USS Minnesota

USS Minnesota BB-22

Displacement: 16,000 Normal, Full Load 17,650 Length at the water line: 456'4" Beam. 76'10" Draft: 24'6" (mean) Speed: 18 kts. Complement: 42 Officers, 838 Enlisted. Armament as built 1907: See notes below. Armour, (Krupp): 9" Belt (amidships), 4" Belt (ends), 3" Deck (slopes), 7" Lower deck side, 10" Barbettes, 12" Turrets, 7" Battery, 2" Casemates, 6" Small Turrets, 9" Conning Tower, 5" Director Station (near Conning Tower). Machinery: 2 sets of Newport News vertical 4 cylinder triple expansion engines. 2 screws (outward turning). Boilers: 12 Babcock. Designed H. P. 16,500 at 18 kts. Coal: normal 900 tons maximum 2420 tons Class: Kansas

Armament as built 1907:
Main: (4) 12"/45 cal. Turrets, (8) 8"/45 cal. Turrets, (12) 7"/45 cal. Broadside Battery
Secondary: (20) 3"/50 cal., (4) 1 pdr. (12) 3 pdr., (4) .30 cal.
Torpedo Tubes: (4) 21" submerged

Main: (4) 12"/45 cal. Turrets, (8) 8"/45 cal. Turrets, (12) 7"/45 cal. Broadside Battery
Secondary: (18) 3"/50 cal., (4) 1 pdr., (12) 3 pdr., (4) .30 cal.
Torpedo Tubes: (4) 21" submerged

Main: (4) 12"/45 cal. Turrets, (8) 8"/45 cal. Turrets, (12) 7"/45 cal. Broadside Battery
Secondary: (4) 3"/50 cal., (4) 1 pdr., (12) 3 pdr., (4) .30 cal.
Torpedo Tubes: (4) 21" submerged

(4) 12"/45 cal. Turrets, (8) 8"/45 cal. Turrets
Secondary: (6) 3"/50 cal., (2) 3"/50 AA, (4) 1 pdr., (12) 3 pdr., (4) .30 cal.
Torpedo Tubes: (4) 21" submerged

Main: (4) 12"/45 cal. Turrets, (8) 8"/45 cal. Turrets
Secondary: (12) 3"/50 cal., (2) 3"/50 AA, (4) 1 pdr., (12) 3 pdr., (4) .30 cal.
Torpedo Tubes: (4) 21" submerged

An undated photo of the Minnesota but she is shown with her two cage style masts so this dates this photo to after 1911.

The second Minnesota’s keel was laid down by the Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Virginia, on October 27, 1903. The Minnesota’s hull was launched on April 8, 1905, being sponsored by Miss Rose Marie Schaller. The new Armored Cruiser was formerly commissioned into the United States Navy on March 9, 1907, with Captain John Hubbard in command. Following her shakedown off the New England coast, Minnesota was assigned to duty in connection with the Jamestown Exposition, Jamestown, Virginia, from April 22 to September 3, 1907.

A view of the Minnesota's bridge showing her forward 12-inch main gun. She has letters that spell her name on her bridge. These were lighted letters and at night during public events she would turn them on showing her name to all who could see. This photo is not identified but clearly can be seen her original fore-mast, which is not the cage style of her later years. This with the fact that the letters appear on her bridge dates this to the time of the Great White Fleet days of 1908-1909. On her decks can been seen several civilian visitors among who is at least one lady standing on the left side with a man in a derby hat and walking cane or umbrella.

A horrible and mysterious accident killed 11 midshipmen and sailors from the Minnesota and Connecticut on Monday evening June 10, 1907. Both battleships had been in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area to help participate in the Jamestown Exposition. Evidently, the 11 men were heading back to their ships aboard a steam launch from the Minnesota just after midnight Monday evening. The sailors from the Minnesota steam launch did not return to the ship and have not been seen since. The seas were rough and some think a wave overturned the craft. Others think a tug pulling a barge plowed into the small boat. In any case, no bodies have been found, only some caps, capes and clothing belonging to the men and a torn awning from the launch.

By Wednesday June 12, more facts of the disaster in Hampton Roads on Monday night were being uncovered. The results of the Minnesota’s launch sinking caused the drowning of 11 navy men. The dead included six midshipmen, returning from an army and navy ball, at the Jamestown exposition, and five seamen, crew of the steam-launch. The sinking resulted from the launch being run down by a tug towing a coal barge, and owing to the darkness did not see the launch from the Minnesota.

Also that same day Rear Admiral Evans, Commander-in-Chief of the fleet sends a dispatch to the Navy Department informing them that the sinking killed six young midshipmen fresh from Annapolis, and the crew of the motor-launch, a boatswain and four enlisted men. His dispatch read in part, “A ditty box belonging to the fireman of the Minnesota's missing launch has been picked up near berth No. 47, and I am forced to conclude that the launch with all on board is lost. I have ordered a board of investigation. Steamer last seen at exposition pier about midnight last night.”

The Acting Secretary of the Navy, Truman H. Newberry sent telegrams to the relatives notifying them of the disappearance of the Minnesota's launch. Following are the facts regarding the next of kin and other details so far as known at the navy department:

The midshipmen:

Phillip H. Field was born in Alberamrle County, Virginia, January 3, 1885, and is the son of Wm. C. Field, of Denver, Colo. He graduated from the naval academy in 1906 and was appointed to that institution from Colorado on recommendation of Senator Patterson.

William Hollister Stevenson, of Newbern, North Carolina, is the son of M. B. Stevenson. He graduated in 1906.

Franklin Portens Holcomb, born at Newcastle, Delaware, son of Thomas Holcomb, a clerk in the comptroller’s office at the treasury department and brother of Lieutenant Thomas Holcomb, of the U. S. Marine Corps. He was appointed to the naval academy as a cadet at large from Delaware on the recommendation of Representative Houston. He graduated in February of 1907.

