An Outpost of Progress – The Narrative – And so, farewell to Venezuela

Tom Jenkins with shrunken, mummified head. Head shrunken down by head hunters of interior of Venezuela 1937.

Tom Jenkins with shrunken, mummified head. Head shrunken down by head hunters of interior of Venezuela 1937.

When I was a boy and you went to the movies there were trailers for upcoming films, short subjects and cartoons that preceded the feature film and getting there in time to see all of them was part of getting your money’s worth – even if it was much less than a dollar for admission in those days. A common short feature was a travelogue for some far away place with a strange-sounding name and the narrator often signed off with, And so, farewell to…, before the raucous cacophony of a cartoon that promised more violence than any feature film dared. I can not begin to tell you how many such adventures I shared with Bill Leach when I was a boy and in tribute to those happy days I will close out this true life adventure of his using those words as the preamble.

Bill served several years in Venezuela but the diary that I found among his papers covered mainly 1937 – although the accompanying photographs cover 1938 as well. In 1937 he was a graduate engineer with a work history and more than a few other adventures behind him but he was still foot loose and fancy free not yet having met Laureene with whom he would spend the next fifty plus years. It may have been her influence that kept the manuscript closed up in a drawer for the best part of sixty years and even though I knew bits and pieces of the story I left it there for another fifteen until the confluence of the blogosphere and the desire to tell a story to my children and grandchildren caused me to transcribe it and scan the pictures in and publish for friends and family.

Most of what I have published dealt with his association with Standard Oil in the early days of developing the eastern Venezuelan oil fields. There are tales of the oil patch in the jungle and of the camradie of the cabin and the canteen as well as adventures on the high seas and in the low dives of Caracas and Ciudad Bolivar. What is absent in the narrative but was ever-present in the stories he used to share with me are the tales of the native peoples – the indigenous Indians – who still constitute such a large part of the Venezuelan population. The stories I heard were not of head hunters and poison arrows – although they hung someplace over the horizon in an impenetrable jungle – but rather of kind and generous people living off the land and the river who had no particular need of oil wells but were grateful to have outboard motors for their currials, would gladly use a Ford truck to haul a heavy load and loved the freedom from the night that a generator could provide.

This final entry in this series is largely a photo essay containing pictures taken by Bill that relate part of his story and part of theirs.

Native house in village of Mata Negra near Temblador.

Native house in village of Mata Negra near Temblador.

Rio Tenoro - one of the many highways for the native peoples

Rio Tenoro – one of the many highways for the native peoples

Looking toward Caroni Falls - Chris Mireau, Don Bancroft, Buck Ackerman, native pilot - in a currial on the Caroni River

Looking toward Caroni Falls – Chris Mireau, Don Bancroft, Buck Ackerman, native pilot – in a currial on the Caroni River

Native house on the banks of Orinoco River near San Felice

Native house on the banks of Orinoco River near San Felice

Street in Caripito Village looking from Caripito Camp.

Street in Caripito Village looking from Caripito Camp.

Street scene in Caripito Village near Rio Caripe

Street scene in Caripito Village near Rio Caripe

Calabash Fruit, Cumarebo, State of Falcon, Venezuela 1937

Calabash Fruit, Cumarebo, State of Falcon, Venezuela 1937

Method of pressing poisonous juice out of Cassava Pulp. Caripito, Venezuela 1937

Method of pressing poisonous juice out of Cassava Pulp. Caripito, Venezuela 1937

Making Cassava Bread

Making Cassava Bread

Scene in Mata Verada Village.

Scene in Mata Verada Village.

Native huts in village west of Caripito Camp - on road to water pump station.

Native huts in village west of Caripito Camp – on road to water pump station.

Village street in Caripito

Village street in Caripito

Native hut.

Native hut.

Native huts in Mata Negra.

Native huts in Mata Negra.

Thatched huts in Caripito Village [note intrusion of sheet metal in lower left]

Thatched huts in Caripito Village [note intrusion of sheet metal in lower left]

The end!

The end!

An Outpost of Progress – The Narrative – Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

PROLOGUE: Bill Leach’s first trip to Venezuela was made on a tanker as was his trip home for his vacation but his return to Venezuela was made by a passenger liner of a mail service company which meant it was a relatively new and relatively fast ship. Although many take cruises today the liner experience, like travelling by train, is largely a thing of the past. The accommodations were comfortable, the food was good and the amenities were pleasant. There was not a cruise director nagging at your every waking moment and the ships were by and large filled with people who were actually going someplace and not part of the Geritol for lunch bunch set floating around waiting on God. These were working ships and had the dignity of purpose that goes with the title.

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To comply with its mail contracts, Grace had agreed to build four new ships. These the SANTA ROSA class were ordered from Federal Shipbuilding Co. Kearney, New Jersey and delivered in 1932-1933. They were designed by William Francis Gibbs, who had also drawn plans of Matson’s MALOLO and later to draw those of the AMERICA and the record-breaker UNITED STATES.

These ships had some general resemblance to MALOLO, with her great beam and low stern. their original gross tonnage of 11,200 was later reduced to 9,100 by the cutting of tonnage openings in # 6 shelter deck. Subsequently their tonnage was again changed, all of which reduced tonnage dues and Panama Canal tolls. Their overall length was 508 ft. and beam 72 ft.

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Their power plants were at the time second to none in efficiency. Each of the water tube steam generators with a pressure of 430 lbs. produced 6000 hp. and each ship could make 18-1/2 knots with only three boilers active. The main engines were double reduction turbines. The screws turned inward, and for this reason were very awkward to maneuver. The passenger capacity of the SANTA ROSA class was 209 in first class and about 50 in steerage. Their public rooms were all on the promenade deck, with the dining salon extending two and a half decks in height to a roll back dome. The after dining room bulkhead was adorned with a large oil painting of a Grace clipper. Each cabin, whether single or double was equipped with private bath.

With the new quartet the Grace Line established the first passenger service between New York and Seattle. Calls were made at Havana, Puerto Colombia, Cartagena, Canal Zone, Punta Arenas, La Libertad, San Jose, Mazatlan, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Victoria. The first ship the SANTA ROSA sailed November 26, 1932; the last, SANTA ELENA, April 4, 1933. New York Seattle running time was 20 days, including one day in Los Angeles and two in San Francisco. Average speed 18-1/2 knots. Before the New York sailing, each ship called at Philadelphia for cargo only.

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In 1934 the port time in New York was greatly reduced and the call at Philadelphia eliminated. The time saved enabled the ships to make a shuttle run between Seattle and San Francisco. The 20 knot service and the ship’s superior accommodations to anything the Pacific Coast shipping had to offer made this an exceedingly popular run.

It was not long before other companies complained that, since Grace ships were subsidized for foreign trade they should not compete in the coastwise business. By the end of 1934 Seattle ceased to be a port of call and the voyage ended in San Francisco. Since three ships could now maintain the service, the SANTA LUCIA was reassigned to the South American run. Late in 1936 Grace acquired the Red D Line and its Caribbean Service, and early in 1937 SANTA ROSA, SANTA PAULA and SANTA ELENA entered that service: New York to Venezuela, Curacao, Colombia, Cristobal and Haiti.

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Vacation time over good old U.S. up to May 5th at which time I was ready to sail again for Venezuela.
May 5th took the Grace liner “Santa Rosa” with a rather good-sized bunch of refinery workers also destined to go to Caripito. Pete Willis was my roommate on this trip.

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Had a relatively good time on the cruise.   Of course I would meet as usual my brown-eyed “Susan”.  Anyway, her name was Anne Watsik and I expect to hear a good deal from her. Also met a Helen Korday who turned out to be a real fine girl – she was on the cruise boat taking a rest cure. Many other passengers were fine, especially the U. S. Naval group that was headed for Cartagena and Barranquilla, Colombia.

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Stopped at the Dutch Island of Curacao and had a fairly good time but what a place.  Many negroes, Englishmen, Arabians, Spaniards, etc. cluttered up the island.  The houses were again the typical loud-colored painted type as at Aarangastaad, Aruba.

