehlich, Herman G.’ listed living at 1261 Cleveland St. with a job description of ‘Carp.’ This is assumed to mean ‘Carpenter’ as this was his trade. He was listed as voting as a Republican. When Herman and Mabel married they moved into another home on Cleveland Street just 4 homes away to 1265 Cleveland.
From June 1923 to 1925 Froehlich was stationed at NAS Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. Mabel came out from California shortly after Herman was stationed in Hawaii and they lived there while Herman was stationed there. His main duties were to build the CPO housing on Ford Island, which some of these units are still standing today.
From June 1925 to June 1929 he served aboard the USS Medusa, which was a newly commissioned Fleet Repair Ship. Medusa commissioned as a very modern repair ship by the standards of 1924, capable of blacksmith work, boiler repairs, carpentry, coppersmithing, electrical work, foundry work, pipe work, plating, sheet-metal work, welding, and repairs of optical and mechanical equipment. Her machinery shop's equipment included lathes, radial drills, milling machines, slotting machines, boring machines, optical repair equipment, armature bake ovens, and coil winding machines. To meet additional demands from the fleet, she had a motion picture shop, large laundry and bakery facilities, and large refrigeration units.
Medusa first demonstrated her capability to keep up and support the fleet in 1925 during "The visit of the American Fleet to Australian Waters in 1925." Herman Froehlich sailed with the Medusa as she departed Honolulu, Hawaii on 1 July 1925 with the battle fleet and accompanied it on a voyage across the Pacific Ocean to Australia and New Zealand and then steaming back to San Pedro, California, where she arrived with the fleet on 26 September 1925. On 11 May 1927 she departed San Pedro carrying seven officers and 78 enlisted men of the U.S. Marine Corps's Marine Observation Squadron 4 (VMO-4) and their six Boeing O2B-1 aircraft to Nicaragua. In July 1928, she again carried Marines to Nicaragua, this time in company with the store ship Bridge.
While Herman Froehlich was still with the Medusa, Mabel his wife was living at 1265 Cleveland St. in San Diego as this is known from the 1928 San Diego County Voter rolls. Herman was listed as “USN” as he would have still been aboard the Medusa and Mabel was listed as “HW” for Housewife. It is known that Herman and Mabel lived at the 1265 Cleveland Street address until after 1930 from the Voter Rolls of San Diego, County.
Herman’s next duty after he was transferred from the Medusa in June of 1929 was at the Naval Air Station, San Diego where he served until he retired from Active duty in April of 1933. Upon retirement from the navy in 1933, Herman, and Mabel moved to Route 2, El Cajon, California. Now according to the San Diego County Voter Rolls, the Froehlich’s had switched political parties and voted Democrat for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Mabel and Herman lived in El Cajon until at least the late 1940’s.
After Herman and Mabel had settled in El Cajon, California Herman entered into Civil Service about 1935. He was again assigned to the Naval Air Station, San Diego in an airplane repair unit. Two months previous to the bombing of Pearl Harbor Herman was recalled to active duty with the navy in October 1941 and served until late 1942 when he was medically discharged. Herman went back to his old Civil Service job and continued until his retirement in the late 1950’s. When Herman George Froehlich was recalled to active duty during WWII he had always spelled his last name as “Froehlich” with two letter h’s in his name. But the Navy in its never ending quest to make things simple dropped off the one letter “h” in Froehlich, and according to the Navy way it was now “Froelich.” From that moment on the family name was now Froelich and that is how the family today still spell’s the name.
In the late 1970’s Herman and Mabel moved to Pasadena, California where Herman Froehlich, the sailor who had survived the sinking of the USS San Diego some 61-years previous, died in 1979 at the age of 84.
|Photo of Herman G. Froehlich taken in 1919 while he was in Brest, France. The photo is matted and has a French photo studio marked at the bottom.||Chief Aviation Carpenter’s Mate Herman G. Froehlich taken in 1933. On his sleeve are 5 service stripes representing 20-years of active service in the Navy.|
A view of the USS San Diego getting some fresh paint, in the dry dock at Mare Island Navy Yard.