Herbert Leander Holden, son of Susan A. Holden, of Portage, Wisconsin, was born in Chicago, May 6, 1885, and was appointed from Wisconsin on the recommendation of Representative Adams. He graduated in February of 1907.

Henry Clay Murfin, Jr., son of Henry Clay Murfin, of Jackson, Ohio, was born in that city January 1, 1885. He was appointed to the academy from Ohio at the instance of Representative Morgan. He graduated in February of 1907.

Walter Carl Ulrich, son of Carl Ulrich, of Milwaukee, born at La Crosse, Wisconsin, April 10, 1884. He was appointed to the academy at the instant of Representative Otjen and graduated in February of 1907.

The crew of the Minnesota’s steam-launch:

Seaman, Robert H. Dodson, next of kin, father, E. F. Dodson, 158 West Eighty-Fourth Street, New York.

Coal Passer, Jesse Conn, next of kin, father, J. C. Conn, 2824 Cleveland Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky.

Boatswain, Frank R. Plumber, next of kin, mother, Eada Kitchen, of Mabton, Washington.

Ordinary Seaman, Harley L. VanDorne, next of kin, father, C. L. VanDorne, 318 Sixth avenue west, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Fireman, First Class, George Westphal, next of kin, sister, Mrs. C. B. Harding of Meenab, Wisconsin.

The conclusion was reached at the Navy Department that either on account of the lateness of the hour of the return trip the Minnesota's launch in her haste, had been driven hard into the heavy sea that prevailed in Hampton Roads at the time, or had been run down by one of the giant tramp steamers that make use of the roads as a refuge in time of storm.

Lieutenant Randall, USMC, who was included in the first list of the missing, has arrived in Norfolk. He did not take passage on the Minnesota’s steam-launch, as had been supposed, having missed the launch and remained over night at a hotel. While the launch carried a good-sized party, no one has been found who can say exactly how many occupants the launch contained. The men in the launch, according to those who saw it leave the dock, were said to be in high spirits after an evening of dancing. How the launch, with so many airtight compartments, could have been lost is yet a matter of speculation at the Navy Department. One theory is that it was run into and cut in half by a passing vessel, which may have passed completely over the unfortunate occupants, and the second theory is that the boiler in the launch exploded, tearing up the launch and killing the occupants.

Eight days after the accident on June 18, only eight bodies had been recovered. Only Midshipman Henry C. Murfin, and Seaman Plumber and Conn’s bodies had not been recovered at that time.

By the 19th of June all but Midshipman Henry Clay Murfin, Jr. had not been recovered. Just as the battleships Ohio, Iowa, Maine, and Indiana sailed from Hampton Roads on June 19th for the Southern target ranges an order was posted from the flagship aboard each battleship offering a reward of $50 for the recovery of the body of Midshipman Murfin.

Four days after the accident after a long exhausting search with the use of dredgers from launches from the battleships Ohio and Iowa the sunken Minnesota’s launch was discovered in 27-feet of water near Fort Wool, two-miles from the pier from which it left.

Divers from the USS Indiana went down to observe the launch at 5 o'clock on the afternoon of June 14 and found a piece of towline across the crushed in canopy of the launch. The divers also reported that the heads and arms of three of the men who were still in the launch were protruding from beneath the canvas covering. It appeared that these men made a desperate fight for life when they were carried down trapped inside.

The officers who found the sunken launch surmised that the Minnesota launch when it left the pier Monday night would have started off for the USS Connecticut to put Midshipman Holcomb aboard being that was his ship. It was guessed that the launch was run down somewhere between a point where she would have started to cross the main channel and the battleship Connecticut. Sure enough this theory was correct and that was where they found the sunken launch. It was then that the tug Crisfield coming from Cape Charles was discovered to be in the exact area at the time. It was surmised that as the launch approached the towline from the Crisfield it ran under the towline pinning the smaller launch from escape and then subsequently hit the square bow of the barge thereby rolling it under the hull of the barge. This would have in effect quickly mashed the launch into the depths and rolled it along the length of the barge until it had completely run over it, giving the men in the barge no chance of escape.

On the morning of June 15 at daylight divers again went down to raise the craft. On the surface were two floating derricks to which the divers attached cables. As far as the divers could tell the hull of the launch was not damaged, only the canopy frame was crushed in. This indicated that a collision with a tug bow did not take place supporting the theory that it rolled under the square bow of the barge while stuck under the towline.

By June 20 a Naval Board of Investigation had been started and found that the steam-launch from the Minnesota somehow tangled into a steel hawser from the Tug Crisfield that was at the time towing a barge carrying a number of loaded freight cars from Cape Charles to Norfolk.

The findings from the Naval Board stated that no criminal responsibility was charged to the officers of the Crisfield who did not know they had fouled the Minnesota’s launch that evening. Upon recovery of the launch from the bottom of the bay it was found that the machinery was intact showing that she had not broken down and floundered uncontrolled. Naval officials concluded that the sinking was not due to un-seaworthiness but due to some sort of collision.

The recovered steam launch of the Minnesota that killed 11 Midshipmen and Sailors in the early morning hours of June 11, 1907.

According to an article in the 18 July 1907 edition of The Washington Post it was reported that there were many desertions from some of the navy ships in the Hampton Roads area. It was reported there were as many as 100 desertions from the Minnesota alone. The article reads: Norfolk, VA 17 July 1907. "There are wholesale desertions from warships at Hampton Roads is indicated by the statement that in the past few weeks 100 deserters have been listed and advertised from the battleship Minnesota alone. The local police yesterday were notified of 15 desertions. The lists are coming in daily. It was stated at the Navy Department last night that there was no official information there regarding wholesale desertions from the Minnesota. Captain Hubbard, of the Minnesota, was at the Navy Department yesterday, but made no report on the subject. The department has several times investigated reports regarding desertions at that port, but, according to the department, without finding the situation very serious."