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Arrived in La Guaira on the 10th of May and went through the customs.  In the afternoon we left our luggage at the Hotel Miramar, Macuto and then proceeded to enjoy myself by an excursion trip to Caracas. Sure had an unhealthy ride with the taxi driver for he took no regard for caution or the dangerous and curvy hilly climb.
Left La Guaira on the Caripiteno on the 11 th and headed for Guanta, which I reached on the 12 th.  Remained there overnight.  Left Guanta on the 13 th and headed for Caripito, where we arrived at noon on Sunday the 14  th.

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Morrison and Fourmy’s General Directory – Part 11 – 1920

I began this series last August in an effort to educate myself a little more about the world of Margaret Edythe Young and although I have heard the complaint that there is a little too much Galveston and not quite enough of the Galveston Artist in these entries I finish them with a better understanding of the island that was her world and hope that my reader’s have found them helpful in picturing – to paraphrase the bard – This happy breed of people, this little world, This precious stone set in a silver sea. And so to the conclusion of this series.

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By 1920 the First World War had seen most combat operations end with the Armistice of 1918. The men who had fought in the war were getting on with the business of being reintegrated into the society. That included Margaret’s brother John who, as a Lt. Colonel in the Coastal Artillery Command, had been sent to the San Antonio caucus of April 1919 where he had been selected as a delegate to the St. Louis caucus that founded the American Legion. But if the War had ended you could not tell it on the Galveston waterfront – there was both a hot war raging from St. Petersburg to Sevastopol to Vladivostok that had to be supplied and there was the massive relief effort for a devastated Europe that the United States had undertaken. The Port of Galveston was able to close for Christmas Day in 1920 for the first time since 1916 but other than that it was all hands on deck for the other 365 days [it was a leap year]. In a move absolutely uncharacteristic of her father the firm took out its first, last and only paid advertisement in the Directory – we can only surmise that it was done while he was in Washington buying more tug boats from the government at surplus prices.

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By 1920 the preferred means of travel to Houston would have still been a train or the Interurban but because of the new and growing port at Houston – which actually started with the new Humble Oil Company refinery which opened in 1919 at Baytown [at the site of the old Confederate shipyard where the cotton clads which won the day at the 1863 Battle of Galveston had been fitted out] – there were passable roads, most of them made of crushed mud shells, and cars and trucks regularly made the trip.

David Buick, along with engineers Walter Marr and Eugene Richard, invented the valve-in-head engine, which became the strongest and most reliable engine as soon as it hit the market. But Buick Motor Company still ran into financial difficulties, and was bailed out by William Durant who had gone to the 1905 New York Auto Show, and before they had even built 40 vehicles, had sold over 1,000 at the show alone. By 1908 Buick produced 8,820 cars, the most of any auto manufacturer that year which helped Durant create a holding company named General Motors. Within 18 months, Durant had acquired a large stake in 30 different auto manufacturers and parts suppliers, including Cadillac , Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and AC Spark Plug. With so many purchases by 1910, General Motors was under financial hardships, and Durant lost control of GM. Durant and Louis Chevrolet, a very successful race car driver, created the Chevrolet company in 1911, and by 1915 Durant was able to take control of GM once again when he hired Walter Chrysler to run the Buick division who went on to build larger and more expensive cars, with doors and smoother lines and introduced a six cylinder engine along with the self-starter and a full electrical system – and took his severance package to found the Chrysler Corporation.

Models all the way from the early Buick 10 through the new sedans were always several steps up from the Ford’s Tin Lizzie and even though the  1918  Chevrolet introduced the Series D – a V8-powered model in four-passenger roadster and five-passenger tourer models – Buick retained its supremacy through most of the 1920’s as the car for the man who couldn’t yet afford a Cadillac but was more prosperous than your average Ford owner. The Bettencourts traversed the island and went visiting on the mainland in their 1914 Buick. The interesting thing about the advertisements may not be the  primacy of location [top right]  of the Buick ad but the fact that the following two ads are from saddle and harness makers who are transitioning from the days of horse and buggy. The other thing we notice is that the advertisement for the tire company is now for a business that exclusively sells tires – you no longer bought them with fishing tackle and shotgun shells.

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Although not much has been made of it another dramatic change in the automotive industry was the introduction of the storage battery. In early cars starting was achieved by physically cranking the motor – this required a certain amount of physical strength and excluded a number of people from the automotive pool – lighting was accomplished by the same kerosene lamps that had been used for a century and there was no need for a power source for the radio, which had yet to be invented. All of these things would change by 1920 and the advent of automotive electronics would mean that the relatively new invention of the telephone could be used to call help for the dead battery – the latest headache of their rapidly improving lives.

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And the batteries were not the only things that needed repair. Although there was Firestone, Saxet, Keystone, Speedway and Batavia tires to name just a few their most common denominator was that they were all MAYPOP! tires – i.e.; they may pop at any time  – and Southern Tire & Repair Company probably sold more than a few Kelly Springfield, Norwalk and Portage tires with their offer of free tire service. While the cars were simple enough to work on by our standards they were complex and daunting for the average owner requiring the expert mechanics of Leo David’s shop to keep the uninitiated from doing more harm than good especially in keeping their oil changed and their suspensions lubricated. Recently our son wrote us from his sojourn in Africa about coming across a panel banger – the term they still use to describe an auto repair shop – and we suspect that Schmidt Brothers, blacksmiths by trade, fit that description to perfection. I remember the story of Laureene Young driving her Packard across the causeway and meeting a farmer’s cow by accident. In the days before insurance her father conceded to the farmer that it was the most valuable cow in the state of Texas and wrote him a check. It is an everlasting tribute to Packard that all it needed was a panel banger to be roadworthy again.

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A high demand for cotton during World War I had stimulated production and had increased the business of the compresses and the port at Galveston but a drop in prices after the war led many to abandon farming altogether and move to the cities. While the port was busy there was the need for both commercial hotels for business travellers as well as residential hotels that took the overflow of single men who were working and could not find accommodation in a rooming house. There were also residential hotels for single women who had found clerical positions and who would have neither desired nor have been permitted to live in an establishment that served men. Even Millie Dillmount and Miss Dorothy Brown stayed at the Priscilla Hotel and there is nothing to suggest that Mrs. Ella Jordan of the Palmetto Hotel bore any resemblance to their house-mother Mrs. Meers.

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The beach was still the great draw and although the Galvez may have been the grand dame of the seawall and its boulevard there were a plethora of budget accommodations available for the tourists who arrived on the train or via the interurban. While there was no such thing as two weeks vacation every year for most workers there were the summer school holidays and many families saw mother and children packed off to the shore where Galveston was an average 10 degrees cooler than Houston while fathers stayed home and worked joining the family from Saturday evening to Sunday evening and enjoying a vacation of sorts of their own the other six days of the week.

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You can only spend so many hours on the beach without being burnt to a crisp. The electric pavilion and riding the trolley to other attractions – even going to the Rosenberg Library for a new stack of books once a week – could only entertain so much. Probably no trip to the island was complete without riding the excursion boat Galvez at least once. Cruising the port and seeing everything from the sailing skiffs that darted from the farms around the bay to supply the island’s kitchens to the latest of the great naval dreadnoughts like the USS Texas that made courtesy calls when coaling [it was not converted to an oil burner until 1925] had to be a marvelous spectacle for parent a child alike.

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Galveston and New Orleans have a long history together not only as competitors but also as cities that share many cultural ties. When a vacant  store located on Canal Street in New Orleans was converted into its first movie theater on the 26th of June  1896 Galveston could not be far behind. The USS Texas was christened on May 18, 1912 and a new camera took what was thought to be the first motion pictures of a United States Navy ship-launching and with the release of “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915 the moving pictures were off and running. Even with primitive air conditioning the lure of a cool place to while away a sweltering afternoon or evening must have made places like to Fortuna irresistible.

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Today the last stop for many a tourist at Boston’s Logan airport is to get lobster’s packed to bring home – assuming you can still get them through security. The Galveston of 1920 was no different. Getting ready to board the Interurban for the ride home you could pack up on fish, shrimp and oysters to take back to Houston – points further north probably carries a risk of ptomaine poisoning which was something very real that people actually died of then.