Photos courtesy of H. G. Froehlich US Navy Collection.
The study of the men who sailed aboard ships is just as important as the study of the history of the ship herself. The men who sailed in these old coal-burning ships had to be tough and that held true through out the lives of the men once they were no longer in the navy. One such study is Mountford Cameron Lowrey.
Mountford Cameron Lowrey served aboard the Armored Cruiser USS San Diego and may have been aboard when she sank during WWI but this is not confirmed. The story of Mountford Cameron Lowrey, a medium built man with brown eyes and light brown hair, begins on May 18, 1894, the date on which he was born. Mountford is the eldest son of Robert Lee Lowrey and Martha M. Lytaker Lowrey. His father Robert L. was born in California on August 27 of 1867 and passed away on November 27, 1951 living all his life in California. Robert at the turn of the century worked possibly in the logging or timber industry. His wife Martha M. Lytaker was born in April of 1870 also in California. She and Robert were married about 1896, but obviously had been together several years before as their first son Mountford was born in 1894.
In 1900 the Robert L. Lowrey family was living in rural Rohnerville Township of Humbolt County, California. Humbolt County is a densely forested, mountainous, and rural county situated along the Pacific coast in Northern California. Today Humbolt County contains over forty percent of all remaining old growth Coast Redwood forests. Robert and Martha would have a total of 5 children, Mountford, Elvira, Claude, Robert R, and Winnered.
Mountford C. Lowrey joined the United States Navy possibly as early as 1915. This is known from a few post cards with his picture dated to 1915. It is known that Mountford was not in the navy at the time of the first call up for the Federal Draft during WWI as he filled out a draft card on June 5, 1917. On the card he stated he was working in Morgan Hill, which is located in Santa Clara, County, for the Southern Pacific Railroad as a warehouseman. Mountford also stated that he was married and was born in Santa Rosa, California.
Family stories told by Ed Morris, the Great-grandson of Mountford Lowrey tell that Mountford left the navy sometime in 1922 due to the death of his wife Ruth Multer leaving two daughters to take care of. Ed Morris also tells that he believes Mountford may have been a Gunners mate.
Mountford was known to live in California after 1922 and it was said that he always kept busy doing one thing or another. He was an avid hunter and fisherman and outdoorsmen. He also was a patriot as during WWII he joined the U.S. Army. Although it is not known what his duty was. Later after the end of the Second World War he joined the Merchant Marine. The family has today a photo of Mountford in an engine room of an unidentified ship bound for Tortuga. He also had married for a fourth time and his fourth wife was a schoolteacher.
Mountford retired from the Merchant Marines and he and his fourth wife settled down in Cayucos, California. Mountford was said to have built the two-story home located at 2635 Ocean Boulevard by himself. They would live in that home until Mountford’s death on May 1, 1981. The home was then sold on June 3, 1981. And so ends the story of the restless man, known as Mountford Cameron Lowrey.
|This photo was post marked January 19, but the year however is a bit smudged and may be 1916. This would place this photo likely to have been taken along the Californian coast. It shows a group of marines and sailors from the USS San Diego after a successful fishing expedition. The post card was addressed to Miss Ruth Multer of Calistoga, California. Ruth Multer was Mountford’s first wife. Mountford writes “Some Sea Trout and Blanket fish we caught. Like my mustache. Love Monte” Mountford is identified by the arrow pointing to him. He has the white sailor hat on with a white tee shirt.||This photo is identified only as “March 5, 1915 Mountford Lowrey” Again he is identified with the arrow pointing to him. The view is of the USS San Diego’s forward turret and this group possibly could have been the gun crew.|
During Crain’s many trips escorting convoys across the Atlantic before the sinking of his ship he wrote a poem, no doubt from personal experiences aboard ship.
When the submarines are lurking
'Neath the surface of the deep,
And the enemy is watching,
While the world is fast asleep,
'Tis then that memories haunt us
Of the ones we hold so dear,
And for them, we sometimes shudder
As for us, we have no fear.
In the night there came a message
And the "code" is something strange.
So we translated and read it,
Five Subs have got our range.
A whispered word, the breeches click;
A shell slips into place.