On 16 December 1907 Minnesota departed Hampton Roads as one of the 16 battleships sent by President Theodore Roosevelt on a voyage around the world, more commonly known as the cruise of the “Great White Fleet.” In 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt, for reasons of national prestige and to test the ability of the American Navy to respond to potential crises in the Pacific, decided to dispatch the battleships of the Atlantic Fleet on what became an around-the-world cruise. The voyage, regarded by President Roosevelt as a dramatic gesture to the Japanese-who had only recently emerged on the world stage as a power to be reckoned with-proved to be a signal success, with the ships performing so well as to confound the doomsayers who had predicted a fiasco. This force, the largest concentration of American naval power sent to the Pacific to that time, was known as the Great White Fleet, due to the soon-to-be-discarded practice of painting American warships with White hulls and Spar colored upper structures. Commanded by Rear Admiral Robley Evans, the last Civil War veteran on active naval duty, the fleet of battleships, along with a torpedo flotilla and some auxiliaries, sailed from Hampton Roads in December 1907, arriving in San Francisco the next May after traveling around South America.

As the Minnesota steamed out to sea with the fleet there was under Captain Hubbard’s command was a young officer who had graduated from the Naval Academy in 1903. This officer was named Harold Rainsford Stark and he would serve aboard the Minnesota through out the entire cruise of the fleet. Stark would rise through the ranks of the navy to at the height of his career would become a Rear Admiral. Before America entered into WWII Stark became Chief of Naval Operations, with the rank of Admiral. In that position, he oversaw the great expansion of the Navy during 1940-41, its involvement in an undeclared war against German submarines in the Atlantic during the latter part of 1941 and the combat operations against Japan and the European Axis Powers that began in December 1941. Admiral Harold R. Stark died on 21 August 1972 after a career of over 43-years on active service.

The fleet arrived in San Francisco on May 6, 1908 from Magdalena Bay, Mexico for a huge celebration hosted by the City of San Francisco. As each ship passed Fort Point it fired a 21-gun salute, which was answered with a salute from land. Crowds flocked to San Francisco to see the fleet and on May 8th 1908 "The Great Naval Parade" was held in San Francisco. Standing on the decks of the Minnesota was a young junior officer by the name of Raymond Spruance and another fellow junior officer serving on the USS Kansas was William Halsey both Spruance and Halsey were to play major roles in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Approximately 14,000 sailors made up the crews of the ships of the Great White Fleet. During the voyage, 300 sailors deserted their ships. More sailors deserted in California than anywhere else. More than 200 of the deserting sailors stayed behind to marry local girls and so the postcard that claims that "California Captured the Atlantic Fleet in 1908" has some merit.

An undated photo of a burial at sea from the after quarter deck of the Minnesota. Note the line of Battleships behind the Minnesota. They are painted in the "Spar and White" colors that the fleet was painted
during the cruise of the Great White Fleet, so this may date the photo sometime during 1908-09.

The photo on the right shows a view of the Minnesota's stern showing her 12-inch after turret. This photo was taken when the Great White Fleet visited Sydney, Australia in August of 1908. During the visit the ships of the fleet were opened to visitors and the Minnesota's decks are crowded with many curious "Aussies"

Russell Witherow who today lives in Australia was looking into his family history and in the family stories there is one of a man referred to only as "J. Witherow" who supposedly jumped ship from the Minnesota while she was in Australia. In further investigating this story there is a name that appears on a list of sailors from the Great White Fleet, Atlantic Fleet bound for the Pacific 16 December 1907. On this list a name of "J. E. Withrow" appears from the USS Minnesota. So it can be guessed that these two names of "J. Witherow" and "J. E. Withrow" could be one in the same man. There is a difference in spelling of the last names but they are so close and one could imagine that the spelling on the 16 December 1907 list may not be correct.

Additionally there is an article in the Thursday Evening edition of the Oakland Tribune for August 27, 1908 newspaper, which details how that when the Great White Fleet was visiting Sydney, Australia there were over 80 sailors who missed their ships when the fleet sailed from Sydney bound for Melbourne. It was said that due to the large number of sailors who missed their ships that they would not be charged as deserters and would be listed as accidental. Later that day 50 of the sailors were embarked on the Yankton and ferried to Melbourne to meet up with their ships. This may have been the event that was spoken about in the Russell Witherow family stories.

Nothing more about the "J. E. Withrow" from the 16 December list is known, but there are two names that could match this listing. One is a John Withrow who was listed as a prisoner serving sentence at the Folsom State Prison in California in April of 1910. This man was born about 1872 in California and he could have been the "J. E. Withrow" listed from the Minnesota. He would have been old enough and if he was caught as a deserter he may have served his sentence in Folsom. Or there is a second man named James B. Withrow listed as a sailor on the USS Stockton in 1920. This man was born in Indiana about 1882 and was a storekeeper aboard the Stockton. Being that he was a single man and serving in the navy and could have been old enough in 1908 to be in the navy so this also could be the "J. E. Withrow" from the 16 December list. It will never be known for sure who this man was but it is very likely that the "J. E. Withrow" from the 16 December list and the story from Russell Witherow about "J. Witherow" are one in the same.

In San Francisco Admiral Evans, in reality too ill to have even sailed with the fleet, turned over command, first to Rear Admiral Charles Thomas for a week, then to Rear Admiral Charles Sperry. On July 7, 1908 the fleet was reassembled under the command of Rear Admiral Charles Sperry and bid farewell to San Francisco and departed for Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii and then to New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, China, and, most notably, Japan before returning to the US in February 1909 via Ceylon, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean. The cruise began eight days before Christmas of 1907, and ended on Washington's Birthday, 22 February 1909. During the course of the voyage, the ships called at ports along both coasts of South America; on the west coast of the United States; at Hawaii; in the Philippines; Japan; China; and in Ceylon.

