History of USS
USS Utah at sea, probably during
its sea trials in 1911. U.S. Naval Historical Center photo NH63201.
USS Utah has been
almost forgotten. Seldom honored by public visits, it rests in the
waters of Pearl Harbor as a distant memory of America's most remembered
day, a sad epitaph for a fine battleship.
Second of the Florida
class, USS Utah was laid down on March 6, 1909, at the Camden,
New Jersey yard of the New York Shipbuilding Co. Completed nine months
later, Utah was launched on December 23, 1909. Work to prepare
the ship for sea took longer, and Utah was not placed in
commission until 1911. Assuming command of the ship was Captain William
Benson. Utah's statistics were impressive for the "Dreadnought
21,825 tons that drew approximately 28 feet. Top speed was estimated at
20 knots. The crew consisted of 60 officers and 941 men. Fire power was
measured by five gun turrets, armed with two 12-inch guns. Supplementing
the main armament were 16 5-inch, 51-caliber guns and two 21-inch
submerged torpedo tubes. Armor 12 inches thick surrounded the vital
areas of the vessel. After a shakedown cruise south along the coast,
into the Gulf and then the Caribbean, Utah was assigned to the Atlantic
Fleet in March 1912. For the next two years the battleship was assigned
to regular duties in the Atlantic Fleet: drilling and engaging in
USS Utah's maintop, sometime prior
to World War One. Utah had two of these platforms, which were
rangefinders and other equipment used to aim the ship's main battery.
This unusual image
was probably taken from a bridge as Utah passed underneath. U.S.
Naval Historical Center photo NH79494.
In 1914 Utah played an
important role in the American landings at Veracruz, Mexico. Mexico,
torn by civil war and revolution, was the scene of considerable American
intervention, much of it centered at Veracruz and Brig. Gen. John J.
Pershing's forays into northern Mexico. Utah was deployed twice at Veracruz, first from February to April 1914, when it anchored off
Veracruz and transferred refugees to nearby Tampico, and again in late
April to June 1914 when it joined other American ships in an attempt to
contravene the landing of arms shipped from Germany to Mexican president
Victoriano Huerta, who had succeeded the assassinated legal president,
Francisco I. Madero. President Woodrow Wilson, eager to support Madero
backers and anti-Huerta revolutionaries as part of his international
campaign for human rights, and seeking the means to stabilize war-torn
neighboring Mexico, sent in troops. Marines and sailors landed from the
U.S. Naval vessels, including Utah, took Veracruz on April 21, 1914,
seized the customs house and prevented the landing of the arms. In the
action, seven members of Utah's crew distinguished themselves and
received Medals of Honor. Considerable Mexican casualties embarrassed
the United States and led to an American withdrawal, but the action was
one of a series of maneuvers that led to Huerta's downfall and the
installation of a new government.
The "battalion" from USS
the streets of Vera Cruz, 1914. U.S. Naval Historical Center photo
Until the outbreak of World
War I, Utah continued with fleet battle practices and maneuvers in the
Atlantic and Caribbean. Once the war was underway, Utah became a
training ship for gunnery and engineering for hundreds of new recruits.
On September 10, 1918, new orders moved Utah to the theater of war. On
that day, it arrived at Bantry Bay, Ireland, to become the flagship of
Rear Admiral Thomas S. Rodgers, commander of Battleship Division Six.
From Ireland Utah was directed to protect convoys and secure naval
approaches to the British Isles.
The war ended that year.
Utah was ordered to serve as honor escort for the transport George
Washington that was carrying President Woodrow Wilson to the
Versailles Peace Conference. Conspicuously present with the honor escort
was USS Arizona. President Wilson arrived in Brest, France, on
December 13. The following day Utah departed for home and overhaul in
the Boston Navy Yard.
A view of Utah's bridge and
foremast, January 21, 1919. The large dial with numbers at the
center top was popularly known as a "range clock." This dial, along with one on
the aft side of mainmast, was used to indicate the range to the
target to other battleships in line ahead and astern. The numbers
painted around the base of the turret (foreground) similarly
indicated the azimuth, or direction, to the target. These two
devices together, it was believed, would allow a squadron of
battleships to concentrate their gunfire on a single target even if
some of the ships couldn't actually see the target themselves due to
smoke or weather conditions. U.S. Naval Historical Center