A flash of fire, a quick report,
And the enemy is hurled into space.
I am lonely since we left port,
And as blue as blue can be.
Life don't seem so sweet, dear ones,
Since we sailed away to sea.
When I see the lazy water,
And watching each lazy rolling swell,
I just can't keep from thinking,
Sherman was right, "War is Hell."
Composed and written by Lee Bryan Crain on board the USS San Diego, while convoying troops to France.
On July 21 two days after the sinking of the San Diego, back in Mineral City, Kansas, Seaman Crain’s hometown, a Western Union message is delivered at his mother’s home. Stella Crain who was widowed now holds the Western Union envelope in her hands and has the horrifying feeling something bad has happened to her son. She opens and reads it, moment’s pass before she reads the words “Lee Bryan Crain reported as rescued from the USS San Diego” These words are of some comfort to her, as she has not lost her son but neither is there any news of his present condition. She could only wait for further word.
Seaman Lee B. Crain survives the sinking and survives the remainder of the war. He is discharged after the end of the war and re-enters civilian life, no worse for the wear. Lee Crain does not however return to Kansas but remains in New York. In late 1919 he falls in love and marries an Italian woman named Rose. She was at the time 19-years old and had come to America in 1904 and was naturalized in 1905.
By the spring of 1920 Rose and Lee were living in a boarding house ran by Catherine Tackney located at 4585 Park Avenue in The Bronx. There was another young couple also living in the same boarding house by the name of Robert and Susan Gunther, and Robert and Lee were both working at the same bakery as bakers. Lee had put his skills he learned while in the navy to good use.
Within two years Lee and Rose had their first child a son named Edward born in 1922, which was followed by Michael born in 1923, Floyd born in 1925 and Rosalie born in 1927. By 1930 Lee and Rose still were living in The Bronx and now Lee was working as an Inspector for the street railroad.
Lee’s early life began in January of 1896 when he was the first born to E. L and Stella C. Crain in Kansas. Lee’s father E. L had been born in September of 1874 in Illinois and his mother Stella was born in August of 1880 in Indiana. E. L. was farming and they in 1900 lived on a farm in Lola township of Cherokee County, Kansas.
E. L. and Stella would have 6 children, 4 of whom lived to adulthood. Lee Bryan was the eldest followed by Connie C. born about 1899, Bertha M, born about 1902 and William M. born about 1908, all in Kansas. By 1910 the father E. L, had passed away and Stella and the four children were living on George Street in Mineral City, Kansas. Stella worked as a laundress doing laundry in the home to support her family.
Lee Bryan Crain and his wife Rose and children would live in New York until Lee’s early death on August 23, 1939. On August 25, Lee is buried in the Long Island National Cemetery, in Farmingdale, NY. Today Lee lies buried in Section F, Site 1682.
Shown on the left side is Seaman Lee Bryan Crain, Ship’s Cook, Third Class. He is standing on the forward quarterdeck just in front of the anchor chain lockers, behind that is the forward main 8-inch gun. It is obvious that this photo was taken during the winter from the heavy clothes the men are wearing, and from the evidence of ice and snow on the gun and bridge. The officer facing Lee wearing the overcoat appears to be either a Commander or Lt. Commander.
The Western Union delivered to Stella Crain, Lee’s mother. It reads:
Washington DC 1150 PM 20-21
Estella Crain West Mineral, Kansas.
Bureau very glad to inform you that your son Lee Bryon Crain Seaman Third Class USN reported as rescued from the USS San Diego and landed at New York. Letters should be addressed to him care of USS San Diego Postmaster New York.
L. C. Palmer
Poem, photo and Western Union document provided by Ed Crain.
Seaman Clarence P. Claus
On the warm and hazy morning of July 19, 1918 aboard the Armored Cruiser USS San Diego is a 22-year old sailor by the name of Clarence Philip Claus who is unaware that in moments his life would be in danger. But that was how life was for the men on the ships sailing on the Atlantic at that time. Each sailor had to know how to react when that moment came and Seaman Claus, who was a coal passer knew what he had to do to survive. When the San Diego disappeared from the surface of the sea that morning Seaman Claus found himself alive and on the surface with out a ship as did all but six of his shipmates.