During October of 1908 Minnesota was anchored in Manila Bay, Philippines. While aboard the Minnesota on November 4, 1908, Fireman Second Class John Henry Clear is badly scalded by steam in an accident in the engine room of the ship. He is rushed ashore to the Naval Hospital in Canacao, Philippines but died of his burns on November 9, 1908.

The Minnesota was flagship of the Third Division with Captain Hubbard still in command. The Third Division was under the command of Rear Admiral Charles Thomas. The other three Battleships in the Third Division were the USS Maine, USS Missouri and the USS Ohio. On the return leg of the cruise Minnesota was shifted into the First Division under the command of Rear Admiral Charles Sperry, along with the battleships Connecticut (Flagship), Kansas and Vermont.

Returning from her world cruise in 1909, Minnesota resumed operations with the Atlantic Fleet. In early 1910 she underwent some refitting and her original foremast was replaced with the newer cage style foremast leaving her aft-mast in the original form, as well as her superstructure was modified. It would not be until the next year in 1911 that her original aft-mast was removed and replaced with the cage style mast. Also during her 1910 re-fit she was completely repainted from the Great White Fleet colors of Spar and White to the standard Navy Gray paint. During the next three years she operated primarily along the east coast, with one brief deployment to the English Channel.

On 31 October 1911 Secretary of the Navy Meyer reviewed 102 Naval vessels in New York harbor, which was the largest assemblage of United States warships reviewed at that time. The crowd assembled to look at the great warships numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Each ship was decked out with all the trimmings and each sailor was dressed in his whites making quite a sight to the onlookers. The Minnesota was one of the 17 battleships there that day along with the cruisers Washington and North Carolina.

In 1912, her employment schedule began to involve her more in inter-American affairs. During the first half of that year she cruised in Cuban waters and was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, from June 7-22, to support actions aimed at establishing order during the Cuban insurrection.

The following spring and summer 1913 she cruised in Mexican waters. Life was somewhat mundane during her Mexican duty as recorded by her logs. On 11 June 1913 Minnesota was anchored in a Mexican harbor with the USS Idaho. During the day the Idaho left the harbor for sub-caliber target practice. The Division Commander inspected the boats of the Minnesota, under oar and sail. Red Cross relief steamer Mexicano sailed with American refugees for Tempico and Galveston. Thursday the 12th of June the Minnesota held general quarters drill and the mail left via the French steamer Respangne and Ward-Line steamer Esperania. On Friday the crew preformed routine maintenance and painting and the mail was received. Saturday the ship and her crew were inspected by her Commanding Officer. Later in the day a recreation party landed at Sacrifacio Island. The crew of the Minnesota was invited to a smoker on board the German cruiser Bremen, which was enjoyed very much by those who attended from the Minnesota. On Sunday the 15 of June, the German cruiser Bremen left the harbor for Trinidad. More sailing and swimming parties from the Minnesota landed at Verile and Sacrifacio Islands. Monday the 16th, routine maintenance and painting was again the duty of the day. Minnesota sent her mail via Hamburg-American line steamer. The next day on the 17th of June 1913 brought continuous rain from midnight throughout the day. The most exciting thing that happened all week long was a small fire on board when the lead from the wireless aerial burned out. Fire-quarters were sounded and the ships crew put out the fire quickly.

In 1914, Minnesota under command of Captain Edward Simpson, USN, twice returned to Mexican waters (January 26 to August 7 and October 11 to December 19) as that country continued in the throes of political turmoil. On January 21, a battalion of marines, consisting of 11 officers and 387 enlisted men, under the command of Major Smedly D. Butler, U.S.M.C., stationed at Panama, reported on board the U.S.S. Minnesota at Cristobal, Canal Zone and sailed the same day for Vera Cruz, Mexico, where the Minnesota arrived on January 26, 1914. The Marine battalion participated in the occupation of Vera Cruz and in the engagement actions that followed. The battalion was designated as the Third Battalion, Second Advance Base Regiment, and was detached for duty with the U.S. Army, April 30, 1914. While in the Canal Zone on March 7, 1914 the Minnesota became the first warship to tie up at the newly finished government docks in Colon where she loaded 600 marines bound for Mexican waters. The landing force from the Minnesota that landed from April 22 through June 20, 1914 was under command of Lt. R. R. Adams.

For her service on station in Mexican waters the crew of the Minnesota is entitled to wear the Mexican Service Medal for the following service dates:

April 12-May 29, 1914
July 29-August 7, 1914
October 11-November 26, 1914

In 1915, Minnesota resumed east coast operations, with occasional cruises to the Caribbean area, which she continued until November 1916 when she became flagship, Reserve Force, Atlantic Fleet. During this time she was under the command of Captain Casey B. Morgan and his Executive Officer was Lt. Commander Thomas C. Hart.

In early February 1915, the Minnesota was at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and on February 20 her Liberty parties had returned to the ship. Captain Morgan had orders to steam south to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and he had his crew making all preparations to get underway. There were many visitors on the dock to wish the boys on the Minnesota a bon voyage. The ship pulled away from the dock at 1:28 pm and stood down the Delaware River. Later, after having navigated down the river, they dropped off the local pilot at 9:00 that evening.

February 21, the the Minnesota is at sea, steaming southerly along the coast. But as the first day turns into the second day at sea the Minnesota begins to roll heavily due to the increasing heavy ground swells of the ocean. On Feburary 23, the third day out she is still at sea. Routine drills and exercises filled the day aboard ship.