You may have noticed the absence of advertisements for beverages in this post – particularly the kind that, used in moderation, reconstitute body and soul. In 1909 Monsignor James Martin Kirwin organized the Home Protective League, which succeeded in removing saloons from residential areas of Galveston. The league lobbied in the state legislature for a law empowering cities to restrict saloons. Adding an ecumenical twist to the proceedings in 1913 Texas sent John Morris Sheppard to the United States Senate and this pious Methodist gas bag managed to finagle what would become the 18th Amendment – prohibition – through the Congress and it took effect on the 17th of January 1920 and Americans could not drink legally again until 1933.

Prohibition – except for the initial ratification – happens outside of our timeline and even though its impact on Galveston was significant we will not discuss it here. Although Margaret Edythe Young certainly would not have been aware of the direction of the larger forces that shaped her world she basically lived in a brief window between the South regaining  large parts of its freedom and joining the American dynamo that was the early twentieth century through the transition of a Southern Democrat [Wilson] betraying the South and the nation and starting us down the path to the nanny state. At the same time what she was aware of were the timeless values of her Church and her very Irish family and an island city that provided a home to them all – she knew what was important!

Fleet Problems II, III and IV – 1924

History has some onion like properties in that as soon as you peel away one layer there is another waiting for you. The experience of William J. Leach at Fort Hancock was something that he talked about and used to show the pictures of from time to time. Reviewing them we discovered that they were taken during his third year when he was a RED man. What had happened during the other years? Probably three out of his four years were served at the coastal forts around New York city but his first year was very different and we will tell that story here.

The CMTC always operated in best tradition of the citizen soldier with the heavy emphasis on “citizen” as seen here when General Pershing presented medals to outstanding CMTC trainees. The John J. Pershing Medal for distinguished attainment in military education was presented to the outstanding trainees of the Citizens’ Military Training Camps by General Pershing at the War Department…Library of Congress photo

Popular history tells the story that the Japanese performed a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and totally surprised the United States of America starting World War II out of a clear blue sky on December 7, 1941. Although the Japanese achieved a great tactical victory and would spend the next two years – as they had spent the previous ten years – increasing their stranglehold on the Pacific the United States was not quite so surprised as watcher’s of the history channel and public television documentaries might suspect.

From 1923 until 1940, as the culmination of the Navy’s annual training maneuvers, U.S. naval forces would engage in mock battles in which one or more of the forces would play the part of a European or Asian navy. Interestingly enough the first fleet problem, in 1923, used battleships to represent aircraft carriers and tested the defenses of the Panama Canal. A single plane launched from Oklahoma — representing a carrier air group — dropped 10 miniature bombs and theoretically “destroyed” the spillway of the Gatun Dam effectively shutting down the canal. The  first World War had proved that aircraft would be decisive in future conflicts and the Navy was learning just how important they would be.

The USS Arkansas while transiting the Panama Canal as part of Fleet Problem III…from the William Leach archive

The three fleet problems for 1924 were:

  • Fleet Problem II simulated the first leg of a westward advance across the Pacific.
  • Fleet Problem III focused on a defense of the Panama Canal from the Caribbean side. The Blue force was defending the canal from an attack from the Caribbean by the Black force, operating from an advance base in the Azores. It was to practice amphibious landing techniques and the rapidity of transiting a fleet through the canal from the Pacific side. In the exercise, a Black force special operations action resulted in the “sinking” of Blue force battleship New York in the Culebra Cut which would have blocked the canal.
  • Fleet Problem IV simulated the movement from a main base in the western Pacific to the Japanese home islands — represented  by islands, cities, and countries surrounding the Caribbean.

They were a dress rehearsal for World War II in the Pacific – twenty years before the fact.

For the creation of Panama and the realization of the Panama Canal – which reduced the oceanic distance from New York to San Francisco from over 13,000 miles to just over 5,000 miles –  the United States is forever indebted to Theodore Roosevelt. In ways that people today are unable to understand it propelled the United States to the center stage of world affairs and led to our preeminent voice in them. From the landing of the Marines in 1903 to ensure US control of the railroad connecting the Atlantic and Pacific across the isthmus, to the appointment of Army Lieutenant Colonel George W. Goethals as chief engineer of the Isthmian Canal Commission by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 which changed the construction changed from a civilian to a military project, to the relieving of the Marines – to go fight Pancho Villa in Mexico – with the arrival of the first company of coastal artillery in 1914 the Panama Canal – which had been proceeding by fits and starts since 1881 – might never have been completed.

A sergeant of the Coast Artillery Corps stands beside the muzzle of a sixteen inch howitzer…Library of Congress photo

Concurrent with the Canal construction a number of defensive locations were developed to protect it, both with coastal defense guns, as well as military bases to defend against a direct infantry assault. Fort Sherman was the primary Atlantic-side infantry base and construction began in January 1912 on a tract of 23,100 acres of land, about half of which was covered by jungle. The developed areas included housing and barracks for 300 and would add a small airstrip  and become the site of the US’s first operationally deployed early warning radar when an SCR-270 was installed there in 1941. In 1924 however the firepower included 7 batteries with the following armament:

  •     Baird 4 – 12 inch mortars
  •     Howard 4 – 12 inch mortars
  •     Stanley 1 – 14 – inch Disappearing gun
  •     Mower 1 – 14  inch Disappearing gun
  •     Kilpatrick  2 – 6 inch Disappearing gun
  •     Sedgwick Pratt 2 – 12 inch M1895 Barbette
  •     Alexander Mackenzie  2 – 12 inch Barbette

The Pacific side was covered by a series of forts built on the islands off of Balboa that hosted equally impressive firepower but William J. Leach served his training period at Fort Sherman after answering the enticements to live on rum and coca cola and meet pretty girls who loved the Yankee dollar. Considering that the Army was responsible, along with the Navy’s Blue group,  for defending the canal from the Black group Fleet Problems I through IV certainly showed the need for more work. [Fleet problem V was an attack by aircraft carriers on Hawaii!]

DD-289, USS Flusser part of the scouting fleet off of Colon, C.Z….William Leach archive photo

A large portion of the scouting fleet was made up destroyers designed for use in the first World War that were called four stackers because of their distinctive configuration of four smoke stacks but with a flush deck configuration and capable of a speed of 35 knots these ships were greyhounds used for escort and scouting duties. Their speed would almost be their undoing when, in September 1923, seven were lost in a twenty-knot run  south from San Francisco that included a night passage through the Santa Barbara Channel in a heavy fog. Relying on early RDF gear before the invention, let alone the deployment, of radar and traveling in a column they fell victim to the Navy’s greatest navigational tragedy.

Another view of USS Flusser (DD-289) Steaming at high-speed. Her after three smokestacks are painted a dark black indicating that she was part of the BLACK [enemy] force. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Of the three classes of four stackers 273 destroyers were built. No new ones were built after the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty where we joined a bankrupt Europe in burying our heads in the sand and a large number were sold for scrap after the 1930 London Naval Treaty allowed us to unilaterally disarm since there would never be another war.

A submarine chaser [note the depth charges on the fantail] serving with the BLACK fleet…William Leach archive

While the United States was short in the aircraft carrier department – we had exactly ONE, two more would be built in the 1920’s, three more in the 1930’s and two more in the 1940’s prior to the commencement of the Pacific war [five of the eight would be lost in the war] – there were still a large number of ships in the fleet including the SC [submarine chaser] classes. These ranged all the way from 110 foot ships armed with depth charges and machine guns that operated as minesweepers as well up to 190 foot patrol craft that would see service all the way through World War II answering the U-boat threat in the Gulf and along the East Coast.

Laying down a smoke screen…the William Leach archive

While these exercises were meant to try and test the latest tactics and so many of the shore batteries and ships both reflected the best of the available technology of the day it is surprising how limited the forces were. In this photograph we have a series of destroyers and patrol boats laying down a smoke screen. The simple method that was used by these ships was to restrict the supply of air to the boiler. This resulted in incomplete combustion of the coal or oil, which produced a thick black smoke. Because the smoke was black, it absorbed heat from the sun and tended to rise above the water. This is no longer done – intentionally – and if you have ever been on board a ship that did it because some third assistant had forgotten everything he ever learned you will have endured a choking, gasping, coughing fit made all the richer by the high sulfur content of the fuel oil and you will wonder at the thought that allowed it as a tactic outside of desperate circumstances.  While the enemy may not have been able to see you neither could you see them and manuevers had to be carried out with split second precision to avoid catastrophe.