Clarence Philip Claus was born on April 19, 1896 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to John and Daisy Claus. John Claus had been born in September of 1865 in Pennsylvania and his wife Daisy was born in January of 1875 also in Pennsylvania. About 1894 John and Daisy had married and in April of 1896 the couple’s first child Clarence Philip was born. In June of 1900 the John Claus family lived at 426 Chester Street in Lancaster and by then had added to the family with daughter Eva born in August 1897 and son John, Jr. born in May of 1900. John the father worked in a local Buggy shop to support his growing family.
By 1910 the family had now grown to include another daughter named after her mother Daisy, and another son named Samuel. The John Claus family had now outgrown the home on Chester Street and now lived at 121 Locust Street, still in Lancaster. John was still working building buggies as a carriage painter.
The Claus family lived at the Locust Street home past 1917 as when Clarence registered for the first call up for the Federal Draft in June of 1917 he listed his address as 121 Locust Street, Lancaster, PA. Clarence was then a 21-year old single man working as a candy maker for the R. E. Rods Candy Company. Clarence was a brown haired, gray-eyed, tall slender man when he registered for the draft.
Clarence P. Claus joined the United States Navy and served through out the war. Arlene Claus Sears who is the daughter of Clarence recalls of her father, “Daddy would talk a lot about his time on that ship [USS San Diego]. He also worked down in the engine room. I think he passed coal. He carried scars on his legs the rest of his life. He would talk about his trip to South America and when he crossed the equator. I have his papers from that experience, he was only nineteen then an plenty scared!”
Being that Clarence served down in the Engine Rooms of the San Diego he suffered hearing damage during the explosions and received a disability pay after he was released from service with the navy. Later in life due to the hearing loss caused from the sinking of the San Diego Clarence hearing was quite bad at the end of his life. As it turns out Clarence was not the only Lancaster, Pennsylvania boy who was serving aboard the San Diego when she was sunk. From the notes Clarence kept after the war the other Lancaster boys were, George Jarrett of 450 East Chestnut St. and Thomas J. Coolidge of 127 Juniata Street. Clarence, George and Thomas were friends during and after their time in the navy.
After the war ended he returned to Lancaster and in 1919 married a 16-year old local woman who had been born in Germany. Her name was Mary A. Fox and had immigrated with her family to the United States in 1910. About 1924 Clarence and Mary had their first child a daughter Mary E. named for her mother. The following year a son named Robert C. was born and that was followed in late 1929 with a daughter named Arlene and finally in 1931 another daughter named Daisy in honor of Clarence’s mother who was also named Daisy.
In 1930 Clarence and Mary lived in a rented home located at 436 Beaver Street in Lancaster, PA. Clarence worked as a pattern maker for the Armstrong Linoleum Company in Lancaster. Living in the home with the Clarence Claus family were two others listed as boarders on the 1930 Federal Census form. Their names were Herman J. Fox aged 20 and born in Germany, and Dorothy M. Fox aged 17-years, she being born in Pennsylvania. Herman was the sister of Clarence’s wife Mary. Herman had the same job at the Linoleum plant that Clarence had.
In April of 1942 Clarence again had to register for the draft, this time because of WWII. Clarence and Mary’s home was then at 1020 Marshall Ave. in Lancaster. Clarence was still working for the Armstrong Linoleum Company and he had listed his mother Daisy as the person who would always know his address on the draft form. Daisy was then living at 446 Perishing Ave. in Lancaster.Clarence Philip Claus would live his entire life in Lancaster and would pass away in July of 1972.
Seaman George F. Jarrett
George Frederick Jarrett was born on October 30, 1894 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His parents were George C. (b. Feb. 1871) and Lena (b. Feb. 1870) Jarrett. His mother Lena had been born in Germany and had come to America at the age of 12 in 1882. Sometime in late 1892 Lena and George C. married making their home on Broad Street in the city of Lancaster, and in June of 1893 the couple had their first child a daughter named Catherine. Then son George Frederick was born in October of 1894 and another daughter named Bertha E followed this in December of 1896. The father, George C. worked as a farmer to support is family.
