USS Connecticut (BB 18) WWI Navy Battleship 1907 Historical Poster Print
USS Connecticut (BB-18), the fourth United States Navy ship to be named after the state of Connecticut, was the lead ship of her class of six battleships. Her keel was laid on 10 March 1903; launched on 29 September 1904, Connecticut was commissioned on 29 September 1906, as the most advanced ship in the US Navy.
Connecticut served as the flagship for the Jamestown Exposition in mid-1907, which commemorated the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown colony. She later sailed with the Great White Fleet on a circumnavigation of the Earth to showcase the US Navy's growing fleet of blue-water-capable ships. After completing her service with the Great White Fleet, Connecticut participated in several flag-waving exercises intended to protect American citizens abroad until she was pressed into service as a troop transport at the end of World War I to expedite the return of American Expeditionary Forces from France.
For the remainder of her career, Connecticut sailed to various places in both the Atlantic and Pacific while training newer recruits to the Navy. However, the provisions of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty stipulated that many of the older battleships, Connecticut among them, would have to be disposed of, so she was decommissioned on 1 March 1923, and sold for scrap on 1 November 1923.
The design that evolved into the Connecticut-class battleship was conceived on 6 March 1901, when Secretary of the Navy John Davis Long asked the Board on Construction for a study of future battleship designs. When this was completed, different bureaus supported different designs.
The Board on Construction favored a ship on which 6-inch (152 mm) and 8-inch (203 mm) guns would be replaced by 24 newly designed 7-inch (178 mm) guns, which were the most powerful guns with shells that could be handled by one person. In addition, the ships would mount twenty-four 3-inch (76 mm) anti-torpedo boat guns. The main armor would be thinner overall because it would be distributed over the entire length. The Board's favored design would result in a ship weighing 15,560 long tons (15,810 t) displacement.
The Bureau of Construction and Repair, however, proposed a modified Virginia-class battleship with sixteen 8-inch guns, twelve in turrets and four in casemates; the casemate guns were later eliminated, leaving twelve 8-inch, twelve 6-inch, and eight 3-inch guns on a ship of 15,860 long tons (16,110 t). This design was later rejected because the reduction in anti-torpedo boat guns was too drastic.
Although one of the two designs had been rejected, the debate did not end. In November, the Board decided on a different plan, with eight 8-inch guns mounted in four waist turrets and 12 7-inch guns. This arrangement was chosen because the 8-inch gun could penetrate medium armor on battleships, and the 7-inch gun was capable of rapid fire. The new design also had heavier armor and a thicker belt than the first design. Two ships of this plan, Connecticut and Louisiana, were authorized on 1 July 1902, and three more were added on 2 March 1903: Vermont, Kansas, and Minnesota. New Hampshire was authorized on 27 April 1904.
Connecticut was ordered on 1 July 1902. On 15 October 1902, she was awarded to the New York Naval Shipyard. She was laid down on 10 March 1903, and launched on 29 September 1904. She was sponsored by Miss Alice B. Welles, granddaughter of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy during the American Civil War. A crowd of over 30,000 people attended the launch, as did many of the Navy's ships. The battleships Texas, Massachusetts, Iowa, Kearsarge, Illinois, Alabama, Maine, and Missouri were at the ceremony, along with the protected cruisers Columbia and Minneapolis and the auxiliary cruiser Prairie.
Three attempts to sabotage the ship were discovered in 1904. On 31 March, rivets on the keel plates were found bored through. On 14 September, a 1 3⁄8 in (35 mm) bolt was found driven into the launching way, where it protruded some 5 in (130 mm). Shortly after Connecticut was launched on 29 September, a 1 in (25 mm) diameter hole was discovered drilled through a 5⁄8 in (16 mm) steel keel plate. The ship's watertight compartments and pumps prevented her from sinking, and all damage was repaired. The incidents prompted the Navy to post armed guards at the shipyard, and an overnight watch was kept by a Navy tug manned by Marines who had orders to shoot to kill any unauthorized person attempting to approach the ship.
As Connecticut was only 55% complete when she was launched, missing most of her upper works, protection, machinery and armament, it was two years before Connecticut was commissioned on 29 September 1906. Captain William Swift was the first captain of the new battleship. Connecticut sailed out of New York for the first time on 15 December 1906, becoming the first ship in the US Navy to ever go to sea without a sea trial. She first journeyed south to the Virginia Capes, where she conducted a variety of training exercises; this was followed by a shakedown cruise and battle practice off Cuba and Puerto Rico. During the cruise, she participated in a search for the missing steamer Ponce.
Commissioning ceremonies for Connecticut, 29 September 1906
On 13 January 1907, Connecticut ran onto a reef while entering the harbor at Culebra Island. The Navy did not release any information about the grounding until press dispatches from San Juan, carrying news of the incident reached the mainland on 23 January. Even then, Navy authorities in San Juan claimed to be ignorant of the situation, and, that same day, the Navy Department itself said that they only knew that Captain Swift thought she had touched bottom and that an examination of the ship's bottom by divers had revealed no damage. The Navy amended this the next day, releasing a statement that Connecticut had been only slightly damaged and had returned to her shakedown cruise. However, damage to the ship was much more serious than the Navy admitted; in contrast to an official statement saying that Connecticut had only "touched" the rocks, she actually had run full upon the reef when traversing "a course well marked with buoys" in "broad daylight" and did enough damage to probably require a dry docking. This apparent attempt at a cover-up was enough for the United States Congress to consider an official inquiry into the matter.
On 21 March, the Navy announced that Swift would be court-martialed for "through negligence, causing a vessel to run upon a rock" and "neglect of duty in regard to the above". Along with the officer of the deck at the time of the accident, Lieutenant Harry E. Yarnell, Swift faced a court martial of seven rear admirals, a captain, and a lieutenant. He was sentenced to one year's suspension from duty, later reduced to nine months; after about six months, the sentence was remitted on 24 October. However, he was not assigned command of another ship.
Connecticut on her speed trials in 1906 or 1907. The boat taking this photo is about to be swamped by the bow wave emanating from the battleship.
Connecticut steamed back to Hampton Roads after this, arriving on 16 April; when she arrived, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans, commander of the Atlantic Fleet, transferred his flag from Maine to Connecticut, making her the flagship of the fleet. President Theodore Roosevelt opened the Jamestown Exposition on 25 April, and Connecticut was named as the official host of the vessels that were visiting from other countries. Sailors and marines from the ship took part in various events ashore, and foreign dignitaries, along with the governors of Virginia and Rhode Island, were hosted aboard the ship on 29 April. Evans closed the Exposition on 4 May, on the quarterdeck of Connecticut. On 10 June, Connecticut joined in the Presidential Fleet Review; she left three days later for an overhaul in the New York Naval Yard. After the overhaul, Connecticut conducted maneuvers off Hampton Roads, and target practice off Cape Cod. She was ordered back to the New York Naval Yard, once again on 6 September, for a refit that would make her suitable for use as flagship of the Great White Fleet.
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