DD-218, USS Parrott…the William Leach archive

The USS Parrott was a Clemson class destroyer  that displaced  1,190 tons, was 315 feet long by 31 feet wide and drew close to 14 feet of water at deep draft. She was commissioned in 1920 having been named for George Fountain Parrott who had won the Navy Cross after perishing in the World War. She had one of the longest careers of any of the four stackers and we will close this post be giving some of the details of her service.

In 1922 she served with the U.S. Naval Detachment in Turkish Waters at Constantinople to assist American Relief Agencies in aiding political refugees and protecting American lives and interests. From time to time, Parrott served as communications and station ship in the Black Sea, Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. From the 13th of September to the 25th of October, she evacuated refugees following the Smyrna fire, and escorted ships sent by other nations to help persons who had asked for protection.

From the 6th of July to the 24th of August in 1923, Parrott made courtesy calls to Greece, Turkey, Roumania, Bulgaria and Russia showing the flag. During the following year (1924) she made similar visits to Bizerte, Tunis, Leghorn, Genoa, Patmos, Villefranche, Cagliari and Sardinia, returning to New York in July in time to participate in that year’s exercises and Fleet Problems.

Reassigned to the Asiatic Fleet, Parrott departed Philadelphia on the 3rd of January 1925 for Pearl Harbor via the Canal Zone and San Diego. She made a training stop at Pearl Harbor on the 27th of April and proceeded on the 29th of May, via Midway, to join the Fleet at Chefoo, China on the 14th of June. Because of unsettled conditions in China Parrott, with other units, sailed to Shanghai and put ashore a landing force. Parrott remained in the area until the 31st of July, and returned on the 10th of September to Shanghai for duty with the Yangtze River Patrol until the 16th of October when she departed for the Philippines.

After operations out of Manila from the 19th of October to the 15th of March 1926 she reported to the Commander South China Patrol at Swatow remaining until the 14th of June. At this time revolution in China caused intense naval activity resulting in practically the entire Asiatic Fleet assembling in Chinese waters. Parrott carried out a rigorous schedule in again aiding and protecting the interest of Americans and other neutrals. She was relieved on the 25th of October 1927 and sailed south via Hong Kong, Bangkok and Saigon to Manila, arriving on the 18th of November.

During 1928, Parrott made many calls to Philippine ports least frequented by American ships. From 1928 into 1934 she remained on Asiatic Patrol operating from Manila. In 1935 she was ordered to French Indochina to collect hydrographic data in and around Saigon. She resumed neutrality patrol in 1936 and by 1940 had served successively as station ship at Amoy and Swatow, China. From the 7th of July to the 4th of October, Parrott cruised China waters based at Tsingtao and then made calls to other northern Chinese ports, returning to Manila on the 11th of October.

The Navy established the Cavite Navy Yard in Manila Bay shortly after acquiring the Philippines in the Spanish-American War. Cavite became one if the Asiatic Fleet’s major operating bases and repair facilities in the decades following World War I but was destroyed by Japanese air attacks in the first week after Pearl Harbor. This aerial view was taken in the 1930s.

In Cavite Navy Yard, Parrott spent the first two months of 1941 having anti-mine and sound detection gear installed, after which, she trained with destroyers and submarines. She assumed duties as off-shore sound patrol picket at the entrance to Manila Bay on the 6th of October, and late in November joined Task Force 5 at Tarakan, Borneo. The Task Force was still operating in this area when Japanese hostilities began. When the Philippines fell to the Japanese, the Asiatic Fleet moved south and operated from a base at Surabaya, Java.

After dark, on the 23rd of January 1942, Parrott with John D. Ford (DD–228), Pope (DD–225) and Paul Jones (DD–230) entered Balikpapan Bay where, lying at anchor, were 16 Japanese transports and three 750-ton torpedo boats, guarded by a Japanese Destroyer Squadron. The foursome fired several patterns of torpedoes and had the satisfaction of seeing four enemy transports and one torpedo boat sink as the Japanese destroyers searched aimlessly in the strait for non-existent submarines. Parrott returned to Surabaya on the 25th of January and sailed five days later as part of the escort for two Dutch ships as far as Lombok Strait. She then swept through the South China Sea with the combined naval force, fighting off three Japanese aerial attacks on the 15th of February, as the Allies attempted to intercept and prevent a landing on the east coast of Sumatra. She came into Surabaya for fuel on the 19th February opening fire on enemy planes there before departing with other destroyers for a night attack on Japanese forces off Bali. Contact was made with two Japanese destroyers and a transport just past midnight on the 19th-20th February, and in the ensuing fight, which left the Dutch destroyer Piet Hein at the bottom of the sea and the Japanese destroyer Michishio dead in the water, Parrott struck ground in the treacherous shoal water off Bali but was able to churn herself free and retire with the rest of the force to Surabaya. Parrott was delegated the task of escorting SS Seawitch into Tjilatjap the 28th of February and then proceed to Fremantle as her brave consorts made a last gallant stand against Japanese invasion forces in the Battle of the Java Sea.

A “jeep” carrier the USS Croatan. There was nothing pretty about them. Their hulls may have been designed to be cargo ships but when the United States need aircraft carriers they were cobbled together the get planes where they were needed.

Parrott returned to the States for repairs, left the yard in July and commenced the first of eight convoy escort voyages between San Francisco and Pearl Harbor. On the 21st of May 1943 she sailed for New York arriving on the 12th of June and reported for transatlantic convoy duty. She completed one convoy passage before joining Paul Jones and Belknap (AVD–8) in a “HunterKiller” group with Croatan (CVE–25). She operated with this group until the 15th of October when she transferred to another Hunter-Killer Group formed around Block Island (CVE–106). Parrott participated in sinking U–220 on the 28th of October, but by March 1944 Parrott reported back for convoy assignment. As escort for Convoy UGS–35, she reached Casablanca on the 26th of March, then bombarded the coast of Spanish Morocco, south of Cape Spartel, on the 27th of March before escorting convoy GUS–34 back to Boston, arriving on the 15th of April. While getting underway for Norfolk on the 2nd of May, Parrott was rammed by SS John Morton, and was so severely damaged she had to be beached, towed to Norfolk Naval Shipyard, she decommissioned on the 14th of June 1944 and struck from the Navy List.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

for I intend to go in harm’s way… Part III

After the Spanish-American War, the first Texas continued her western Atlantic operations and was flagship of the Coast Squadron in 1902-05. In 1908, she became the station ship at Charleston, South Carolina. Finally, renamed San Marcos in February 1911, struck from the Navy List the following October, she was sunk in gunnery tests in Chesapeake Bay. It might seem like an ignominious end to a gallant career of keeping the peace and winning the war but before her stripped hulk settled into the sand the new battleship Texas was being built at Newport News, Virginia and she would be bigger, faster and pack a punch that would be heard throughout the Atlantic and Pacific.

USS Texas (BB-35) Making 15.151 knots during the 9th run of her standardization trials on the 23rd of October 1913. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

U.S. Navy battleship construction began with the keel laying of the sister ship of the first battleship Texas, the Maine,  in 1888 and ended  in 1947. During this  era, 59 battleships of 23 different basic designs were completed for the Navy. Though the building rate averaged almost one per year, it was not a steady process, but was done in the first case as a deterrent force, corresponding to the rise of the United States to first-class naval power begun in 1888. This era  came to an abrupt halt with the signing of the Naval Limitations Treaty in 1922 during the age of Wilsonian diplomacy. This  in turn gave way to the to the second era from 1937 to 1943 when ships were being built as fast as possible to save us from the bitter fruits of these treaties.