By April of 1910 the Jarrett family had grown to include two more children, Albert born about 1903, and Henrietta born about 1905. George C. and Lena had moved from living in the city of Lancaster to a farm located in Providence Township just outside of the city, where George worked the farm.
On June 5, 1917 during the first call up of the Federal Draft 22-year old George Frederick Jarrett went to the sixth ward in Lancaster City and registered for the draft as her was required to do by law. George a medium build man with brown eyes and black hair filled out the required papers and he listed his home at the time of 213 E. Chestnut Street in Lancaster. He was single at that time and was working as a laborer and Pressman for a company in Mount Union, Pennsylvania. This company had something to do with blasting and due to the large numbers of coalmines in that area was connected to the coal industry somehow. Mount Union is a small borough in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania several miles to the west of Lancaster.
Within several days George F. Jarrett would leave the hills of Pennsylvania for duty in the United States Navy and take him to the dangerous waters of the Atlantic. He likely never dreamed that he would have his ship sunk from under him and would have to swim for his life in the cold Atlantic one day.
George F. Jarrett served in the Navy during WWI survived the sinking of the armored cruiser USS San Diego and returned home to Pennsylvania after discharged from the Navy in 1919. By the beginning of 1920 George’s father had passed away and George Frederick lived with his widowed mother Lena in a home located at 450 East Chestnut Street in Lancaster. Also living in the home was Catherine who was now married to John Stoe and they had one daughter named Jane who was 2 years old. George’s other siblings, Albert and Henrietta and Bertha were also living in the home. At the time George was then working as a laborer for the Pennsylvania Rail Road.
It is likely that George F. Jarrett never married, because at age 47-years old he, during WWII again for the second time in his life registered for the Federal Draft, and was at the time single. In early 1942 when he registered he was living at 135 Fairyview Avenue in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and was working for the Cream Top Dairy in Lancaster. George listed his younger brother Albert as the person who would always know how to contact George. It is not known when George Frederick Jarrett passed away and nothing more is known about his life.
The following is a transcript of an undated newspaper, which can be assumed to come from a local Lancaster County newspaper about the time of the sinking of the San Diego, which was found in some of Seaman Clarence P. Claus personal papers of the time. It is placed here in the story of Seaman Jarrett’s because it seems to be an article written about him.
Sinking of Cruiser San Diego told of by local boys who were rescued
One of six Lancaster County men unaccounted for in sinking of naval ship by submarine.
How the men of the U. S. Cruiser San Diego leaped into the water and clambered upon life rafts after the ship had been hit by a torpedo off New York, and how they began to sing the “Star Spangled banner” as the big boat began to take its final plunge, was told yesterday by George F. Jarrett, son of Mrs. George Jarrett, of 450 East Chestnut Street. Jarrett was a fireman on the boat, and was home for a forty-eight hour leave.
It was Jarrett’s first sea trip. He enlisted in the Navy here March 15, and had undergone training at the Newport School. He had been on the San Diego three days, and was seeking his pay slip when the vessel was struck.
“There was not the slightest bit of excitement or disorder,” he said. “Every man stuck to his post until they were ordered to move and the officers remained at their posts until the vessel had leaned over on one side. Then they slid down the side of the vessel into the water.”
Jarrett was on a raft for almost four hours before being picked up. He was taken to Hoboken, and there had to stand in line for five hours before he could secure new clothing.
FIRED EVERY GUN
“After we were hit,” he said, “there was a great outburst of firing. Every gun on the boat began to shoot at targets in the water, in case there might be a submarine. There was a constant rattle of shots for several minutes. I saw a barrel blown to pieces, but do not know whether the sub was hit or not.”
Six Lancaster County boys were on the San Diego, two of whom have not yet been accounted for. The remainder have been officially reported as safe. They are:
Chester J. McComsey, aged 26, son of Elmer McComsey, 346 Hand Ave., U.S. Marine Corps, clung to a mess table for 3-hours and was rescued. Arrives at home tonight.