February 24 the Minnesota was still at sea. The day again was filled with routine drills and exercises. But they also began swinging ship to compensate the compass. With the ship steady on each of the eight primary compass points, existing compass headings or bearings are compared with what they know the actual magnetic headings or bearings should be, the difference being the deviation. During the process, any magnetic fields, created by the ship's structure, equipment, etc, which cause the compass to deviate are reduced or, if possible, eliminated, by creating equal but opposite magnetic fields using compensating correctors. These are placed inside the compass binnacle or adjacent to the compass. The timing and logistics of this operation are often governed by the tide, the weather and other vessels in the vicinity. The time it takes to swing and adjust the compass is also influenced by the condition and accessibility of the compass and correctors, the manoeuvrability of the vessel, the skill of the helmsman and the complexity of, and reasons for, the deviating magnetic fields involved. On successful completion of compass swing, a table recording any remaining residual deviation and a statement as to the good working order of the compass will be issued.

On Thursday, February 25, the Minnesota arrived at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba at 3:00 pm, and transferred three sick men to the U. S. hospital ship Solace. As they entered they fired a 13-gun salute to the Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet. Once the men were transferred to the Solace they did not anchor, but stood out of Guantanamo Bay at 3:30 pm, and then headed for Guacanayabo Bay, Cuba, which was down farther along the southern coast of Cuba, where they would anchor.

On Friday evening at 7:10 pm they arrived at Guacanaybo Bay, Cuba and anchored for the night. Saturday February 27 was a General field day aboard the ship. Sunday February 28, they got underway at 9:50 in the morning and proceeded out to the torpedo range, where they anchored at 11:30 that morning.

The Minnesota from March 1-15, conducted different forms of target practice and exercises in Guacanayabo Bay, Cuba, located along the southern coast of Cuba, in company with her fleet mates the Texas, Kansas, South Carolina and Georgia. March 15-30 Minnesota rejoins the Fourth Division at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and conduct more fleet exercises to April 3rd.

On Sunday April 4 1915, Minnesota is ordered north to Tangier Sound, which is located in the Chesapeake Bay. She begins her 7-day cruise north through the Caribean waters and up the east coast of the United States.

Sunday April 11, she arrived in Tangier Sound, where she again would engage in target practice. Towards the beginning of May, she begins to coal the ship and takes on stores and other provisions in Hampton Roads, Virginia. On May 8, she is again steaming on northward this time bound for the New York Navy Yard. She reaches the Yard on May 9, and anchors in the North River, New York. The Captain allows Liberty for officers and men while in New York. From May 16-29, she is back at her Home Yards in Philadelphia. Docking, provisioning and coaling the ship are the essential duties that keep her busy during this time. Minnesota conducts several steaming trials from May 30 through June 6, 1915.

On 6 April 1917, as the United States entered World War I, Minnesota rejoined the active fleet at Tangier Sound, Chesapeake Bay, and was assigned to Division 4, Battleship Force as flagship. The 4th Division was made up of the Minnesota, South Carolina and the Michigan. During World War I she was assigned to be the gunnery and engineering training ship, and cruised off the middle Atlantic seaboard until September 29, 1918.

On the 29th of September, 20 miles from Fenwick Island Shoal Lightship (38 d. 11'N, 74 d. 41'W.) Minnesota struck a mine, apparently laid by the German submarine U-117. Suffering serious damage to the starboard side, but with no loss of life, she managed to reach Philadelphia where she underwent 5-months of repairs. During this time of repairs at the Philadelphia Navy Yard she had her 7-inch 45 cal. Broadside Batteries removed.

Captain Jehu Valentine Chase was the commanding officer of USS Minnesota when she struck the mine in September of 1918. Chase was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in recognition of his splendid seamanship and leadership in bringing his ship safely to port without loss of life. Captain Chase was promoted to Admiral and was Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet, from 17 September 1930 to 15 September 1931, and Chairman of the General Board from April 1932 until his retirement in February 1933. Jehu Valentine Chase was born in Pattersonville, Louisiana, 10 January 1869, and graduated from the Naval Academy 6 June 1890. He died at Coronado, Calif., 24 May 1937. USS Chase (DE-158) was named in his honor. Admiral Chase was buried with full military honors in Section 1 of Arlington National Cemetery.  His wife, Mary Taylor Chase (1873-1950) is buried with him.

During the events of the mine explosion on September 29, Officers and men throughout the ship sprang into action to save the ship. Men in the Engineering division worked tirelessly while risking their own life. One such sailor was Murphy G. Carpenter who was mentioned in the Captains Report for the “Efficient and prompt manner in which he directed the shoring of bulkheads and compartments.” His work was fearless and untiring and required him to enter and work in compartments permeated with gas, as a result of which he was eventually overcome.

But the Engineering Division men where not the only ones to show coolness and quick thinking that day, Lt. F. M. Smith of the Medical Corps distinguished himself that day also. He was recognized by the Secretary of the Navy for Heroic work in removing the sick and wounded men to the upper decks due to the Sick Bay being filled with asphyxiating gasses at the time.

An undated photo of the Minnesota's Engineering Division taken on the after turret.

Minnesota put back to sea on March 11, 1919 as a unit of the Cruiser and Transport Force. In a report of ship locations of the Cruiser and Transport Force the Minnesota was at Hampton Roads and sailed for Brest, France on April 1, 1919. Other battleships at Hampton Roads with the Minnesota on April 1 were the Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas and the Vermont. She was assigned to that force until July 23, where she had completed three round trips to Brest, France, to return over 3,000 veterans to the United States. 

The Minnesota was now commanded by Captain Raymond D. Hasbrouck who had commanded the troopship USS Covington when she was Torpedoed and sunk on July 1-2 1918. Primarily employed thereafter as a training ship, Minnesota conducted two midshipmen summer cruises (1920 and 1921) under the command of Captain George Loring Porter Stone. On September 24, 1921 Captain Stone was relieved of duty as the skipper of the Minnesota and was given command of the battleship USS Connecticut. Captain Powers Symington took command of the ship after Captain Stone left, making Captain Symington the last Commanding Officer of the Minnesota when she was decommissioned on December 1, 1921.