Taking up where her predecessor had left off the U.S.S. Texas entering Havana Harbour from Malecon Photograph taken from Castillo de La Punta, Castillo del Morro visible on other side of channel. Crowd of people on site, automobiles on Malecon Drive… Library of Congress photo

These warships can be conveniently divided into four main groups:

  •    Two experimental second-class battleships, of about 6000 tons, begun in the late 1880s (Maine and Texas);
  •     Twenty-five battleships with mixed main batteries of large and medium caliber guns, ranging in size from about 10,000  to 16,000 tons, begun from 1891 to 1905;
  •     Twenty-nine battleships with “all-big-gun” main batteries, begun between 1906 and 1919 and ranging from 16,000 tons to over 42,000 tons
  •     Seventeen faster big-gun 35,000-60,500 ton battleships begun in 1937-41

USS Texas (BB-35)Firing her 14″/45 main battery guns, during long-range battle practice, February 1928. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Gun caliber, as well as ship size, grew steadily, from ten inches on the first Texas to sixteen inches on the last ships. The second Texas [BB-35], displaced 27,000 tons, was nearly 600 feet long and had a 95+ foot beam – the widest allowable by the Panama Canal. Her armor plating was 12 inches thick at the belt, 9 inches thick above the belt and 3 inches thick on the deck with watertight bulkheads 10 inches thick. She mounted ten 14 inch main guns arranged in five turrets of two, twenty smaller guns and four torpedo tubes. Effective gunnery range also increased, from a few thousand yards to about twenty miles.

USS Texas (BB-35)In the Gatun Locks, while transiting the Panama Canal en route to the U.S. east coast on the 21st of June 1937. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

With a draft of nearly 30 feet and able to achieve 21 knots with a 35,000 horsepower plant she carried nearly 3,000 tons of coal to carry her guns and her crew of over 1,000 to where ever they were needed. Texas was as heavily armored as it was armed and was intended primarily to steam in formation with other battleships and slug it out with similar opponents, using its powerful guns to settle the matter. In its day it was one the “Queens of the Sea”, the foundation of national strategic offense and defense. That “day” ended with the arrival, effectively just before the start of World War II, of aircraft that could not only out-range the big guns, but also deliver blows of equal or greater power however as they proved, with adequate air support – or in conditions where aircraft might not be effective – these floating gun platforms could be instrumental in support of troop landings.

USS Texas (BB-35)Dressed with flags for Navy Day, 27 October 1940. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Navy Day was established on October 27, 1922 by the Navy League of the United States as a tool to educate civilians about the Navy and increase their awareness of the Navy. Although it was not a national holiday, Navy Day received special attention from the President and in 1923 over 50 major cities participated, and the United States Navy sent a number of its ships to various port cities for the occasion. The 1945 Navy Day was an especially large celebration, with President Harry S. Truman reviewing the fleet in New York Harbor.

USS Texas (BB-35)Silhouetted against the sunset, while participating in North Atlantic convoy operations, circa summer 1941. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Starting in 1939 – even before war was declared – the United States was supplying material to the British for their war against Germany. After the invasion of Poland and the opening of hostilities there would be hundreds of vessels crossing the North Atlantic and prior to overt American participation in the war the US was actively engaged in convoys with the British in the North Atlantic Ocean, primarily supporting British activities in Iceland. Since battleships were effective deterrents to surface raiders due to the larger size and longer range of the American guns the Texas found herself escorting HX [Halifax to Liverpool] convoys including 9-knot convoys for ships of sustained speeds less than 15 knots which had to be long and tedious duty – but it was duty and having a two ocean navy meant that we had battleships ready to fill the line even after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Bombardment of Cherbourg, June 1944 A heavy German coast artillery shell falls between USS Texas (BB-35) and USS Arkansas (BB-33), while the two battleships were engaging Battery Hamburg during the bombardment of Cherbourg, France,on the 25th of June 1944. Photographed from Arkansas. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Although she had been built for service in the first World War the Texas would find her moments of glory in World War II. The Bombardment of Cherbourg was undertaken by ships of the United States Navy on June 25, 1944 to support United States Army units engaged in the Battle of Cherbourg. The Allied force attacked the German fortifications near and in the city and engaged in repeated duels with coastal batteries while providing close infantry support. Twenty-two of twenty-four assigned Navy targets were neutralized and German batteries were eliminated as a threat to the infantry assaulting them. Rapid infantry containment ensured the guns could not be reactivated and, as a testimony to the big gun ships effectiveness, when the city fell the neutralized casemated guns, which could have turned from the ships towards troops advancing on land, were still pointed out to sea.  Shore-bombardment, in which the fire of heavy guns was precisely directed against enemy facilities ashore, to pave the way for invasion or to simply destroy war-making potential justified the retention of the big-gun ships in the post-war era and brought them back to active duty on three different occasions and we may need them again.

USS Texas (BB-35)At sea in the Hawaii area, while preparing for Pacific combat operations on the 6th of January 1945. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

More than half way to Hell in the Pacific was the tiny island of Iwo Jima. Too small for army staging and unfit as a naval anchorage it was needed as a strategic point in delivering the atomic bombs that would end the war – although no one engaged in the battle knew that. The commander had requested ten days of heavy ship bombardment before landing troops and had been given three. Texas was part of the bombardment force but given the abundance of well-concealed strong points and deeply buried underground facilities, this was not nearly enough. Thus, when the Marines landed, they confronted intense opposing fire from the landing area and from flanking positions on Mount Suribachi in the south and the rugged terrain of northern Iwo Jima.

Iwo Jima Operation, 1945 USS Texas (BB-35) recovers a Vought OS2U “Kingfisher” floatplane in a light rain at 1700 Hrs. on the 16th of February 1945, the first day of the Iwo Jima pre-invasion bombardment. The OS2U’s radioman is riding the wing after hooking the plane to the recovery crane. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

For the U.S. Marines, Iwo Jima was the most difficult of World War II’s many tough fights. It remains an enduring demonstration of the essential role of infantry when ground must be captured, even when seemingly overwhelming air and sea power is present. The abundant heroism of the attackers was recognized by the award of 27 U.S. military personnel with the Medal of Honor for …conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States…, 13 of them posthumously. Of the 27 medals awarded for the actions at Iwo Jima, 22 were presented to Marines and five were presented to United States Navy sailors; this was 28% of the 82 Medals of Honor awarded to Marines in the entirety of World War II.

Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adams Inspects the crew of USS Texas (BB-35), March 1931. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

The Texas, like all ships, is just so much hull and paint without a crew, and reviewing them here is Charles Francis Adams – descendent of John Adams etc. – who served as Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of the Navy from 1929 until 1933. A successful lawyer, business man, outstanding civic leader, and well-known yachtsman and ocean racer, he  vigorously promoted public understanding of the Navy’s indispensable role in international affairs, and worked strenuously to maintain naval strength and efficiency during a period of severe economic depression. He served at the London Naval Conference in 1930 where he successfully maintained the principle of United States naval parity with Great Britain.

USS Texas (BB-35)Boxing match held on board during Battle Fleet maneuvers off Panama in 1923. View looks aft toward the rear of Turret # 4, which bears a banner reading “U.S.S. Texas … Come On Texas”. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

From the time ship was christened on May 18, 1912 and a motion-picture camera took what was thought to be the first motion pictures of a United States Navy ship-launching through its service as a flagship, on convoy duty and support of the European and Pacific landings through 1945 until its retirement by the Navy in 1946 served the nation well for over a third of a century – all for an original price tag of $1,166,000.00.

Saved from the scrap yard on December 6, 1946, Texas governor Coke R. Stevenson accepted the USS Texas from the United States Navy to be used as a state shrine. In 1948, after more than thirty-four years of naval service, the USS Texas became the nation’s first memorial battleship and a national historic landmark. The ship was permanently moored at the San Jacinto Monument off the Houston Ship Channel.

The business end of the forward batteries as they appear today trained on the Mexican positions at San Jacinto and ready to support some new Houston.

 

I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way… John Paul Jones

The most recent littoral [close to shore] combat ship to join the U. S. Navy, the USS Fort Worth [LC3] was commissioned at Galveston on September 22, 2012 and being capable of in excess of 40 knots she is fast beyond the wildest dreams of John Paul Jones. She is by no means the first Navy ship named for Texas, a Texan or a city in Texas and ever since the Republic of Texas navy, under sail, defeated the Mexican navy – which was steam driven – Texans have crossed the bar from Galveston in fast ships looking for harm’s way. This entry is going to return us to the days of the Great White Fleet and the World War – which is what they called it before they started numbering them – and will tell tales of ships and sailors and Galveston, of how great the ocean is and how small the world is.