George F. Jarrett, aged 22, of 450 East Chestnut Street, sailor. Rescued and returned home Sunday.
Clarence P. Claus, ages 22, son of John A. Claus, 121 Locust Street. Rescued and returned home Sunday.
Harold Swank, son of H. R. D. Swank, of 335 East Walnut Street, U. S. Marine Corps. Reported safe and well.
Thomas J. Coolidge, aged 20, son of A. H. Coolidge, of 127 Juniata Street. Sailor. Reported safe.
Carl Shank, aged 17, of Mount Joy. Sailor. Unaccounted for.
Seamen Claus and Jarrett arrived in Lancaster Sunday morning shortly after 1 o’clock, having traveled together after being rescued. Both were ordered to return to port last night. Before leaving for Lancaster on Saturday night, when they received permission to take a short leave of absence, they were given strict orders not to say too much about their experiences. Consequently when interviewed by a representative of the News Journal yesterday afternoon, they refused to give an account of the affair, or their rescue.
BOAT SUNK QUICKLY
Claus reached home about 3 o’clock Sunday morning to the great surprise of his parents. He related the story of the sinking of the ship and his rescue, confirming the stories previously published, relative to the discipline and order maintained on board the cruiser, after it was torpedoed or struck a mine. The boat settled beneath the surface of the water so rapidly that there was little opportunity for the lowering of boats. Claus jumped overboard, after adjusting a life preserver about his chest, which buoyed him until rescued. Claus was in the water 4-hours, and the muscles in his arms and legs were so cramped that he was practically helpless for sometime after taken on board a boat. Hundreds of sailors and marines were floating in the water, nearly one mile from the ship, and as it went down they joined in singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” He confirmed the story told of the Quartermaster, who was unable to leave the ship in time to swim enough distance away from the doomed ship before it settled, and was one who drowned.
Claus and Jarrett were doing duty in the boiler room, but fortunately were not at work at the time of the accident. They were just about to eat dinner, after which they were to go on duty, when the ship was struck. All the men on board hold the captain of the cruiser H. H. Cristy, in high esteem and orders were carried out expeditiously.
One of the most pathetic and heroic scenes witnessed by the men, was the drowning of young fellows on board who could not swim. Several boys were seen picking out life preservers after the ship was struck, but after seeing that the life preservers were needed by those who could swim, and knowing they would be of little use, they discarded them, and jumped overboard. It was declared; they never came to the surface.
Elmer McComsey, of Hand Avenue, father of Chester J. McComsey, who was on board the cruiser as a marine, stated last night that he had received no word from his son, or the Navy Department relative to his son. McComsey enlisted in the Marine Corps in June of 1917, and was 26-years old. Prior to enlisting he was employed at the linoleum department of the Armstrong Cork Company.
H. R. D. Swank of 335 Walnut Street received a telegram from his son, Harold Swank, also with the marines, Saturday afternoon, stating that he was “Safe and well.” This telegram was received at 4:15; a telegram was received earlier, at 3 o’clock from Mr. Swank, stating, “I am Well.”
Thomas J. Coolidge, son of A. H. Coolidge, of 227 Juniata Street, who has been in the Navy for nearly five-years, was reported safe, according to a telegram received last evening at 5:30 by his father. The telegram came from Washington, DC, and stated that a letter would follow.
Carl Shank, of Mount joy, aged 17, formerly a student at Stevens Industrial School, just recently enlisted, was said to be on the ship, but no word has been received by his relatives as to his safety.
Seaman Thomas J. Coolidge
Thomas J. Coolidge was one of at least six Lancaster County, Pennsylvania boys who were on the USS San Diego when she sank in 1918. His early life began and was formed in the hills of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Thomas J. Coolidge was born in September of 1897 to Arthur H. and Lily N. Coolidge.
Arthur was born in May of 1860 in the state of Massachusetts and his wife Lily was born in January of 1877 in Pennsylvania, likely in and around Lancaster County. In mid-summer of 1900 the Arthur Coolidge family consisted of Arthur and Lilly and their two children, son Thomas J., and daughter Vivian B. (b. Sept. 1899). Arthur worked as a stationary engineer in the Lancaster area.