The Minnesota, now obsolete in the eyes of the Navy Department, was struck from the Naval Register the same day. She lingered on in storage until finally arriving at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on January 23, 1924 where she was dismantled and sold for scrap.

Undated port side view of the Minnesota.

The Muster of the USS Minnesota

These are men who served the mast on board the USS Minnesota. If you know of someone or have a family member who served this ship please contact me and I will add a profile of that man.

James A. Hurd

James Hurd was from Italy, Texas and was the son of Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Hurd. James entered the Navy in April of 1917 and took his basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station. He was assigned to duty on the Minnesota which was then in Cuban waters. He made at least one trip to France during WWI and at wars end was still in the Navy.

Pvt 1cl William R. Rawlings, USMC

William Raymond Rawlings was born on July 9, 1898 in Granite City, IL to John H. and Minnie Belle (DeClare) Rawlings.  As young William developed into a young man war clouds over Europe were also developing. William, who was working as a shipping clerk applied and was accepted into the United States Marine Corps at Chicago, IL and then reported to Paris Island, SC for service during the duration of the war on July 17, 1917.

Private Rawlings was promoted to Private First Class on December 22, 1918 and on January 10, 1919 was advanced temporary warrant and then on March 24, 1919 in a letter from the Major General Commandant was reduced back to Private. The reason was his rank of Corporal was a temporary appointment during the war.

As a Private he reported for sea duty on board the battleship USS Minnesota on October 24, 1917 and he would remain on her until April 23, 1918. During his service Pvt. Rawlings held Excellent marks in Military Efficiency, Obedience and Sobriety.

Among the many papers that survive today preserved by his son, William R. Rawlings, Jr. is a document dated June 12, 1918 where private Rawlings signed in receipt of 1 rubber poncho from the Quartermaster Department.

After his sea duty aboard the USS Minnesota, Pvt. Rawlings was retained in the Marine Corps but it is not known for sure where he served. He remained in the Marine Corps until he was discharged on September 10, 1919 where he was paid $131.55 upon his discharge from the Marine Corps.

On November 9, 1920 William Rawlings received from the Headquarters of the Marine Corps, a Good Conduct Medal, No. 30508 and a certificate signed by Captain E. H. Jenkins Aide-de-Camp, USMC, for his service in the Marine Corps from July 17, 1917 – September 10, 1919.

William returned to his home in Illinois for a short time and then in 1921 married. He married Helen Clark who was from New Jersey. William now worked as an auto mechanic and did work for the Lynch Brothers Auto in Boston, MA for a time. William continued to work as an auto mechanic for the rest of his life. As early as 1929 William and Helen moved to Belmont, MA where they started a family. Robert the eldest son was born about 1922 and later another son named William R. Rawlings, Jr. was born sometime after 1930. William Rawlings, Sr. was active in the local Belmont, A.F. & A. M. Lodge from at least 1929 – 1934. The Rawlings family lived in rented homes and during the time they lived in Belmont lived in at least 4 different addresses during the 1930’s before finally settling in the home at 124 Pine Street in Belmont, MA.

William Had hearing loss from his service in the Marine Corps and did wear a hearing aid during the 1950’s as this is known from the family and also from documents from the Veterans Administration.

On May 14, 1959 in Belmont William R. Rawlings, Sr. passed away in his sleep of heart failure.  His wife and two sons survived him. William’s funeral was held by the Rev. Dr. D. Joseph Imier of the Belmont Methodist Church and then was buried in the Lawnside Cemetery in Woodstown, NJ.

Pvt. Rawlings, WWI
Rawlings in Dress USMC Uniform
A small metal button with a
hand colored photo of Pvt. Rawlings

Photos and information of Pvt. Rawlings provided by William R. Rawlings, Jr.

Emmett C. Matthews, USNR

The grandfather of Steve Matthews of Savannah, Georgia was aboard the Minnesota struck a mine on September 30, 1918. His name was Emmett C. Matthews and among his effects that was left to his grandson, was a small picture of the ship undergoing repairs enclosed with a record of some of the details. The discription on the photo is very brief and the paper is deteriorating. It reads as follows;

"U.S.S. Minnesota on September 30th, 1918. Torpedoed off of Delaware Capes, Longitude 39 West, Latitude 73' 30" North. Hit on starboard bow, tearing a forty foot hole from armor plate to keel, and from beam 10 in compartment A to beam 50 in compatrment B. Made port of Philadelphia in 14 hours under own power. 1200 men and 100 Officers in crew. No lives lost but several injured and overcome by gas."

Emmett C. Matthews, born about 1898 was from Owensboro, Kentucky and it is not known what his rating was in the navy but later in his life he was a Steam Fitter. Shortly after leaving the navy Emmett was married about 1920. His wife's first name was Ethyln and was 2 years younger than Emmett and was from Kentucky. In April of 1930 Emmett and Ethlyn Matthews lived in Cincinnati, Ohio where he worked as a barber. At the time they lived in a rented house where the rent was $30 per month. The family in April of 1930 consisted of Emmett and Ethyln with eldest son Emmett, jr., born about 1922; a second son named Milton born about 1925 and a third son named Raymond born about the end of 1929. All three of the boys were born in Ohio.

Emmett and his wife live most all of thier life in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and on October 31, 1985 at the age of 87 Emmett Matthews passed away in the University Hospital in Cincinnati.

Demah Henry Jacob Higginbotham, Gunners Mate First Class

Gunners Mate 1c, Demah Henry Jacob Higginbotham, USN

When raw steel is formed into the hull of a United States Navy ship of the line, it becomes the most important part of the vessel. In fact if the steel of the hull were not of the highest quality and well cared for the ship would sink to the bottom becoming useless. But much of the time the hull is taken for granted, much like many of the men who sail that ship, the men who give life to the steel hull. Such a man was Demah Henry Jacob Higginbotham who was a sailor aboard the USS Minnesota (BB-22).