In Manila Bay, Philippine Islands, 12 July 1908. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

In the days when Alfred Thayer Mahan’s theories were being implemented to protect the United States we produced protected  cruisers [so known because its armored deck offered protection for vital machine spaces from shrapnel caused by exploding shells above. Protected cruisers were an alternative to the armored cruisers, which also had a belt of armour along the sides], of which more than two-dozen were built or acquired between the mid-1880s and the early 1900s. Twenty-two of these warships received “cruiser numbers”, which were abbreviated “C-1” through “C-22”. In 1920-21 the surviving members of the group received new designations and numbers in the Armored Cruiser (CA), Light Cruiser (CL) and Gunboat (PG) series.

The USS Galveston during a courtesy call at Galveston, Texas with one of John Young’s tugs on the stern.

USS Galveston, a 3200-ton protected cruiser was built at Richmond, Virginia and commissioned in February 1905. During the next eight months she visited Galveston, Texas, crossed the Atlantic to France to participate in the return of the remains of John Paul Jones to the United States, helped host the Russo-Japanese peace conference, and carried State Department representatives to the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Print shows John Paul Jones, half-length portrait, facing slightly right, standing, wearing uniform, holding telescope cradled in right arm, left hand on anchor, with naval battle scene in the background. Library of Congress
The future naval officers, who live within these walls, will find in the career of the man whose life we this day celebrate, not merely a subject for admiration and respect, but an object lesson to be taken into their innermost hearts. . . . Every officer . . . should feel in each fiber of his being an eager desire to emulate the energy, the professional capacity, the indomitable determination and dauntless scorn of death which marked John Paul Jones above all his fellows. President Theodore Roosevelt, in an address to The US Naval Academy, Annapolis on the 24th of April 1906

In late December 1905 the cruiser left the U.S. for service in the Mediterranean and the Far East, where she remained until February 1910. After operating off the U.S. West Coast and in Alaskan waters during 1912-1913, Galveston was back on the Asiatic Station from November 1913 to late 1917.

Galveston next performed World War I convoy escort and training duties in the Atlantic, taking part in an engagement with the German Submarine U-152 while en route to the Azores on the 30th of  September 1918.

U-152 (German Submarine, 1917) Officers, crewmen and a former prisoner of war on the submarine’s foredeck, while she was passing through the Kiel Canal on the way to Harwich, England to be surrendered on the 28th of November 1918. Two U.S. Navy officers, captured when the U-152 sank USS Ticonderoga on the 30th of September 1918, were on board the submarine. One is seen in this photograph, standing third from right, wearing his uniform and a civilian cap. He is Lieutenant Frank L. Muller, USNRF, Ticonderoga’s Executive Officer. The other was Lieutenant (JG) Junius H. Fulcher, USNRF.U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

U-152, a 1512-ton  cruiser-type submarine built at Hamburg as part of Germany’s World War I shipbuilding effort, was commissioned in October 1917. Initially intended as a submersible merchantman for transporting critical war materials through the British blockade, she was converted to a combat ship while under construction. U-152 was actively employed in the Atlantic during the last year of the conflict. Among her victims were two American schooners, Julia Frances (sunk on the 27th of  January 1918) and A.E. Whyland (sunk on 13th of March 1918), the Norwegian bark Stifinder (sunk on 13th of October 1918), and USS Ticonderoga. The latter was sunk, with heavy casualties among her crew and passengers, on 30 September 1918. The submarine also fought a gun battle with USS George G. Henry on 29 September. After returning to Germany in November 1918, at the end of her final wartime cruise, U-152 went to Harwich, England, where she was surrendered to the British. She sank in 1921, while on her way to be scrapped.

U-152 (German Submarine, 1917) Comes alongside its prize, the Norwegian bark Stifinder, on 13 October 1918. The bark was sunk after being captured in the western mid-Atlantic. She appears to be flying a Spanish flag. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

USS Ticonderoga, a 5130 gross ton cargo ship and animal transport, was built at Bremerhaven, Germany in 1914 as the German flag merchant steamer Kamilla Rickmers. Seized by the U.S. Government in 1917, she was renamed Ticonderoga later in that year, turned over to the Navy under charter and placed in commission in early January 1918. Later in that month she loaded cargo and, during February and March, made her initial voyage to France and back. Two more such round-trips followed in May-June and July-September 1918. On the 27th of August, while homeward-bound, she was unsuccessfully attacked by German submarine gunfire.

Captain Nikolaus Dohna-Schlieden of the Kamilla Rickmers when she had called at Galveston for the North German Lloyd line and had been consigned to Young & Company, Stevedores. He had been the guest of the Young family during an extended port stay and presented them with this picture as a memento of his visit. He would go on to command the Moewe, which had been the banana-carrying ship Pungo for Bluefield Bananas, and was one of the most successful German raiders of the World War.

Ticonderoga left New York for her fourth trip to France on the 22nd of September 1918, but experienced machinery problems that caused her to drop behind her convoy during the night of 29-30 September. At about 5:45 in the morning of the 30th, a submarine was spotted ahead. As the ship’s gun crews prepared for action, her Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander James J. Madison, tried to ram the enemy, but narrowly missed. The German, the large and heavily-armed cruiser submarine U-152, opened fire and hit Ticonderoga hard, setting her ablaze, killing several men, temporarily disabling her helm and knocking out her forward gun. With her radio wrecked, she was unable to call for help and had to continue the contest unsupported. Though badly wounded, LCdr. Madison regained his position on the bridge, got the ship under control and turned so her aft 6 inch gun , could bear on the enemy. U-152 submerged, then returned to the surface and resumed the battle. Once Ticonderoga’s aft gun was put out of commission, she was relentlessly pounded by exploding shells from the submarine’s two 15cm (5.9-inch) deck guns.

S.S. Ticonderoga (German-American Freighter, 1914) At Boston, Massachusetts, on the 27th of November 1917. Built in 1914 as the German flag merchant steamer Kamilla Rickmers, and seized when the United States entered World War I, this ship was renamed Ticonderoga in August 1917. She was placed in commission as USS Ticonderoga (ID # 1958) on the 5th of January 1918, and sunk, with the loss of 213 lives, by the German submarine U-152 on the 30th of September 1918. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Casualties among Ticonderoga’s crew and passengers were very heavy. Unable to steer and incapable of fighting back, she was now helpless. U-152 took position off the American ship’s starboard beam and fired a torpedo that hit just aft of her engine room. Ticonderoga began to sink. Most of her lifeboats were full of holes and others swamped on launching, leaving only one boat and a raft for her survivors. As the ship was being abandoned under a white flag, the submarine continued to fire, killing and wounding even more men. After Ticonderoga had sunk, U-152 approached in search of officers, finally capturing her Executive Officer, Lieutenant Frank Muller, and Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Junius Fulcher. The remaining men, among them the gravely injured Lieutenant Commander Madison, were left adrift. After four days, the British freighter Moorish Prince came upon them, rescuing the twenty-two still alive. Those, plus the two officers taken by U-152, were the only survivors of the 237 on board Ticonderoga when the battle began. The dead included 112 U.S. Sailors and 101 Soldiers. This was the greatest combat loss of life on any U.S. Navy ship during the First World War. Only the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa, sunk a few days earlier, had more Naval personnel killed by hostile action. The 309 lost with the collier Cyclops, which disappeared in March 1918, were probably the victims of an accident.

Commander James J. Madison, USNRF Portrait photograph, taken circa 1919, showing him wearing the Medal of Honor (Tiffany Cross. He received the medal for “exceptionally heroic service in a position of great responsibility” while serving as Commanding Officer of USS Ticonderoga on the 30th of September 1918, when she was sunk in combat with the German submarine U-152.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
Medal of Honor citation of Lieutenant Commander James J. Madison, USNRF (as printed in the official publication “Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy”)
“For exceptionally heroic service in a position of great responsibility as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Ticonderoga, when, on 4 October 1918 (sic: actually 30 September 1918), that vessel was attacked by an enemy submarine and was sunk after a prolonged and gallant resistance. The submarine opened fire at a range of 500 yards, the first shots taking effect on the bridge and forecastle, one of the two forward guns of the Ticonderoga being disabled by the second shot. The fire was returned and the fight continued for nearly 2 hours. Lieutenant Commander Madison was severely wounded early in the fight, but caused himself to be placed in a chair on the bridge and continued to direct the fire and to maneuver the ship. When the order was finally given to abandon the sinking ship, he became unconscious from loss of blood, but was lowered into a lifeboat and was saved, with 31 others, out of a total number of 236 on board.”