By 1910 the Arthur Coolidge family had moved and were now living in a home on South Market Street in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. Arthur was now working for the Rail Road as an engineer. The family by then had grown to include another daughter who was born about 1901 and may have been named Hazel, a son named John born about 1905 and tow more sons who may have been twins Horace E. and Howard E. both born about 1908.
It is not known if Thomas J. Coolidge entered the Navy before the First World War or enlisted when he would have had to register for the draft, but this decision to join the navy would be a life altering decision for young Thomas. During WWI Thomas J. Coolidge would serve aboard the USS San Diego and would be one of the survivors of the sinking of that ship in July of 1918. This however would not be the last ship he was on that sank.
After the end of the First World War it is not known if Thomas J. Coolidge came home to Pennsylvania to live again with his parents. In January of 1920 the Arthur Coolidge family lived on Juniata Street in Lancaster City. Arthur was now a conductor for the railroad and in the home lived his wife Lily sons John, Horace, Howard and two new additions to the family, daughters Mary who was born about 1912 and Helen who was born about1915. But Thomas J. Coolidge who would have been 23 at the time was not living there. He may have still been in the navy at the time or simply was living someplace else.
Nothing more is known about Thomas J. Coolidge except that his name appears on a stone tablet in the American Cemetery at Ft. William Mckinley in Manila, Philippines with names of other men who were listed a Missing in Action or Buried at Sea during WWII.
The stone tablet located at Ft. William McKinley in Manila, Philippines that contains the name of Thomas J. Coolidge.
His name is the last name on this tablet.
The name of Thomas J. Coolidge Chief Water Tender USN Service No. 1225099 from Pennsylvania with a death date of December 15, 1944 is all that remains of the boy from Lancaster County who survived the sinking of the USS San Diego in 1918. The facts of his death remain a mystery but because of the date of his death he could have been killed in the actions off Mindoro, Philippines during the beach landings there when the LST-738 was hit on December 15, 1944 by a Japanese Kamikaze plane.
Assigned to the Mindoro Landing force, the LST-738 (Landing Ship Tank) and her crew sailed in convoy for their first taste of combat, and arrived off the landing beaches on December 15th ready for anything. As they awaited the order to head for shore to discharge their cargo, the crew onboard the LST-738 nervously watched the shore and sky for the Japanese, particularly for the new and terrifying Kamikazes being used with increased ferocity in the Philippine theatre.
With the first wave of troops and materials ashore meeting little resistance, the Japanese finally showed up to fight the landings, and did so in force. Gunners on LST-738 lent their fire to the dense AA screen put up by the ships laying off the shoreline, but the large and slow moving LST force was clearly targeted by the Japanese pilots and only a few minutes into the attack the LST-472 was kamikazed and aflame. LST-738's crew fought with increased ferocity to prevent a similar fate from befalling their ship, but despite their best efforts a single Japanese fighter weaved through their AA defenses and slammed into the Port side of the ship, passing through her hold with a shower of flaming gasoline and punching out the other side, but not before its bomb detonated.
Aboard the LST-738, all was bedlam. Massive fires raged through the ships cargo hold, fed by a large supply of munitions, fuel and stores all destined for the beachhead. The ship had sustained critical damage from the Kamikaze and it's bomb, and was settling to its Port side as her crew raced to control the damage. The destroyer USS Moale DD693 from the landing force lent their assistance, but as more and more of the ordinance aboard the ship began to cook off, she was ordered abandoned. While the Moale was along side of the LST-738 an explosion killed one man aboard the Moale and injured several others. The Moale rescued at least 88 men from the LST-738 before ordered to pull away.
After her colors were struck and her last man was removed, the LST-738 was left a drifting, burning wreck, suffering near-constant detonations. As a fairly significant hazard to the landing fleet, she was scuttled by gunfire by friendly Destroyers at this location on December 15th, 1944.
If the LST-738 is the ship Chief Water Tender Thomas J. Coolidge lost his life on it is interesting to note that this ship was built in his home state of Pennsylvania. She was laid down at the Dravo Corporation Yards in Pittsburgh on February 20, 1944.