Demah Henry Jacob Higginbotham was born on February 24, 1890 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. When the Federal Census of 1910 was taken aboard the Battleship USS Minnesota the name of Seaman Demah Higginbotham appears. Seaman Higginbotham was at the time a 24-year old seaman and was single. Higginbotham would serve aboard the Minnesota from 1910 through at least 1912 steaming along the east coast of the United States as a ship in the Atlantic Fleet.

During World War One Higginbotham served in the navy and may have continued serving in the navy from 1910. On his gravestone his final rating of Gunners Mate First Class is listed, so it seems that he worked his way up through the ranks. While in the navy he held two sharpshooter medals.

After he was discharged from the Navy Higginbotham settled back into civilian life and in April of 1930 was living in a home he owned on Williams Avenue in Barrington, NJ. The home in 1930 was valued at $4,500 and he was now married to Wilhelmina who he had married about 1913 while likely still in or just out of the Navy. About 1914 the first child a son named Demah H. Higginbotham was born. And then two years later a girl Katherine W., followed by another girl in 1922 named Virginia and then still a third girl in 1928 named Jessie R. All the children were born in Pennsylvania so it seems that the family must have lived in that state for some time before moving to New Jersey. Demah was working as a machinist in a mill when the family lived in Barrington. According to the 1930 Federal Census the Higginbotham family owned a radio set in the home so being that was one of the few luxury items at the time they must have been frugal enough to purchase a radio set.

Demah Henry Jacob Higginbotham would pass away on April 7, 1955 in Roanoke, Virginia at the age of 65 years.

Ordinary Seaman Robert Patterson

This photo is the grave stone of Ordinary Seaman Robert Patterson. He is buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in McComb, Mississippi beside his sister who died in 1904, age 4; his father John P. who died in 1910 and his mother Elizabeth who died in 1964. Nothing more is known about the circumstances of his death. The enscriptios reads,

Oldest son of J. P. and Elizabeth Patterson
Born in McComb Miss 1-10-1896
Died on board Battleship Minn. Vera Cruz Mex. 12-1-1914
Erected by his shipmats of the Battleship Minn.

Mess Attendant 3rd Class Eligio Garlitos

During the Philippine Insurrection, the U.S. Navy employed dozens of gunboats in “brown water” operations in and around the Philippine Islands. The boats conducted maritime patrols, inspected coastal shipping, delivered mail and supplies to Army garrisons and assisted local government officials in bringing the rule of law to the provinces. Beginning quite early, gunboat commanders sought local assistance to complete these missions, hiring coastal pilots and other guides to work their way through hazardous waters as well as dangerous cultural barriers. Filipinos also served in the U. S. Navy as mess attendants, musicians and in engine rooms. This local adaptation led to long term changes for the Navy, and for Filipinos.

On 5 April 1901, President William McKinley formalized the ad hoc arrangement by creating the Insular Force of the U.S. Navy, authorizing the Secretary of the Navy to enlist up to 500 natives of Guam and the Philippines. The force was unique, in that the men enlisted to serve only in their home areas, “to which they were particularly adapted or suited.” They served on ships to be sure, but only when they were assigned to that local command area. The force grew slowly, in part owing to the drawdown of forces after the insurrection ended, but by 1906 there were 285 Filipinos and 28 Chamorros from Guam serving in the U. S. Navy’s Insular Force.

Filipinos were the only foreign nationals allowed to enlist in the U.S. armed forces without first immigrating to this country. And the Navy was the only military branch they could join.

Between 1917, when America entered World War I, and continuing sporadically through Oct. 15, 1978, when Congress declared the Vietnam War officially over, about 30,000 Filipino sailors had become citizens by virtue of the wars that involved the United States.

Before 1918 Filipino sailors were allowed to serve in the Navy in a number of ratings, however due to some rule changes after the end of the First World War, Filipino sailors were restricted to officers' stewards and mess attendants. This ended in 1946, following the independence of the Philippines from the United States, but resumed again in 1947 due to language inserted into the Military Base Agreement between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines. In 1973, Admiral Zumwalt removed the restrictions on Filipino sailors, allowing them to enter any rate they qualified for. By 1976 there were about 17,000 Filipinos serving on Active Duty in the United States Navy.

But for thousands of Filipinos, joining the Navy was a great economic opportunity. They also had a sincere belief that the United States was like a mother country to the Philippines. Joining the Navy was the fulfillment of a lifetime dream for many to serve the United States. In addition to the economic rewards, the enlistment slots were also coveted because they represented the first step toward eventual U.S. citizenship for the sailors.

Eligio Garlitos is an example of one of these Filipino sailors, and this is his story.

On December 1, 1900, in the city of Mangatarem, located on the island of Luzon in the Philippine Islands, a boy is born to Juana Cayaban and Martin Garlitos, and he is named Eligio Garlitos. Mangatarem is in the province of Pangasinon in west central Luzon, Philippine Islands. The Garlitos family was a family of some wealth and lived a comfortable life in Mangatarem. Eligio Garlitos had an older brother named Victor, and one day Victor and Eligio had an argument about something we will really never know, but this division between brothers was severe enough that it drove Eligio away from his brother and family.

It is a known fact that Eligio Garlitos on November 6, 1918, joined the United States Navy, likely at the U. S. Navy base located at Olongapo more commonly known as Subic Bay. At the time America was rapidly expanding her Naval forces in the Pacific and at the Navy Yard at Olongapo were employing many Filipino workers in this endeavor. The search for a new start in life may have been the driving force that caused the young 18-year old Eligio Garlitos to join the American Navy. This would be a decision that would change his life in ways he likely could not imagine on that day he joined the navy.

In just over two years’ time, in February of 1920, Eligio was over 8,500 miles from his home in the Philippine Islands, and was now serving aboard the Battleship USS Minnesota then at anchor in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The Minnesota had just completed her task of helping to return troops from the war in Europe back to America, and was about to begin to be used as a training ship for midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy. Eligio Garlitos was then serving aboard as a Mess Attendant 3rd Class. He was one of at least 30 Filipino’s serving aboard the Minnesota at the time.