George G. Henry, a 6936 gross ton (10,500 tons displacement) tanker, was built at San Francisco, California, in 1917. In August 1918 Her owner, the Los Angeles Petroleum Transportation Company, chartered her to the U.S. Navy, which placed her in commission at that time as USS George G. Henry  Late in that month she began her first trans-Atlantic voyage as a Navy ship, taking aviation gasoline and other cargo to France. While returning to the U.S. on 29 September 1918 she engaged in a running gun battle with the German submarine U-152. The tanker was able to escape, although she was hit by one enemy shell and near-missed by others, which set her afire and wounded several crewmen. Later in that trip, on 3 October, George G. Henry collided with and sank USS Herman Frasch . Following repairs, she made four more voyages from the U.S. to France before being decommissioned and returned to her owner in May 1919.

S.S. George G. Henry (American Tanker, 1917)On the morning of her trial trip, on the 3rd of June 1917. Built by the Union Iron Works of San Francisco, California, and owned by the Los Angeles Petroleum Transportation Company, this tanker taken over by the U.S. Navy for World War service and placed in commission on the 23rd of August 1918 as USS George G. Henry. She was returned to her owner on the 21st of May 1919. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Employed commercially under the American flag for the next twenty years, George G. Henry was transferred to Panamanian registry in July 1940 and, in mid-1941, steamed to the western Pacific where she transported fuel between the Dutch East Indies, Borneo, the Philippines, China, and Hong Kong. She was at Manila when Japanese attacks started the Pacific phase of World War II on 8 December 1941 (local date), but was able to escape to Borneo in mid-December. During the next two months, as Japanese forces advanced into the East Indies, she mainly operated in northern and eastern Australian waters, providing fuel oil to Allied warships as they fought fruitlessly against the enemy onslaught.

James Mistrot Young – John Young’s grandson – who would serve on the SS George C. Henry between the wars and would continue his service when she became the USS Victoria  during the Second World War.

In mid-April 1942, after a voyage to Melbourne, George G. Henry was taken over by the U.S. Navy. Soon renamed Victoria (AO-46), she entered active Naval service in November 1942. She served along the Australian east coast until late August 1943, then shifted to New Guinea, where she supported U.S. and Australian operations in that island’s northeastern waters until November. Late in the year Victoria returned to New Guinea and resumed her service there and, on-and-off beginning in April 1944, in the Admiralty Islands. On 2 September 1945, the day of Japan’s formal surrender, the old ship steamed into Manila Bay to begin furnishing fuel to U.S. ships in the Philippines. Following brief air-sea rescue service in mid-October, Victoria went home to the United States, arriving at Mobile, Alabama, in late November. She was decommissioned in December 1945, turned over to the Maritime Commission and, in January 1946, stricken from the list of Navy ships. Recovering the name George G. Henry, she was delivered to the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey in March 1946 and, in April 1948, sold to Panamanian interests.

Rear Admiral Newton A. McCully, USN (center)on board USS Galveston at Novorossisk, Russia, in March 1920. Note caissons for 3-inch landing force guns in the foreground. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

After that lengthy digression we return once again to the USS Galveston. Although Woodrow Wilson may have had the heart and soul of a Bolshevik the United States Senate had not yet been co-opted into the cause of world socialism. While having no affection for Tsarist Russia it had been a brief 20 years since an anarchist had assassinated William McKinley who was one of the most popular presidents of his time. Bolshevik or anarchist was not a distinction made in America in 1919 and we supported  both the White Generals and Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky in an effort to ameliorate the worst effects of the Russian Revolution.  In March 1919 USS Galveston began service in European waters, initially carrying troops to northern Russia. From July 1919 until July 1920 she was station ship at Constantinople. Among her functions there was the transportation of refugees, Red Cross officials and senior officers in the troubled Black Sea region.

USS Galveston (CL-19) Probably at Corinto, Nicaragua, in December 1926 — February 1927, during the Nicaraguan revolution. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Reclassified as a gunboat in July 1920, with the hull number PG-31, Galveston became a light cruiser (CL-19) in August 1921. She operated with the Special Service Squadron in the Caribbean and off Central America for nearly all of the 1920s, landing forces in Nicaragua during that Nation’s revolution in 1926.

View on deck, looking forward from near the stern, probably while she was operating in Central American waters, circa 1924-1927. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Not all of a Naval vessel’s life is spent on diplomatic missions, fighting naval battles or showing the flag and helping allies suppress revolutions. A ship is a community where hundreds of crew members live in close proximity and while they fight shoulder to shoulder when they have to they enjoy the small pleasures of life side by side when they can. One of the time honored traditions of life on board a ship is the ceremonies that accompany the crossing of the equator and generally include some good natured hazing of the crew members who are making their first crossing.

Well-soiled “Polliwogs” showing off, during an Equator crossing ceremony on board Galveston on the 11th of June 1926, while she was en route to Arica, Chile. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

King Neptune’s “Royal Police” with another member of the King’s Court, during an Equator crossing ceremony on board Galveston on the 11th of June 1926, while she was en route to Arica, Chile. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona had not become states when she was launched. In a career that began before there was a Panama Canal and included service with both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets this proud vessel did just about everything that a naval vessel could do. She had to be a source of considerable pride to Galvestonians and Texans as well as the nation and she was intergal to the maritime tradition that includes a merchant marine that serves with the fleet in time of war.

At anchor. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

USS Galveston concluded her two and a half decades of service in early September 1930, when she was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Stricken from the Navy list a few months later, she was sold for scrapping in September 1933. The measure of the ship is the affection her crew has for her and this last picture shows them headed for liberty ashore but they still want the photographer and all who view his picture to know what ship they hail from.

Members of the ship’s crew with one of her motor launches U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

But though they pave the footways here with gold dust I still will choose the Isle of Innisfree

An Irish Jaunting Car

It is my habit to compose these blog entries on Sunday mornings and I had anticipated that they would all be centered on Margaret Edythe Young. Both of these rules will prove a little flexible this week. As I go further into her story I find there is a tremendous need to include material to put her days and works into a context that will make it something more than mere family history and as I discover sources I want to explain where they are from and what they are in order that I may encourage my readers on their own voyages of discovery.

A happy coincidence this week is that today is Independence Day. Her family was Irish, refugees from the Potato Famine and its consequences, but they became Americans. Not hyphenated Americans but proud citizens of a great republic who went on to serve their communities in business, in office and in the armed forces. Although no group has assimilated more thoroughly – or more successfully – into American life no group has clung so tenaciously to its heritage or had that heritage have such a profound impact on their adopted country. Low Back Cart

I have often thought that it was our shared heritage – having to throw off the yoke of English oppression – that gave us so much in common but it is with a tremendous sadness that we look at these pictures of turn of the century Ireland. The United States were close to celebrating the sesquicentennial of their independence and were looking forward like no other nation of the day. Ireland still labored in captivity and even the pictures meant to show rural life at its best betray the poverty of a people left in feudalism to get by in conditions that we condemn in the third world today.

There is the story of the Irishman travelling west through America and when he comes to the Rockies he writes to his brother, “Sean, come quick. They’ve got so much land here they’re stackin’ it up!”, and this feeling of having reached a promised land must have surely delighted the Irish of Galveston as well. It may have been little more than a swamp but it was FREE! and all of Texas and unlimited vistas of freedom opened before them.

Irish Donkey Cart

You have only to consider another American holiday – St. Patrick’s Day – to see how the harp and shamrock are part of the tapestry of liberty. What other holiday, short of Independence Day, brings out such a joyous celebration of the good things that are American? Unless you live in an Italian community you are as likely to think that Columbus Day has Spanish roots [the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria] and you may not even know that he hailed from Genoa. While Ireland may be considered the gentiles Israel – someplace everybody wants to be from but nobody wants to live – being Irish is like being a Texan. The experience is too large for all but the hardiest of souls and the only thing that tempers them is being an American as well. Like my great grandfather I am blessed to be Irish, privileged to be Texan and honored to be an American.