It is not known how long Garlitos remained aboard the Minnesota and he may have been aboard for both summer cruises with the Naval Academy Midshipmen in 1920 and 1921. It was on Eligio’s birthday, December 1, of 1921 that the Minnesota was decommissioned and this may have been when Eligio left the ship. He did remain in the Navy for another year until he was discharged from service at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on December 30 1922.

Now a civilian, and living in Philadelphia, Eligio began his new life in America. Little is known of what work he did after leaving the Navy but he remained in the Philadelphia area. Eligio may have been a boxer while serving in the Navy, and about October or November of 1923 in Philadelphia there was an all-Filipino boxing match held at the Philadelphia Armory. Eligio Garlitos was on the boxing card and in his first fight he faced “Midget” Doyle who beat Garlitos. It was said of Eligio that he was a man who was not afraid of anyone or anything. Eligio would box in the Philadelphia area for several years. Garlitos was also very involved in the Philippine-American Association of Philadelphia for many years

It was on February 9, 1929 that the next big event in Eligio’s life took place. On that day in West Chester, Pennsylvania he married Dorothy O’Tool, who was just 16-years old at the time. Dorothy and Eligio were married in the Church of the Holy Trinity in West Chester. The Church, located at the corner of High and Union Streets, was a unique example of a mid-19 century neo-gothic design built of a serpentine stone construction, which may have reminded Eligio of some of the Spanish influenced designs of buildings from his home in the Philippines.

It seems that Dorothy may have been pregnant when they were married because about July of 1929 she gave birth to their first child, a son they named Carl Martin. In April of 1930 Eligio, Dorothy and Carl Martin were living in a rented home in the 19th Ward of Philadelphia. The rent was 23 dollars per month, and living in the home with the family was Eligio’s 25-year old younger brother Marshall Garlitos, and another boarder a 27-year old single man named Bablo Adolor who was also a fellow Filipino. Eligio, Marshall and Bablo all worked as machine helpers for the Exide Battery Company.

On January 2, 1931 Dorothy gave birth to twin sons, Ralph and Leo. There were also two more children born after the twins in 1931, Nora in 1934, and Victor in 1936. By 1936 the Garlitos were living in a home at 1121 W. Columbia Avenue in Philadelphia. It was here that Eligio was in the process of gaining his citizenship and on February 26, 1936 in the U. S. District Court in Philadelphia under Petition No. 122261, that Eligio Garlitos was granted his citizenship and became a Naturalized American citizen.

Sometime during early 1934 the marriage between Eligio and Dorothy began to fall apart, and on November 10, 1934 they were separated. Eligio had seen to it that the children were placed with family members when he and Dorothy had separated. Sometime there after Eligio was living as a lodger in the home of Anthony and Josephine Maurs on North 13th Street in Philadelphia. Anthony Maurs was an Italian from Sicily and worked as a tailor. In the Maurs home they had two boarders living in the house. They were Eligio and another Filipino named Luciano Leandro Blancaflor, who was a 48-year old widower. On April 2, 1940, the Federal Census was taken and it shows that Eligio was still working for the Exide Battery Company, but Luciano worked as a chemist for another company. Dorothy at the time had moved away from Philadelphia and was then living in Portsmouth, Virginia. On April 3, 1940, the day after the Census was taken at the Maurs home, Dorothy was granted an uncontested Divorce from Eligio Garlitos from the State of Virginia, and their 11-year marriage was over.

1940 for Eligio Garlitos was a tough year for in April his marriage had ended and in August he lost his good friend Luciano Leandro Blancaflor who was also living in the Maurs home. Luciano must not have had any family to take care of his final expenses and so on August 24, 1940, Eligio Garlitos paid the $175 funeral bill of his fellow Filipino. Sometime after Eligio’s divorce he was able to get his children back from where he had placed them and once again took care of his children.

Eligio’s eldest son Carl Martin Garlitos may have been living in Virginia with his mother Dorothy, but it seems that when Carl became an adult that he may have moved back to Philadelphia during the early 1950’s. On Carl Martin Garlitos marriage certificate it gave his address as 2347 N. 5th Street in Philadelphia, which may have also been where his father Eligio was living at the time.

While Eligio Garlitos lived in Philadelphia he was a very active member of the American Legion. He was a very proud American, and this pride of Country made an impression on his family and children. During WWII Carl Martin, who was also known by his nickname of “Coke” served in the Army, and Leo, one of the twin boys was also serving in the Army’s Tank Corps during the Korean War, landing in the Invasion at Inchon. The impression of service that was exhibited by Eligio Garlitos went beyond his immediate family, as a relative named George Faustino was the first Filipino-American to serve in the Philadelphia Police Department. The twin boys Ralph and Leo worked as race horse jockeys, and horse trainers for many years in the Philadelphia race tracks.

Eventually Eligio did get remarried, and she was a Filipino woman named Medy. Together Medy and Eligio had a son they named Martin, likely in honor of Eligio’s father who was also named Martin.

Later in life Eligio Garlitos moved away from Philadelphia, and at the time of his death on June 15, 1985, he was living in Riverton, New Jersey. And so, ends the story of the Filipino boy who left his birth Country, joined the United States Navy, served his adopted Country, and became a citizen living half a world away from his place of birth. For a small statured man, Eligio Garlitos made a very big impression onto his family, which is still felt to this day.

An undated photo of Eligio Garlitos serving at an American Legion ceremony.

Garlitos family photo dated March 1975. Left to right; Dennis Avila, Leo Garlitos, Victor R. Garlitos, Jr., Martin Garlitos, and Eligio Garlitos.

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This page was created on 5 January, 2004 and last modified on: September 25, 2017

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