The anchor and north star for the Irish in Galveston were the fraternal organizations and the Church. In an effort to present the communities view of how they imagined Ireland and how they responded to America we have used pictures from a Photographic View Album of Irish Life from Valentine & Sons, Dundee, County Donegal and captioned them with information from Morrison and Fourmy’s General Directory of The City of Galveston 1899-1900 about the fraternal and Church organizations. The city directories are not like our modern phone books. They have the names of many of the residents, their professions, their residence, their office address or employer and a good deal of other information. As you will see from other data we have collected from the directory they are very good sources of information.

A Blackthorn Seller

The Spinning Wheel

The advertisements in the directories are a social history unto themselves. I have, for instance, learned that J. J. Schott, Druggist, could  have sold me Pal-Pinto Water that cured rheumatism, jaundice, diseases of the prostate gland and liver troubles – thank Heaven he was open all night! The Marx Brothers were neither a vaudeville act nor movie stars – they were shoemen who sold snappy styles in up-to-date footwear. B. A. Cook, the grocer, sold California wines and brandies and both wholesale and retail butterine – I think he missed out on the chance to advertise that your cook could be your grocer. Richard Helms sold and did first-class repair work on bicycles, E. A. Joseph & Company could supply hats, caps and umbrellas and Wm. Schadt could furnish you with mantels and grates and all your building needs. The ads are a unique window on a past world.

The indispensable source for Galveston history is the Rosenberg Library. In particular the Galveston and Texas History Center of the library has fantastic online resources – I have used their list below to indicate people lost in the 1900 Storm. The Center, on the third floor of the library, has some of the most professional – and kindest – research librarians that you will ever encounter. When I began this project nearly 20 years ago my first stop was the Rosenberg. Now I am there online at least once a day and find a reason to be there in person at least once a week – you never know when you will chance on your own Rosetta Stone.

Carrying Turf

Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division No. 1 of Galveston – organized March 5, 1895, Membership 75. Meet 1st Tuesday, 3rd Sunday of each month at St. Patrick’s Hall. Owen Byrne, president   Peter Morris, vice-president   Michael Hefferman, recording secretary   M. F. Collerain, financial secretary   P. W. Collerain, treasurer   Mike McCormack, the current AOH National Historian, related to us recently in an email, when a devastating storm in December, 1900 killed 8,000 people in Galveston and left thousands homeless, the AOH was among the first to assist. A letter from the Dallas County President sent to the AOH National Board read in part: Hardly had the storm spent the mad fury of its force when your grand old order came with ample assistance to alleviate the suffering of the wounded and relieve the distress of the homeless. 

Emmet Benevolent Association, Branch No. 54 – organized March 4, 1878, Incorporated January 1, 18979, Membership 100, Meet 1st and 3rd Friday of each month at Temple of Honor Hall. M. F. Collerain, president   Martin Kelly, vice-president   Pat Barry, treasurer   P. J. Studdert, recording secretary   M. Hefferman, financial secretary   G. O’Shaughnessy, John Smith, Wm. Murphy, trustees.

Tea Party

St. Patrick’s Branch, No. 522, Catholic Knights of America – organized January 3, 1888, Membership 31. Meet 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month at their hall NE corner of 35th and  Avenue K. Rev. J. T. Nicolson, Spiritual Director   W. N. Ray, president [the entire Ray family perished in the 1900 Storm]  Geo. Stenzel, recording secretary   J. H. Milan, financial secretary and treasurer [Milan’s wife and four children – aged 1, 2, 3 & 4 perished in the 1900 Storm]  R. Echavarrie, sergeant-at-arms     J. J. Carroll, sentinel   The objective of the organization was to, “promote friendship, unity, and true Christian charity among its members; friendship in assisting each other by every honorable means; unity, in associating together for mutual support of one another when sick or in distress, and in making suitable provision for widows, orphans and dependents of deceased members; true Christian charity, in doing unto each other as we would have others do unto us.”

St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum– on Galveston beach 4 miles west of Tremont Street. Under the supervision of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. Mother Gabriel, Superior [There were 90 children and 10 nuns lost here in the 1900 Storm] There was no Child Protective Services in 1900 and the care of foundlings was left to orphanages however in Galveston there was an additional charge to keep for these institutions. Many of the seaman who came from Galveston, or who lived there between voyages that could last six months to two years, had families without the benefit of clergy. They lived with their wives and children when they were in port but when they went back to sea their wives might return to work in saloons or for pennies on Post Office street and their children would be left with the sisters – visited by their mothers in a safe environment and restored to their families when their father’s returned. Progress has done away with such institutions.

St. Patricks

Altar Society of  St. Patrick’s Church – organized 1875. Membership 100. Meet 1st Sunday of each month 4 p.m. Rev. C. J. G. Lowery, spiritual director   Mrs. E. M. MacInerney, president   Mrs. M. Bailey, vice-president [the entire Bailey family – husband, wife and three children – aged 1, 2 & 3 perished in the 1900 Storm]   Mrs. C. S. Ott, secretary   Mrs. D. Fahey, treasurer

Children of Mary of  St. Patrick’s Church – Membership 60. Meet 3rd Sunday of each month 4 p.m., at girls’ school.  Rev. C. J. G. Lowery, spiritual director   Miss M. McKenna, prefect [Joseph Patrick McKenna, his wife and two children as well as Patrick Joseph McKenna and his two children perished in the 1900 Storm]

The Daughters of Erin of  St. Patrick’s Church – organized 1898.  Membership 60. Meet 4th Tuesday of each month 4 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Hall.  Rev. C. J. G. Lowery, spiritual director   Mrs. P. Collerain, president

League of the Sacred Heart of  St. Patrick’s Church – organized 1892.  Membership 150. Meet 1st Friday of each month at the church.  Rev. C. J. G. Lowery, spiritual director   Miss Mary Graney, secretary

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church – NW corner of 34th and Avenue K.   Rev. Father C. J. G. Lowery, pastor   Rev. John T. Nicholson, assistant   Services: Mass 6 and 8 a.m. High Mass and sermon 10 a.m.   Cathecism 9 a.m.   Vespers 7:30 p.m.

Holy Rosary Industrial and Day School – NW corner of Sealy Avenue and Avenue I. Industrial school for girls and day school for boys and girls under the direction of the Sisters of the Holy Family.

St. Patrick’s Parochial School – SW corner of 34 street and Avenue K. Day school for boys and girls under the direction of the Ursuline Ladies.

An Irish Village

University of St. Mary – Southside of Sealy Avenue [Avenue I between 13th and 14 streets] A complete collegiate and commercial school for boys and young men. Under the management of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus.   Rev. Father Amadeus Guyol,  S. J. president and rector   Rev. V. Jouannet, S. J.   Rev. Thomas J. O’Callaghan, S. J.   Rev. A. Blatter, S. J.   assistant pastors   Rev. Geo. A. Rittmeyer, S. J. professor of rhetoric and humanities   Rev. Michael Kenny, S. J. professor of grammar   Rev. Leo Dowling, S. J.   Rev.  A.  B.  Cooke,  S. J.   Rev. Paul E. Elfer, S. J.   Rev. Emil Baher,  S. J.   Rev. John McGhee, S. J.  professors of languages

Ursuline Convent – South side of Avenue N between 25th and 27th Streets. Boarding and day school for young ladies. Under the direction of the Daughters of St. Angeli di Merici [Ursuline Ladies] Mother St. Agnes, superioress, 40 assistants. The nuns at the convent began tolling the bell when the 1900 Storm stuck to guide people to the safety of the Academy building – after the storm some 1,500 people were found there having been saved by the refuge.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the Catholic church presence in Galveston of 1900 there are at least  two dozen more including the Cathedral. It was selected for the interest of the Irish of the city at that time and especially for the impact on Margaret Edith Young and her family. In addition to the Catholics there were two Jewish congregations including B’nai Israel where Rabbi Cohen presided, a Russian Greek Orthodox church, a Seaman’s Bethel and too many protestant churches to enumerate. As the story continues we will return time and again to these institutions, especially the Ursuline Academy that in 1900 offered two five month terms, tuition $100.00 per term, music and art classes extra!